After attaining critical and commercial success with more than half a dozen taboo and issue-based films, Bollywood star Ayushmann Khurrana says he needs to break away from the genre. Right from his 2012 acting debut Vicky Donor to films like Dum Laga Ke Haisha, Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, Badhaai Ho and Article 15, the actor has emerged as the go-to artist for playing ordinary men battling social norms.
However, the pandemic made him reconsider his criteria of selecting scripts, he said. His 2022 releases Anek and Doctor G are pre-pandemic choices, said Khurrana, adding he signed his upcoming feature An Action Hero post the pandemic.
“I need to break (away) from it. I need to get away from taboo subjects and make a film that is more relatable if I aspire for a theatrical release. That’s the evolution or maybe learning I’ve got from the last two years. This film (An Action Hero) is devoid of any messaging as such. It’s just pure thrill, entertainment,” Khurrana said.
The 38-year-old actor further said he can part ways with taboo stories for a while but “not quirks”, as he believes that is his USP. “Comedy and quirk will always work. You need to engage the audience and that is the biggest challenge today. Also, the patience level (of viewers) has decreased.
“We have reels and everything on the (Insta)gram, on phones. So, the competition for theatrical release is not just from OTT, it’s from social media too.” Asked if any of his previous hits can lure people to cinema halls even today, the National Award winner said he would bet big on family entertainers.
“A film like Andhadhun, Badhaai Ho will definitely do those numbers. Even Bala to an extent because they are funny films. The humour along with emotions are wider films, they are all family films. People go out with their families in theatres. The restricting films may not work, they are great for OTT. You have to widen your audience and give that film to them,” he added.
An Action Hero, also starring Jaideep Ahlawat, is helmed by debutant director Anirudh Iyer. Billed as slick actioner with an offbeat satirical sense of humour, the film follows an artist’s (Khurrana) journey both in front and behind the lens. “I am always looking for something that is different from my image. This fit into the bill not just because it was a really juicy character but it’s a very different film and character for me,” he said.
In the movie, Khurrana plays Manav, an action hero on the run from Bhura Solanki (Ahlawat), who wants to avenge the mysterious death of his brother.
He describes Manav as an arrogant and flamboyant man, who wears his superstardom on his sleeve. But in real life, Khurrana said he can’t be more different from Manav. “I have kept my life very simple. Thankfully, I’m away from controversies and online trolling. I am blessed. But I’ve seen that (trolling) happen to a lot of people in the past two years, so that topicality exists in An Action Hero. It has that media versus Bollywood versus public media trial,” he said.
“I can’t relate to Manav’s character. I had nothing to give through personal experiences but I have given the character what I’ve seen or people have seen,” he added.
In the trailer of An Action Hero, the makers also touch upon the unseen aspects of an actor’s life. The Chandigarh-born actor-singer said whenever he is away from the arc lights he immerses himself in music and poetry.
Khurrana said he has a playlist for every character: during Andhadhun, he would listen to Italian pianist Ludovico Einaudi and while working on Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui, he would listen to Punjabi songs.
“I listen to a lot of music. I believe I can live without films but I can’t live without music. I don’t watch a lot of films but I discover a new song every day. So that’s just my way of unwinding, discovering myself beyond cinema,” he added.
It is well known that Khurrana had approached director Sriram Raghavan for Andhadhun as he wanted the acclaimed filmmaker to present him in a different light. Going forward, the actor said he will continue to do so whenever an opportunity arises.
“I would love to work with Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Raju Hirani, and Zoya Akhtar. I want to put that out.” Produced by Colour Yellow Production and Bhushan Kumar and Krishan Kumar’s T-Series, An Action Hero is set to be released in theatres on December 2.