Ayushmann Khurrana, who won hearts with three films in 2019, is back on silver screens with Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan. The film features Khurrana and Jitendra Kumar as a gay couple.
In a conversation with indianexpress.com, the lead actors opened up about Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan.
The film has got a U/A certificate. How do you feel about it?
Jitendra Kumar: It is a proud moment. It feels so great that the CBFC is looking at the film with such a progressive outlook. Our film and the response of Censor Board on it has surely opened up doors for other such films to be made in future.
Ayushmann Khurrana: Censor Board has been very supportive. We were hopeful of getting a U/A certificate. There is nothing in Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan that you cannot watch with your family. Also, same-sex love has been legalised. There is a kissing scene but nothing beyond that. It is a family film.
Would it have been possible for you to do this film before the decriminalisation of Section 377?
Ayushmann Khurrana: I don’t think so. In 1998, a film called Fire (directed by Deepa Mehta) was released. It received massive backlash from the right-wing. The posters of the film were torn, and even screenings were stopped. It was a difficult time back then. In fact, it was difficult to make a film like this even two years ago.
OTT platforms introduced homosexuality before films. Do you think OTT platforms have normalised it to an extent?
Ayushmann Khurrana: I think yes. OTT has helped cinema a lot but is a competition too because it is raising the bar (in terms of the quality of content.) We also get inspired to work hard as actors. They (OTT platforms) have sensitised the audience to an extent, but Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan is technically the first commercial film talking about homosexuality. It is an introduction (of the concept) to the masses. OTT shows have limited viewing, but this is for mass consumption. So, while making the film, we had to keep in mind that we don’t go overboard just with the love story. We had to show the family’s reaction to their son’s sexuality. In the film, we have purposely underlined that it (homosexuality) is natural and normal.
The trailer has a kissing scene.
Ayushmann Khurrana: I was very happy about it (the kissing scene) because we are talking about normalising homosexuality and it is a part of it.
How confident were you about the script?
Ayushmann Khurrana: There were a couple of more scripts, but this one was the best. The idea is to hold the audience for two hours. One-liner of the script is not everything. People hear the concept and think they have got the best subject to make a film on, but a subject has nothing to do with a film’s success. As an actor, director or writer, you should be able to keep the audience involved, and Shubh Mangal does that.
Jitendra, you look like the submissive partner in the relationship. How did you slip into the role?
Jitendra Kumar: Hitesh told me about the script and did 2-3 readings with me. He showed confidence in me. He knew I would be able to pull off the role. When I was offered the film, I did not think much about playing a gay character because I have (gay) friends and they are normal. I did not feel the need to change myself to play the character. The script also did not demand any physical or vocal changes in me. Hitesh was clear that I have to look extremely normal because we need to break the cliches and stigma attached to homosexuals.
Actors wish to have a character that stays with the audience. Can we say your character in Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan will be as popular as Jeetu Bhaiyya?
Jitendra Kumar: Maybe. I would be happy if people start looking at me as Aman. Jeetu Bhaiyya also got his recognition because people loved him. But in person, I don’t give much heed to it.
Also Read | SMZS is not specifically about homophobia or homosexuality: Director Hitesh Kewalya | Ayushmann Khurrana: SMZS is a giant leap for Indian cinema | Bollywood’s top five LGBTQ films | Is Bollywood finally ready for gay films? | Neena Gupta: SMZS will encourage parents to have a conversation on homosexuality | Ayushmann and Jitendra’s rapport was like Azharuddin-Jadeja: Gajraj Rao
After so many unique films, is there a pressure to do something quirky and out-of-the-box?
Ayushmann Khurrana: I do whatever excites me. I look for the perfect combination of entertainment and value addition. You cannot compare any two films of mine. Also, I cannot reach a certain number with every film. Every director has a vision and I go ahead with it. I cannot take such (box office) pressure because the success of every film has allowed me to do something radical every single time.
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