Ayushmann Khurrana Curated

Actor, Singer, Television Anchor

CURATED BY :      +44 others


  • How do you maintain the quality of being approachable, of being accessible even as you are a full blown Bollywood Star?

  • Are looks more important than acting skills in this current environment?

  • In the middle of everything, where do you find silence and focus to work on yourselves as actors?

  • How does your personal time actually help you to seep into your characters during acting?

  • How do you cope up with the pressure of social media in your daily basis?

  • You mentioned in your book that after your first success, you were completely lost. How do you keep up with fame now?

  • How do you keep telling yourself not to be goal oriented?

  • You have a rich knowledge in music. Does that knowledge seep into your acting?

  • What’s the best advice about acting anyone has given you?

  • What is your trick to pick the correct material?

  • How is life after the success?

  • Which was your turning point?

  • How do you identify the films which are correct for you?

  • How does it feel to be on the front line?

  • Does the pressure and responsibilities keep you awake at the night?

  • Do you insist the directors to keep your songs in the movies?

  • What is Jam session about?

  • How are you going to manage your time for the Jam sessions?

  • How difficult were the days when your wife was diagnosed with breast cancer?

  • Are you deliberately not part of the film that Tahira Kashyap would be directing?

  • What do you have to say about your upcoming movie, Dream Girl?

  • Why do you think Article 15 is one of the most important cinema of our time?

  • How does it feel to work in this industry?

  • Do you wish to do a big commercial Masala film ever?

  • How do your kids react to your stardom? 

  • Did you ever wish to be part of a film which you were not a part of?

  • Which was your first job?

  • Which was your first gadget?

  • Which was your first vehicle?

  • Who was your first girlfriend?

  • How was your first date?

  • At what age did you have your first kiss?

  • Can we have a rapid-fire round?

  • What would you do if you meet a genie and granted with three wishes?

  • What would you do if you are invited to the Oscars?

  • Do you think that the success of “Andhadhun” and “Badhai ho” is the sweet spot that one hopes to hit every time?

  • What change are you feeling after giving back to back hits?

  • What is the trick of choosing good scripts?

  • Is it easy to get swayed when your level of success increases?

  • Do you enjoy all the attention that you are getting now?

  • Sometimes different films also go wrong, how do you understand the difference?

  • How do you feel when you see left of field actors at the front line now?

  • Do you stress about pressure and responsibilities?

  • Where did the song “Chan Kitthan” come from?

  • Your version of “Naina da Kya kasoor” was highly appreciated, what do you have to say about it?

  • Is it because you are a singer and also an actor that singing in your films comes from film makers or you insist?

  • What jam sessions are all about?

  • Are you going to have the time to collaborate with your fans?

  • Your wife Tahira is going to direct her first feature film, why aren’t you in it?

  • What can you tell us about your upcoming film “Dream Girl”?

  • You have said Article 15 is one of the most important films of our time, why?

  • Are these times of shooting exciting?

  • Do you ever feel like doing mainstream Bollywood masala movies?

  • How does your kids feel when they see their dad in the movies?

  • Any film you wished was given to you?

  • How did the journey of “Andhadhun” start?

  • What is the attraction of a flawed character?

  • You are very active on social media, you even reply to people sometimes, is that a try to make an effort?

  • How much do you think about social media, do you have a team or it’s all you?

  • How did you post about the cancer news on social media when it is all about perfection?

  • Why does your Instagram handle says “eyebrows are bushy”?

  • Does other actor’s social media posts ever make you feel insecure?

  • What do you think your fans want from you on social media?

  • Have you ever posted anything on social media to get more likes?

  • How do you deal with negative feedback?

  • Were you a different person online when your first movie came?

  • What’s the worst thing you have read about yourself?

  • What’s the worst criticism you have got?

  • How do you not get affected from negative social media comments?

  • Are you addicted to social media?

  • Do you think nowadays people have become too obsessed with social media?

  • Do you think it is harder or easier to become an actor now with the tools that you have with social media?

  • What advice would you give to have a control on social media rather than it controlling you?

  • How much of your daily life is actually reflected on social media?

  • What is the most memorable social media post you have?

  • Where do you draw your inspiration from?

  • Do you think a lot before making a “shayari” or it happens on spot?

  • Have you ever cheated on your wife in last 10 years?

  • When did you start gigging?

  • Is there any role that you were promised and it went to another actor and you were very unhappy about it?

  • Whose idea was it to call you “Ayushmann”?

  • How you knew from your childhood that you always wanted to be an actor?

  • What was your family’s reaction when you told them you wanted to be an actor?

  • Initially you used write your own songs or you used to sing the popular songs?

  • How do you define your journey from Chandigarh to Mumbai?

  • Was shifting Bombay and working here easy?

  • What was your childhood like?

  • What’s the secret of that big smile that you always have even though you had some hard times in the industry?

  • What does your failure really taught you?

  • How did “Vicky Donor” come about?

  • What was the situation in your career post “Vicky Donor”?

  • Were you extra careful during “Dum Lagake Haisha” given that your other films were not doing well?

  • Do you ever feel like an outsider when you operate?

  • What was your strategy when you first came to Mumbai to became an actor?

  • How did it make you feel when you were rejected initially?

  • Did anything change between you and Tahira since she doesn’t like too much of attention?

  • Did Tahira ever freak out seeing you romancing with any of your co stars?

  • Did anything change in your relationship with Tahira since you became an actor?

  • What is the song you like to sing for your wife?

  • Is there any film in last 2 years that you wish you had done it?

  • What’s your nickname?

  • Which is the one actress of today’s generation you would like to work with?

  • Did you lose your confidence after 3 back to back flops?

  • What was your experience working with Aditya Chopra like?

  • How did you feel when you got an award for debutante?

  • Having an innocent face like you is an advantage or a disadvantage?

  • What did your parents say when you wanted to join theatre?

  • What do you have to say about Kriti Sanon who has worked with such talented actors in the beginning of her career?

  • Are the boys of urban area changing or not changing?

  • What advice would you like to give to Tahira- the director?

  • Were you worried when trailer of “Badhai Ho” was released?

  • What kind of an actor are you?

  • What is the one topic you want to work on?

  • Before joining Bollywood, what was the one misconception people always told you?

  • What was the situation at home post cancer news of Tahira?

  • Is there anything you never thought was coming your way after you became a star?

  • What is the one fashion statement you will never try?

  • What is the one positive thing and negative thing about Amit Mishra?

  • What is the thing you don’t do very well?

  • What is aspiration for you?

  • What is “filmy acting”?

  • How do you stay real?

  • What’s the most bizarre thing anyone has told you before you joined Bollywood?

  • Do you get angry when someone less talented than you gets a role and you don’t?

  • How much do you believe that hindi film industry is far more egalitarian now?

  • How do you stay grounded?

  • How important looks are in the industry?

  • Do you find the silence and the focus to work on yourself as actors?

  • What is the relationship that you have with fame now?

  • How do you keep telling yourself “don’t be goal oriented”?

  • Has music ever helped you to be a better actor?

  • What’s the best advice about acting that anyone’s ever given you?

  • What was your reaction when the script of “Bareilly Ki Barfi” was given to you?

  • What are the things that turn you on?

  • How do you react when people call you “Aamir Khan” of choosing scripts?

  • From where did you find courage to do “Badhai ho”?

  • Are you the new superstar that we have?

  • Was “Shubh Mangal Savdhan” a tough script to say yes to?

  • How is your wife Tahira now?

  • What is your take on nepotism?

  • Does your music reflects your personality?

  • Will you ever release your full fledged independent music album?

  • What are you looking for in near future?

  • Can you explain the climax of “Andhadhun”?

  • What’s your favourite dialogue from “Badhai Ho”?

  • Have you ever been offered to sing in other actor’s movie?

  • Does being a celebrity prevent you from doing or being something that you really like?

  • Now that you’re an A lister, will you continue to do small and medium budget films?

  • Do you think maximum of awards will go to your film?

  • How do you work with the camera?

  • What character of yours was the most crack difficult to ?

  • Do you sit with your co actor and discuss the characters?

  • What’s the hardest skill that you had to learn for a role?

  • How do you deal with dark characters?

  • Does your best work comes when you are in an uncomfortable situation?

  • Is cinema in threat because of the increasing popularity of web series?

  • Name one character that you would like to play in history?

  • How did the journey of theatre start?

  • When did you realise you wanted to be an actor?

  • How was the environment at your home when you decided to be an actor?

  • How much do you believe in astrology?

  • How did you start the radio journey?

  • How was your journey in roadies?

  • How did you land into hosting different shows?

  • How did “Vicky Donor” happen?

  • How was life back at Chandigarh?

  • What difference did you feel while doing “Nautanki Sala” after “Vicky Donor”?

  • Who would you like to say thanks to for everything that you have?

  • When did you first fall in love?

  • What was the toughest part in your journey to Bollywood?

  • How do you utilise social media?

  • What do you think about social and talking about things that need attention?

  • Do you bring your poetry in your music?

  • How different are you from your “Badhai Ho” character?

  • What was your reaction when you read the script of “Badhai Ho”?

  • What is it that you are attracted to those scripts which gives out a social message?

  • What would you ask for if you are granted three wishes?

  • What is so special about your character in “Andhadhun”?

  • How difficult was it for you to learn piano?

  • How was your experience working with Radhika Apte?

  • What would you like to say abut the music of “Andhadhun”?

  • How is “Andhadhun” different from all the other thrillers?

  • Any two people from the industry to form a band.

  • Covers of any two songs that you want to make.

  • Which is the one song you love to jam on?

  • Which is the one song that you have written for your wife, Tahira?

  • How do you handle the pressure of expectations?

  • What’s the importance of commercial success in film industry?

  • Tell us something about the shooting process of “Andhadhun”.

  • What challenges did you face while playing visually impaired pianist?

  • Which other movie of Sriram Raghavan you love?

  • You studied Journalism but why didn’t you pursue it?

  • What kind of theatre you did during your college days?

  • How are you so rational given that your father is an astrologer?

  • Do you ever feel like if you had improvised your weaknesses you could have been a better actor?

  • When did you feel like your life has got a turning point?

  • What are the things that you like/dislike about our country?

  • Do you ever feel like doing Punjabi movies?

  • What are your views on roadies which is showed now?

  • Did you question yourself after having some flop films in your list?

  • What was reaction when you read about the character of “Andhadhun”?

  • How was it working with talented actresses like Tabu and Radhika Apte?

  • Which one is your favourite movie amongst ‘Vicky Donor’ and ‘Dum laga k haisha’?

  • How come there is a little trace of patriarchal entitled male about you specially when you come from Chandigarh?

  • You have been compared to Amir Khan, do this comparison scare you?

  • What was the most funniest part in the shooting of “Bewakoofiyaan”?

  • Who is the best dress actor and actress in Bollywood according to you?

  • Are you contend with your position in Bollywood?

  • What do you have to say about the Kriti Sanon’s character in “Bareily Ki Barfi”?

  • What was your reaction when you read the script of ‘Bareily Ki Barfi’?

  • What are the things that changed in past 6 years?

  • How did you prepare yourself for the role in ‘Andhadhun’?

  • What do you channel into when you play a small town guy that it looks so convincing?

  • What is so quirky about Chandigarh?

  • Are you a method actor?

  • Who inspired you to become an actor?

  • Why were you so self-conscious while growing up?

  • What is your favourite comfort dress?

  • How do you and Tahira keep a balance in your relationship?

  • You have given such successful films, have you ever felt over-confident?

  • After the success of your films you were really low key, did people think you were starry?

  • Is it difficult to be an introvert in a business which requires you to be so social?

  • How did Tahira help you to write your book?

  • How do you balance your wok life and your kids?

  • Is it true that you are not very demonstrative?

  • What is the one most expressive thing that you have done for any of your family member?

  • Is it correct to say that you are the kid who used to showcase his talent through college fests is now a Bollywood star?

  • What is the most stupid thing you have done?

  • What is your film “Bewakoofiyaan” all about?

  • If you have to choose between love and career, what would you pick?

  • How fragile are relationships according to you?

  • Is it easy to blame the other person in a relationship?

  • What does a girl expects from a guy before getting into a relationship?

  • In today’s time, is love a stupidity?

  • What are the most common mistakes a guy makes in a relationship?

  • Are you a romantic guy?

  • Which couple according to you is best in Bollywood?

  • How did your story with Tahira start?

  • Is there any similarity from the character you were playing in “Meri Pyaari Bindu”?

  • What should audience expect from “Andhadhun”?

  • What kind of a person is Sriram Raghavan according to you?

  • What was the most bizarre thing that happened while shooting for “Andhadhun”?

  • What is the basic thing that is required for a film to be successful?

  • Would you like to do a web series?

  • What is that one thing for you which is better when it is incomplete?

  • How was it working with Amit Trivedi?

  • How many times have you heard or said the word “Bewakoof”?

  • How was your experience meeting Anil Kapoor?

  • What was your reaction when you found out you’re going to work with Sonam Kapoor?

  • How was your experience doing a romcom movie?

  • Any “Bewakoofiyaan” happened while shooting the movie?

  • What are the things you discovered about Sonam Kapoor?

  • How tough was doing the voice modulation for the movie Dream Girl?

  • What is the tough part of playing a woman?

  • How would you describe the process of making Dream Girl?

  • Who was your inspiration when you were getting into Dream Girl's shoes?

  • Have you dreamt of being a superstar?

    Honestly, it scares me yaar. I just want to be happy in life. I want to grow as an actor and a singer. And becoming a superstar is not really in your hands. It depends on your connect with the public. You can’t predict these things. So I don’t aspire to be a superstar. If I don’t become one, I’ll be okay with it.

  • Have you dreamt of being a superstar?

    Honestly, it scares me yaar. I just want to be happy in life. I want to grow as an actor and a singer. And becoming a superstar is not really in your hands. It depends on your connect with the public. You can’t predict these things. So I don’t aspire to be a superstar. If I don’t become one, I’ll be okay with it.

  • How has Ayushmann Khurrana changed over the years?

    I guess, I’ve started looking better now. Look at me in Vicky Donor and look at me in O heeriye. I am looking so good in the song. On a more serious note, I’ve become a realist over the years.

  • How does Padma Shri Manoj Bajpayee sound?

    We are officially not allowed to use it as a prefix with our names but winning it is such an honour, and that too without lobbying for it or trying. When you think of it, you believe that there is God looking at you, telling you He will take care of you. I don’t think it can get any bigger than winning a Padma Shri.

  • As an actor, you’ve done stage, TV, films and now a web series. Do different mediums require different approaches as an actor?

    Not really, acting is the same. I’ve never changed my approach. With web, the thing is, it gives you a lot of time to explore a character in detail. A film is two or two and a half hours long. There a director calls “cut” or editors cut off the scene and important silences are taken out, but web gives you the space to indulge. Also, we have to shoot a lot of scenes in a day for a web series. It is very tedious.

  • Even after mastering all mediums, do you think you are still fighting for relevance?

    The fight for relevance is taken care of if you are constantly trying to evolve. Evolution is very important for every individual, so, if you, as a person, are living in the past, then there is no evolution. From childhood, it has been a personality trait that I never speak about my past and that has saved me. I’m always present. Staying relevant to the younger generation is not important – staying relevant to yourself is more important.

  • You made a statement some time back saying, ‘I’ve made a career out of flop films’. What made you make that statement?

    I still stand by my statement. I’ve done 65- 68 films and only 8 have been hits. But I’m still respected and celebrated.

  • You recently went back to the National School of Drama to teach. How was the experience of teaching at a place which rejected you multiple times?

    I couldn’t get into NSD, which is pure bad luck for me, but I still regard it as one of the best institutes in the world. People who get admission there are very lucky. Tomorrow, if my daughter decides to act and wants to be part of NSD, I will really help her in preparing for it. It is a great institute and getting invited to teach there is a matter of privilege.

  • Do you have any regrets regarding your career?

    I wish I came into the industry now…

  • Five hits in a row and a National award. Does it get to you by way of pressure? Will it influence your future choice of films?

    Nice question! But I think it is a happy pressure and a happy responsibility. More than that, I think the award is the perfect validation that what I am doing is right, that I should not change my formula. I just have to continue to get my basics right, and not get overwhelmed by who the director is, who the producers are, their paraphernalia and my co-actors. I just go by the material I am getting and continue to do so.

  • What are your basics? Can you elaborate?

    That I want to try different things. I was never thinking about hits. I go by my gut-feel and my wife Tahira and manager Sunita read every script I get. All I look for is that the film should be absolutely fresh for Indian cinema, and the freshness must last for two hours – very often, the idea is great, but there is not enough material for a nice full-length film – and there should be some kind of value addition. I keep the script ahead of my character. If the script is good, and there is elbow room for my character, I go for it. “Dreamgirl” is actually very different from all my films. It is the most masala and most commercial I have gone. My films generally have been about subtleties. But this is an ode to the 1990s brand of comedy. I have taken the Govinda out of me!

  • How attached do you get to these very different characters?

    I don’t take a character back home. I detach from a film after it’s over, and from a role after the shoot. If there is self-obsession, you can’t do anything fresh, anything more.

  • Your choices have led to a lobby that says that the Khans should learn from you on what films to choose?

    That’s pretty unfair. Let us, the new generation, survive in the game for at least 25 years! Till then, there is no comparison.

  • You said that when you wore uniform, you felt like a cop in “Article 15.” What did you feel, externally and mentally, when you dressed up as Pooja in this film?

    It is difficult to be a girl, man! The physicality itself was tough. I had to shave, and the hair extensions took two hours. When the stubble began to grow back by evening, I had to shave again! And I had to think I am a girl, but I was a man!

  • Did you take inspiration from anywhere?

    Chachi 420” was so legendary. So was Govinda’s role in “Aunty No. 1,” though the film did not do well. For me, “Dreamgirl” is that film with which I hope to reach the single-screen audiences and connect with them. It is slapstick, slightly illogical, but laugh-out-loud fun. Even the songs are commercial, not off-center. If this works, it will give my films like “Article 15” or “Bala” in the future better mileage with the masses. And by the way, I have grown up on slapstick comedies. Also, as a Radio Jockey, I did play pranks here and there and spoke occasionally in a female voice. That experience really helped as well! And I would also watch Ram-Lila programs back home, wherein many female character were played by male actors.

  • There was buzz that your voice as Pooja was to be dubbed by some actress. So which actress would you have preferred to dub for you had you not done it yourself?

    I think my main concern was that I should sound sexy! Among the girls, I think Priyanka Chopra has the sexiest voice. And also Rani Mukerji.

  • Would you be open to, say, a Rohit Shetty film or a multi-hero movie?

    I would love to do a Rohit-sir film, and as for multi-hero films, I have done “Bareilly Ki Barfi” with Rajkummar Rao and am now doing “Gulabo Sitabo” with Amitabh Bachchan-sir. If you think about it, Gajraj Rao was actually the other hero in “Badhaai Ho,” so I have done films like that! (Grins) I think it’s all about a good script.

  • In this journey as a film actor, did you ever have phases where you had self-doubt?

    I think I did go a bit low after “Hawaizaada,” and questioned my own choices, wondering where I was going wrong. Happily, “Dum Laga Ke Haisha” released exactly three weeks after it and was a legit hit!

  • What is your strength as an actor?

    Whatever you play on-screen is the sum total of experiences you have had in life and I’ve got diverse experiences. It’s not just travelling on trains and staying in a hostel illegally but also travelling across the nation. I think I am quite fortunate that I have seen a lot before getting here. I got the first-mover advantage also. I was just 21 – 22 when my father said pack your bags and get out of this house. I think not many people wanted to be an actor at the time. I had joined radio when radio stations were shooting all across the county, licensing was very free, and then suddenly MTV was looking for VJs. So, I was at the right place at the right time. Also, my language is good. My mother has an MA in Hindi, so I read a lot of Hindi literature. I have a good grasp of Indian languages and I can pick up languages very easily because the root language is Sanskrit. It really helps that the kind of films that are thriving these days are heartland based and very rooted.

  • In this poignant photograph (above), you’re depicting gay pride and equality on one side and the Indian flag on another. Tell us about the idea.

    It shows India in a progressive stance when it comes to homosexuality and the LGBTQ community. It has decriminalised Section 377 (of the Indian Penal Code) and we can’t be more proud.

  • Would you say your choice of films — from one on Article 15 of the Indian Constitution in Article 15 (2019) to Section 377 of the IPC (in Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan) — are driven by your own desire to see a change in the country?

    I’d always aspire to do subjects which are socially relevant, which would create a stir or usher some kind of discussion. Yes, I am a socially aware citizen. I’ve done street theatre where we touched upon many socially relevant issues, and the cinema I’m doing is an extension of my theatre days.

  • What’s the significance of Republic Day for you and how do you define patriotism?

    The significance of Republic Day is being one with your nation, enjoying your country as a multi-cultural unit. And for me, patriotism is improving your country and not just blindly loving your country. It’s about changing our nation for the better. Patriotism comes with a responsibility, the love for your country. Like I’ve reiterated, this isn’t blind love.

  • What do you celebrate and despise the most about the Republic of India?

    There is unity in diversity. This is our biggest strength and our biggest weakness, that we are diverse. We have to be together. What I celebrate is that India is a melting pot of culture. What I despise is the lack of cleanliness. We’re not clean as a country. Even those countries which have smaller economies are cleaner than us.

  • There may be constitutional validity for the LGBTQ community and people from different castes too, but ultimately do you believe that the onus of acceptability lies with the people of the nation?

    Definitely. The kind of views and comments we’ve seen for the trailer on YouTube shows the progressive stance of our country and it is ready for a film based on homosexuality. It shows that our country has accepted the trailer of the film. It’s 2020, and high time that we have a mainstream and a commercial Hindi cinema on a gay love story.

  • Is our film industry inclusive enough?

    As an industry, we’re the most inclusive. We don’t care what caste, colour, creed you belong to or what your sexuality is. We only care about your talent. If you’re good enough, you will get there and do well for yourself.

  • How was the Austrian vacation?

    It was great. I like going to places away from the hustle-bustle, where there are less Indians and people don’t recognise you. You get time for yourself. So, there’s this place called Altaussee near Salzburg in Austria... it’s beautiful. We loved it so much that I think we’d want to go there every year.

  • What kind of a traveller are you? Do you like hitting all the tourist spots or do you just chill?

    It’s better to be a traveller than a tourist. As a tourist, you’re always in a hurry to go everywhere and tick mark places off your itinerary. I’m not like that. I’d rather stay in one place and feel and be one with that place. Tahira’s like that as well, but she’s more energetic on vacations, she’s more proactive. She’s the one who’ll book tickets and take charge — hotel reservations, cabs, everything. She used to expect all that out of me but got really disappointed. After the first 10 years, she realised that I can’t do this... I’m a very bad planner. I can only focus on my work and beyond that, I’m very lazy (laughs). I’m so consumed at work that I don’t get time to just stand and stare. So, I just go into a very lousy and hibernating mode when I’m not working. I’ll probably only shower in the afternoon and I don’t think about timelines and deadlines — I don’t want to go anywhere, I just want to sleep or do nothing... like a log. So, she takes charge and plans everything.

  • You finished two films in recent months. You’ve also released another two. How insane has your life been?

    Quite insane. Apart from the one week in Austria, it has been quite crazy. I’ll be having my first break after a long time on my birthday (September 14) and then for Diwali. After Diwali, I’ll be working until November 22. I really have no breaks.

  • Is that a function of you wanting to work that much more or are there external pressures?

    No external pressures. It’s just that initially I would do just one film a year. I’m like that — I want to take it slow, have a balanced life. But I’ve been getting these great scripts and I know that may not happen if I wait for another year. I don’t want to be satisfied with just a decent script... I need something extra. There is a dearth of good scripts but I’m just fortunate to be getting the good ones. There was never any aspiration to do four films back-to-back. Now my slate for next year is also ready, with Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan and Gulabo Sitabo. So, now I’m in no hurry to sign another film. I’ll be finishing Shubh Mangal by the second week of November and after that, I start shooting in the summer of 2020, not before that. So, that will be a good, long break.

  • Do you have plans for what you want to do during that break?

    No plans, I’ll just chill. I’ll go on a long holiday, concentrate on my music, jam with my band, write poetry and spend a lot of time in Chandigarh, spend time with my parents and do nothing.

  • Sperm donor, erectile dysfunction, premature baldness, man who speaks like a woman — your characters keep getting weirder. Is the mantra ‘the weirder the better’?

    When it’s bizarre, it’s interesting. The idea is to come up with a trailer where people go, ‘What is this?’ And they should just laugh out loud with the bizarreness of the situation. That’s what intrigues me and our country is full of taboos, it’s full of material. There’s no dearth of quirky, taboo subjects in our country. We’re blessed to live in a country with such a complex society and there’s a lot of fodder for cinema.

  • After the runaway success of Vicky Donor, there was a period when your films weren’t working. You had three consecutive duds. What changed?

    I’ve just stopped taking advice from people. Earlier, during my learning curve, immediately after Vicky Donor, I would take advice from a lot of people, all following conventions. They had a basic rulebook. But I signed three unsuccessful films and they were all conventional. After that I decided to do just what I wanted to do — it’s what I used to follow during my theatre days. I just went back to the basics. Firstly, the subject should be the first attempt in Hindi cinema. Secondly, it should hold the audience for two hours. Thirdly, it should have some kind of value creation by the end — people should take something back home.

  • Of late, when you’ve been shooting back to back, how do you then prepare for a role?

    It depends on the film. You don’t have to be hyper-prepared for a role. Andhadhun needed preparation, but Article 15 was empathy more than preparation. It comes from observation, mostly. I’ve been in touch with a lot of IPS officers, they’re close friends of mine, my wife’s grandfather was an IPS officer. Reading literature about Dalits and the underprivileged was my homework for Article 15. With Dream Girl, I’ve played pranks on radio during my first job and that helped me. I’ve also spoken in a girl’s voice while calling my first girlfriend’s parents when I was 14. So, preparation is also a sum of one’s experiences and I’m fortunate to have got such diverse experiences in life.

  • You’ve seen degrees of success at different points in your career. Is how you react to it different now?

    I’ve seen a lot between 2002 and now. I have learnt my lessons since then, I think. I’m a realist, very practical like that and I’m never too happy or too sad about anything. I’m always in between — I think I now have a wise head on my shoulders. I got married early... I’m a young parent, so that makes me more balanced in a way.

  • But this kind of success that you are experiencing right now has got to be heady...?

    It is actually, I agree. But you can’t surround yourself with ‘yes men’. People around me are hypercritical, from my father to my wife and even my manager. I remember having a dance number in Bewakoofiyaan and she told me I can’t dance to save my life. And just to prove her wrong, I worked harder in Dream Girl and asked for an extra day for rehearsals. I think I did decently well in Radhe Radhe and Dhagala lagli, the film’s dance tracks. So, now she says this is decent — just ‘decent’ is the word. She’ll never say she loves something... she’ll just say she likes it.

  • You mentioned your father and he was the one who always pushed you to showcase your talent and do more. How does he see all of this success that’s coming your way?

    He becomes very emotional at times. When I got the National Award, he called me and was almost choking and went silent for 10 seconds. I told him I’d call him back in five minutes, take a break. So, I’m the practical one, not emotional like him .

  • And he is really critical of your work?

    Oh absolutely! He always pinpoints mistakes and how I could have done a shot better, which I think is the perfect take. I don’t watch my films with him because if I sit with him, he’ll keep giving me notes and words of wisdom. So I let him watch the film and we talk about it later.

  • The last time we spoke, you said your biggest fear is striking a balance between your personal and professional lives. Have you had any success with that since?

    I try, it’s still not easy. When I get back home, my kids (Virajveer and Varushka) are sleeping and when I get up in the morning, they’re off to school. They’re seven and five, so I’m missing out on their younger years and they’re going away fast. I don’t want to do that, that’s why I just need to take a break after November. When I am out of town, we do video calls all the time, every day. They come over for my shoots once in a while and we have a yearly vacation, that’s about it.

  • Do they have a sense of what’s going on in your life?

    Kind of. They now know that their father is famous and they see strangers taking selfies with me. The elder one is really proud of me, the younger one doesn’t know what is happening.

  • How do they react when you get accosted by fans?

    Earlier they would be intimated and would wonder why people are touching their father like that or why I’m taking selfies with strangers. Because we’ve taught them to not talk to strangers. They’re still figuring it out but at the same time, we’re trying to give them a normal upbringing, where they’re away from the arc lights. Thankfully, they’re not being papped yet.

  • You’ve always had a Plan A and a Plan B, in terms of things you wanted to do. What is the long- term plan?

    I’d love to write, direct and produce at some point in my life. As of now though, I’m just having fun because my career’s peaking. Eventually I will, of course write, direct and produce. I don’t know what kind of stories I’d want to tell. It could be slice-of-life which is a genre I am most comfortable with. Things are changing so fast and what’s relevant right now might be irrelevant five years from now. Even when I came to Mumbai to be an actor, I thought the coolest roles were Shah Rukh’s Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa or Aamir’s Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar. I never thought I’d become a sperm donor one day, so things are always changing!

  • if Ayushmann troubles his wife?

    “Absolutely! She thinks I am her third child!”

  • One habit of yours that irritates your wife Tahira Kashyap the most?

    That I am immersed in my work mostly. When I have free time I am just thinking about some script or something. So she wants me to just take a break at times. Even I want a break right now. I am still thinking what to do next?

  • One thing you still tease or bully your brother Aparshakti about?

    He is very impulsive. His first passion is football. He is more passionate about sports than acting

  • One weirdest suggestion given to you about acting?

    Not to become an actor. I still remember after Roadies I spoke to this production person. I was like I want to go Mumbai to be an actor. He said," “Ek aur ghar barbaad.

  • Which of your character's reel problem would be your worst nightmare a) Mudit's erectile dysfunction from Shubh Mangal Saavdhan. b) Pretending to be a blind man just for money from Andhadhun. c) Or losing hair and going bald from your film Bala

    I don't have insecurities, so nothing is a nightmare. Hmmm... let me think. It's Andhadhun. Of course, you are actually faking it. You are doing a duel life. That's the biggest nightmare.

  • What scares you the most – Reviews, box-office numbers or a big Bollywood film clash with yours.

    Box-office numbers and reviews

  • How was the transfer – shooting to presenter to singer to film actor?

    I became an anchor because I was a very natural radio presenter. I was a radio presenter for two years in Delhi and I’ve done theatre in the past for 5 years. So I think the combination of theatre and radio somehow makes m a good presenter. Because one is a visual media, the other one is audio media and both communicate in a way. And after becoming an anchor for four years, I made this transition from television to films. But at the same time I had to unlearn a lot stuff, because anchoring is like talking to the camera and acting is like ignoring the camera. So I again had to do a lot of workshops before Vicky Donor and in fact before every film I have workshops with the director. I used to take classical training as a kid from Mr. Prajesh Uja, but never took it too seriously. I had to choose between music group and theatre group in college – I chose theatre. I think even in theatre we used to compose our own songs for our own theatre productions. So in a way, I got ample practice for acting and singing at the same time.

  • Have you purposely attempted to be unpredictable?

    Purposely attempted to be unpredictable? I don’t know, I think I don’t set some agendas. I don’t set agendas in my life. Things just happen in my life. Apart from that, you know, I tried two conventional films last two times. But I realised one thing, that my way is the unconventional way. I started with an unconventional, out of the box film like Vicky Donor and I’m back with an unconventional film.

  • What attracted you to Hawaizaada?

    Hawaizaada is a potential cult film, you know, it’s based on true events and even the one liner draws a lot of attention. It’s a very novel script and the director Vibhu Puri has a great eye for detailing. Be it entertaining with the language or the sets or the scripting. I think he’s another prodigy in the Indian film industry from FTI, whose short film was nominated for the Student Oscars.

  • How much research did you have to do while making Hawaizada?

    Personally I just had to go more regional, more rooted, more Marathi. But at the script level, I’m sure Vibhu and the co-writer Saurabh Bhave they did a lot of research. But having said that – Shivkar, nobody knows about this person, nobody knows about his invention so this gave the creative liberty to the director to build a beautiful world around this character.

  • What was your favourite moment in the Hawaizada?

    I think all the flying shots are my favourite, because I had this fear of heights, which was completely eradicated when I was suspended in the air for long hours and it used to take a lot of takes. Eventually I started enjoying all the flying shots being on a harness.

  • Who is your all time acting idol?

    Shahrukh Khan & Govinda.

  • Back-to-back hits, what would you attribute this crazy success to?

    I guess choosing scripts is my thing. It’s again scary because content is changing every year. If you don’t move or evolve with time, you’ll be lagging behind. I don’t want to get stuck in time. That’s why I make it a point to interact with people on the sets and around it. Like when in Benaras, I’d talk to the paanwala, the cab driver, the pandit… I did that earlier too. But today it’s agenda-driven. If I remain distant from the person, who’s the consumer of my film or whose life I’m portraying on screen, how will I portray that correctly? I don’t understand numbers. But I understand a good film and a bad film. When Vicky Donor released, producer Ram Mirchandani explained to me that Monday is bigger than Friday. After Dum Laga Ke Haisha, Adi sir (Aditya Chopra) told me that make a promise to the people that you’ll do good films. Then you’re home.

  • Weren’t you nervous about Article 15?

    Article 15 was a surprise. I expected it to win critical acclaim. But it won commercial success as well. A top actor would have hesitated to do such a film. He’d look for a commercial angle, add songs... But I believed it was my responsibility to do such a film. I said we shouldn’t dilute the message and do an unadulterated film on casteism, hinging on satire. But Anubhav sir (Sinha, director) said, ‘No, we have to show this as a dark film because it’s a dark film’. So far, no film has presented things so blatantly. I also applaud Gaurav Solanki, who’s co-written the film with Anubahv sir.

  • Were you advised not to do such a hard-hitting subject movies like Article 15?

    Initially, I’d look for suggestions while signing films. But now I follow my gut. If I like a script I go ahead and do it. During AndhaDhun, some people weren’t happy with the remuneration I was getting. I was like, ‘Sir (Sriram Raghavan) aap jo marzi de do. I want to do this film and work with you’. I told myself I’d earn money by singing at gigs if needed. But I’ll do movies for myself. I surprised myself with Article 15. I loved the scenes towards the climax, particularly those with the CBI officer. It was both subtle and respectful.

  • Many believe that Bala is a better film than Article 15. What's your say on this?

    Bala was a wholesome experience. It gave me so much elbowroom to perform. In Article 15, it was all internal. To show internalised emotions is difficult. You need to show the internal struggle on camera with just your eyes, without saying a word. With Bala, I had the arsenal to perform. Amar Kaushik based the character around me. He wrote it with Niren Bhatt. He said, “Tu bata kya karna hai?” I suggested that we shouldn’t make Bala into a gullible, back-footed character. I said I could mimic. So he made me a stand-up comedian. He said mimic Shah Rukh Khan, mimic whoever you want. Bala is my most satisfying performance.

  • What appealed to you about Dream Girl?

    I was laughing throughout the narration. The director, Raj Shandaliya, has written Comedy Nights With Kapil. People cautioned me saying that he’d not directed before. But the way he narrated the script, I wanted only him to direct it. Who would understand comedy better than him?

  • Did you hesitate, even for a second, before signing Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan based on homosexuality?

    No. Guys take their manliness too seriously. If I see two girls kissing each other, will I be repulsed by them? No. They’re just in love. And it doesn’t make them undesirable. It’s a myth in a straight guy’s conventional mind.

  • Were you worried about the backlash from the Dogmatists?

    No. Unhi ko toh seedha karna hai. I was a borderline homophobic in college. I was in an all-boys school. Then I went to an all-boys college. There was this underground gay club in college. Everyone knew about it but no one spoke about the club. They invited me for a party as their guest of honour saying, ‘We find you cute. Can you sing for us?’ I was scared and said no. After coming to Mumbai, I realised we’ve changed as a society. We’ve evolved as people. Earlier, I was a typical small-town conventional guy. Mujhe lagta tha yeh galat hai. Today if I’ve evolved, others can too. They should just be sensitised towards something. Till the subject is not made mainstream they won’t accept it as normal.

  • Have your films impacted people’s lives?

    After Badhaai Ho, I got so many DMs on Twitter thanking me for doing the film. They said now that the film has normalised it (middle-age pregnancy), no one will make fun of it. I have a friend in Canada. His father is my grandfather’s age. His eldest brother is my father’s age. So such things do happen. Then a friend of mine told me that he wants to take his parents for Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan for them to come to terms with his homosexuality. The dialogue in the film is path-breaking. Without being preachy, we’ve explained everything to the common folk. But some things we’ve left blurred. Like who’s the guy in the relationship. People believe being effeminate is part of being gay. But here, he’s being himself.

  • Your son Virajveer is now around eight. How does he react to your films?

    He loved Dream Girl. But the kind of realism I portray, the joke is always on me. As a son, you want your father to be a hero. When I appear vulnerable on screen, he doesn’t like it. When he saw Sanjay Mishra beating me with a chappal in Dum Laga Ke Haisha, he was sad. He was just four then. He said, ‘Papa, you’re not strong’. I explained to him that it’s just acting. He was happy watching Dream Girl. I was taking people’s case there. I was making people laugh. In the first half of Bala, he walked out of the theatre. He couldn’t watch it. My daughter Varushka, who’s six, is cool. She loves films. She’s desi. The older one is a bit anglicised. He listens to Beatles.

  • How did your parents react to the trailer of Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan?

    They were extremely happy and proud. I have noticed a shift in them too. They’ve become accepting. Times are changing and they get it.

  • What was the experience like working with Amitabh Bachchan in Gulabo Sitabo?

    He’s a little reserved. But if you’re able to break that wall, then he’s like a friend. I realised that if you’re reserved with him then even he remains so. You need to take that step. He comes on the sets prepared. He knows his lines, my lines… everything. If something is going wrong, he’ll tell you aise karke dekh. Of course, you get nervous in front of him. I get star struck every time I see Amitji (Bachchan), Shah Rukh (Khan) sir. But I’m glad he wasn’t looking like himself in the film. So it was less intimidating. He plays the landlord, while I’m the tenant. It’s a light, slice-of-life film.

  • Are you confident about Gulabo Sitabo as well?

    Yaar, whatever Shoojit (Sircar) sir offers me, I’ll do. He’s my mentor. I’ll even do a passing shot in his film. Gulabo Sitabo is a good film. Generally, the tonality of his films is subtle. This is in your face. I loved sir’s Piku. It’s spiritual. How can you make a film, based on digestion, which connects with you spiritually? Unbelievable! Piku is his best film. The film becomes even more beautiful when the narrative shifts to Kolkata.

  • King Of Content – does the title given to you make you feel proud?

    Surprisingly, I’m being offered better content now and with established directors. I never got that in the past. Apart from established filmmakers like Sriram Raghavan and Shoojit Sircar, I’ve worked with Sharad Kataria (Dum Laga Ke Haisha), Ashwini Iyer Tiwari (Bareilly Ki Barfi) and Amit Sharma (Badhaai Ho). Our country is plagued by social stigmas and taboos. We just need to pick these subjects. People remark why my films are mostly set in middle-class North India? Middle-class means the janta. That section faces the maximum conflict. Humour too stems from there. Hindi cinema is mostly set in the North because it’s the Hindi belt. The flavour is best captured there.

  • Does region become a character in your films?

    It all depends on the subject. I love Zoya Akhtar’s versatility. I always thought she was a Bandra girl. But she understands the marginalised segment (Gully Boy) as well as she knows the upper segment (Dil Dhadakne Do). I try to choose a film with a new setting each time. I’ve not done subjects set in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Gujarat… Hawaizaada had a Maharashtrian backdrop but it didn’t work. Also, Meri Pyaari Bindu, set in Bengal, didn’t work. So I can do those again. Having said that, the flavour of Uttar Pradesh can never go out of fashion. You relate to it because it has a pan-India vibe.

  • How do you acclimatise yourself with your diverse characters?

    I’m not someone, who reads the script a thousand times. I soak in the backdrop. I read literature on the subject and interact with people belonging to that background. I was always sensitised about the lower sections of society. I support an NGO called Gulmeher. When I mentioned this to Anubhav sir, he was excited. He said no one thinks about caste and other issues in our fraternity. My upbringing has exposed me to various sections. Some members of my extended family live in the villages of Punjab. While some are rich, living in Canada, the US and Delhi. I’ve grown with a good mix of people around me. So, I can adapt easily. Also, while I’ve schooled in English, I’ve done theatre in Hindi. That gives me a balance. You incorporate these experiences in your performances. Maine Ramleela bhi ki hai. As kids, we’d be part of the vaanar sena (monkey army).

  • Would you call yourself a natural, spontaneous or method actor?

    During my theatre days, I was a method actor. But over the years, radio and television have made me more natural. Also, your method changes with time. I believe method acting could be dangerous. You need to come out of the character. It’s important to preserve your sanity. Of course, I imbibed a certain method for AndhaDhun. I met a lot of blind students. Method chahiye hota hai when the subject is alien for you.

  • When you started off, did you expect this kind of success?

    After Vicky Donor... yeah. I believed it would happen. But when three films after that flopped (Hawaizaada, Bewakoofiyaan and Nautanki Saala), it left me shaken. I’d often ask my wife (Tahira Kashyap) whether I’d ever become a star. You do aspire for the stars. At the same time, I was realistic. I was like theek hai yaar nothing is permanent. Then Bareilly Ki Barfi and Shubh Mangal Saavdhan happened.

  • Is this kind of success scary?

    Of course it’s slightly scary. But it has also taught me detachment. Normally, I don’t do things, which leave me overwhelmed. I don’t watch my film with the audience. I watch it in the edit or with the cast and crew. I had to watch Bala in Benaras because I hadn’t seen it. It was an overpowering experience. When you get used to the love and suddenly if you’re left devoid of it, you can go mad. Earlier I’d roam around without security. When I shot in smaller cities, I’d walk from the vanity van to the car. Now, there are people around. That’s the difference. I’m aware the industry is fickle. So, I stay close to my college friends and family. It keeps you stable. I know they’ll be there even if I’m no longer a star.

  • Does the pressure increase with each film?

    Yes there’s pressure to excel with every successful film. Par mujhe mazaa aata hai. This credibility has given me courage to play unsafe. I don’t know whether I was ready for Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan four years ago. Success just gives you the balls to take more risks. Actually, I’ve built my entire career on risks. For me, not doing a risky subject is a risk. People want me to do conventional cinema. They say do a film, which steers away from taboo, something not necessarily socially relevant. They want me to do what is being done by others. While that would be different for me, I want to give something that’s different for the audience. Now I’d like to attempt an action thriller. I haven’t signed it yet but have zeroed in on it.

  • Will you be able to handle a flop now?

    I really don’t know. But when you see adversities early in life, you’re more equipped to deal with them later on. I don’t follow the big names or big banners. I go with the content, even if it’s coming from the freshest of directors or scriptwriters. Big names don’t overwhelm me anymore. Usse farak hi nahi padta.

  • Are the actors of the ’90s still stuck in there?

    Yeah, maybe. Actually, I don’t know. Akshay sir (Kumar) is trying to do good stuff. He’s an expert. He has the sixth sense. He marries content and commerce.

  • Critical acclaim or box-office success?

    A mix of both. Audience love is the most important to survive. Like Filmfare reviews a film like an audience, not a purist. I’m not a rocket scientist. I’m an artiste. Eventually, the film should make the audience happy. You should be able to entertain them for two hours. Just one-liners won’t work.

  • What was your reaction when you were offered the script of Shubh Mangal zyada Saavdhaan?

    I was actively looking for this script. I was looking for a script which dealt with sexuality in a commercial way. I was in touch with Hitesh Kevalya (director of the movie) ki wo kya likh raha hai. And I am really glad that he told me about this subject. So my reaction after hearing the script was amazing. This film was hard chore commercial popcorn entertainment film. And we required a film like that.

  • What was your perception about gay people before coming to the film industry?

    I was borderline homophobic when I was in college. But I have seen this transformation in me, from somebody who is little averse to homosexuality and somebody who is now a flag bearer of LGBT community in Bollywood. I am proud of this film. So I have seen that change in me. I am expecting the same change in lot of people in India who are against of homosexuality.

  • How was it playing a gay man onscreen?

    I think as an actor you should be ready for anything. It's like playing just an another character. And that's my perception and I want to have that perception should be with everybody. They are like normal human beings. Lot of people says that they are not normal or it's not natural to be a homosexual. That needs to be change.

  • How do you reinvent yourself with each character every time?

    You don't have to reinvent yourself with these character. I feel ki kis jagah aap shoot kar rahe ho wahan ki language aani chahiye aur empathy hone chahiye towards the character. I would love to give different stories every single time.

  • Do you feel pressure to do better each time?

    Not pressure I would say it courage to choose script which are more risky, which are more radical in aging. This success has given me courage more than anything else.

  • There are offbeat actors like Rajkumar Rao and Vicky Kaushal. How do you view them?

    I think vicky Kaushal is a commercial actor. Both are great actors because he gave a commentary super hit film Uri. And it's good to have such a contemporaries who inspire you.

  • So you have found your place in the industry?

    It's very important to have that space. There is no dirth of great actors in our country. There is only dirth of actors who have vision and also how different they could be from others.

  • What's something you don't want to do?

    Anything which is regressive I don't want to do. I want to be part of the progressive Indian cinema. I don't want to do which is done and jaded.

  • Were you nervous doing Article 15?

    Yes. I was nervous during Article 15, AndhaDhun and Dream Girl. Article 15 was not a commercial movie, it’s a dark film. I feared paise kamayegi ki nahin. While AndhaDhun was experimental.

  • What excited you about Bala?

    In the past, my films have explored different topics, even far-fetched ones like sperm donation and erectile dysfunction. Bala is based on a relatable subject, like baldness, though something not yet explored on screen. Almost, 50 per cent of males, above the age of 30 struggle with a receding hairline. The film’s about self-discovery, conquering your complexes and emerging like a phoenix. Bala has got heart and soul. It also called for a physical transformation.

  • Didn't you consider going bald for the film instead of opting for excruciating prosthetics?

    I did think of going bald. But my character goes through different stages in the film. So that didn’t seem practical. The prosthetics would take two-and-a-half hours to be in place. We shot in 45 degrees in Kanpur and Lucknow. Wearing three layers of prosthetics on your head and that too under the sun, was extremely taxing. Bala is the toughest film of my life so far.

  • How difficult or easy is it to do comedy?

    Comedy is always difficult. But it has to be novel. I believe in situational comedy rather than verbal comedy. Most of my comedies from Vicky Donor to Bala have been situational. Sometimes, it’s a mix of satire and irony.

  • Given your penchant for quirky subjects, how difficult are they to come by?

    Our society is full of taboos. Of course, people living in metros like Mumbai tend to be progressive. But 70 per cent of Indians, living in small-towns, remain conservative. So there isn’t a dearth of such topics. But you can’t be doing quirky films all the time. Like Article 15 was not quirky. AndhaDhun was a dark comedy. However, my films do make the audiences receptive to taboo topics, not considered as drawing room conversation. It’s a two-way process. Sometimes you bring about change through cinema. Or you bring a change in cinema in keeping with the change in society.

  • Has winning a National Award (AndhaDhun) increased the pressure to excel each time?

    It’s a happy pressure. It makes me braver in my choices. It gives me the power to be more radical.

  • Would you love to do masala films?

    Yes. Dream Girl is the most commercial film I’ve attempted. It was slapstick. It was for frontbenchers. Given a chance, I’d love to do masala and action-oriented films. But a film has to be unique. It can’t be generic.

  • How do you deal with creative fatigue?

    I switch on and switch off easily. I like moving from one character to another. For example, I was shooting for AndhaDhun and Badhaai Ho simultaneously. They were two different characters altogether. I don’t carry my characters home. When the camera is off, I’m just myself.

  • What does success mean to you?

    Success is a fine balance between contentment and ambition. You can’t be overambitious or over-contented. It has to be somewhere in the middle.

  • How has success changed your life?

    With success people start seeing you in a different light. But the idea is not to change with the changing scenario. Rather continue being your simple self because that’s what has worked for me. My films too are rooted in reality.

  • Have you signed a film just for money?

    Never. You can attend an event for money. You can perform at a marriage for money. But you can’t do a film for money. I’ve never done a film for the sake of friendship or money. I do them for personal satisfaction.

  • Whom do you view as competition?

    Competition is not with a person, it’s with your own self. How do you surprise yourself? How do you surprise people around you? The idea is to be consistent and surprise people each time. That’s the toughest nut to crack.

  • Do you read comments written about you online?

    I hardly get the time to read comments. I just do my job. Karm karo phal ki ichchha mat karo.

  • Do you keep pace with international cinema?

    I don’t watch films. I read books. I listen to music. I give priority to life over films. If you’re doing films and also watching them all the time, when will you live? I take inspiration from real-life situations, from real people. The uniqueness comes from authentic situations.

  • Who’s your biggest critic?

    My wife, Tahira’s (Kashyap) my biggest critic. She says it bluntly – what’s right, what’s not. Even my father (P. Khurana) and brother Apar (Aparshakti Khurana) say it the way it is.

  • Having reached so far, what’s something you miss?

    I haven’t been able to strike a balance between my professional and personal life. Right now, my career is peaking. So I have to work doubly hard. I miss spending time with my family.

  • What’s the best part of being an actor?

    That acting’s not a 9-5 job. There’s something new happening in your life every single day. Every day is different. Every film is different. You get to play different parts. That makes it interesting.

  • AndhaDhun is a whodunit. Was it an attempt to break away from comedy?

    It was a deliberate decision. It was in my bucket list to work with Sriram Raghavan. I was waiting for the opportunity so that I could attempt something else apart from doing slice-of-life films. I was the one, who texted him that I wanted to do a film with him. I got to know about the script from Mukesh Chhabra. He said it was about a blind musician, who witnesses a murder. I was excited. I knew Sriram Raghavan would make something extraordinary. He said, “Okay, let’s meet. But, it’s not a film in your zone.” I said, “Of course, that’s why I want to work with you. I don’t expect you to make a slice-of-life-film.” (Smiles) The next day we had a screen test although he never acknowledges that. He said let’s chill and try doing some scenes. I was so excited that I could not sleep that night. I wanted to break the mould. It’s rare for an established actor to give an audition out here. But it happens in the West all the time.

  • Are you taking risks to fight competition from your contemporaries?

    I chose the unconventional path from my first film (Vicky Donor). It has worked for me. As I said, my talent is to catch that uniqueness in a script. Today, only actors with a special talent will work. What will set you apart is your choice of films and scripts. It’s also important to make your own space. And if you own that space, nothing like it.

  • Do you fear getting stereotyped in the ‘unconventional’ zone?

    ill your films are working, no one will question you. People will only talk when your films don’t work. The onus lies on me because I select scripts that give an entertaining twist to taboo subjects. Actors often take themselves too seriously. They want to change their look and act different in every film. One must understand that the audience is only interested in a different story, not in a different you. In that different story, if you act differently, then that’s a different thing.

  • You tried playing the romantic hero in Bewakoofiyan and Meri Pyaari Bindu but it didn’t click. Will you explore that space again?

    Ninety-nine percent of the time, romance has been the crux of my films. Be it Vicky Donor, Dum Laga Ke Haisha, or Shubh Mangal Saavdhan. The romance rides on a unique idea. Of course, films like Bewakoofiyan and Meri Pyari Bindu were riding just on romance. There was no novelty in the script.

  • In Badhaai Ho, your mother gets pregnant and that triggers a storm in the household. Is sex still taboo in India?

    ex is not taboo. But in this situation the taboo is that your parents cannot have sex. We don’t expect them to have sex. We expect the whole world to have sex but you can’t see your parents as sexual partners. So, it’s a hypocritical approach. You need to perceive your parents as humans first. They have needs and a sexual need is also part of their character. Badhaai Ho hits at that. Maa-baap sex karte hai yaar… Iss mein problem kya hai?

  • Your Twitter and Instagram posts reveal a poetic and philosophical side. How do you balance that with the materialism of showbiz?

    There was a time when it used to affect me. After Vicky Donor I had this major FOMO (fear of missing out). I wanted to be everywhere. Now, I’ve realised that until you aren’t secure in your own being, you can’t be successful. You must be confident with the way you are. You can’t let people affect you in a negative way. You must keep away from that. Maintain your core and go with your gut. That’s about it.

  • So, partying is not your scene?

    Well, I do attend certain parties. But yes, it’s not my scene. I’d prefer to be with a few friends at home and do a jam session with them. Or I’d prefer watching a play at Prithvi theatre or just chilling there.

  • Which is the most defining phase in your trajectory as an actor?

    Theatre. I was a different person before doing theatre. I was a party guy in Chandigarh. But theatre changed everything. When you enter the group, they make you wipe the floor, they make you do the lighting. They’ll ask you to usher in clients. It’s a chastening experience. It takes you closer to life, closer to reality. Then you do street theatre, you meet people, who’re not a ready audience. You go to a market place and call out to people. After performing street theatre, you spread a dupatta in the middle of the road and ask for money. It’s a humbling experience. It changes your perception. Also, the films I do is the next level of the street play mindset. We’d do plays on social issues and taboo topics and present it in an entertaining way. My movies are an extension of that.

  • Didn't you get a bit detached from ground reality just after your debut film?

    As I said, I was a complete FOMO guy after Vicky Donor. I wasn’t confident at all after Vicky Donor. I was meeting a lot of filmmakers but things didn’t work out. There was an utter lack of mentorship. Shoojit Sircar and John Abraham were busy with their own thing. Yash Raj Films was not managing me at that time. I’d no idea what films to do and what not to do. I did Bewakoofiyan just to enter Yash Raj Films. Three back-to-back films of mine not doing well, changed me. Then suddenly Dum Laga Ke Haisha happened and everything changed. A good script is all that matters.

  • What’s the influence your wife Tahira had on your life?

    She has turned me into a gentleman. Earlier, I was uncouth. I was a MCP (male chauvinist pig) fully patriarchal. I’ve changed as a person because of her. We share the same sensibilities though. I take her opinion before signing anything. We’re always on the same page… mostly.

  • What advice do you have for your brother Aparshakti?

    I tell him to be consistent, keep evolving and make the correct choices. He consults me about everything. We’re extremely close. He has a lot of energy and wants to do many things. I loved him in Stree. What a performance!

  • Would you like to get onto the digital bandwagon and do a web show?

    Probably. But I’d prefer doing non-fiction because you can go more radical with it. It also depends on the kind of role being offered. It has to be completely out-of-the-box because digital is not the future, it’s the present.

  • What prompted you to say yes to Badhaai Ho?

    For me the first and foremost priority is script. This is the first script after Dum Laga Ke Haisha which got me excited and I said yes immediately after reading. Shantanu (Srivastava) and Akshat (Ghildial) have written an amazing script. This is one of the most exciting script I have ever heard. This is my zone, my genre… quirky comedy. I own this genre. And this is a step further in that genre.

  • Are you happy with your ‘Middle-Class hero’ image?

    I’m very happy because our seventy percent nation lives in small cities. Middle-class sabse zyada smiling class hai hamaare desh mein and if you represent the most popular class of our nation then of course you have connected certain cords with people. So, I’m proud of that. But at the same time, I would love to do different stuff also like Andhadhun.

  • From goofy and vulnerable characters, you played a tough cop in Article 15. How was the Transformation?

    Your body language turns confident when you wear uniform. You feel a certain sense of responsibility. Even when I was doing the look test for Article 15, my posture had changed. After playing goofy characters, here I’m playing someone in control. Whether it was Vicky Donor, AndhaDhun or Badhaai Ho, I was the victim of circumstances. Here I’m trying to be the champion of circumstances. That’s the difference.

  • How was it working with Anubhav Sinha?

    I’m glad that he’s found his voice as a director and as a social commentator. He shifted gears with Mulk. He understands the social fabric and the complexities of our country. Till recently, he was making these big-budget films. Now, he’s listening to his self, following his instinct. This career high in his 50s is amazing.

  • When you sign an avant garde film like Article 15, are you nervous about the box-office outcome?

    I always do consider the box-office but with this particular film, the belief was that this film had to be made. It’s an important and a relevant film. Also, it’s an investigative social drama, which is absorbing.

  • What were your concerns when you did AndhaDhun?

    I didn’t think about box-office during AndhaDhun as well. I knew it was an out-of- the-box film. It was an experiment, a genre-defining film. I wasn’t sure how the audience would receive it. The film was dark but humorous too in a bizarre way. I’m glad our audience was receptive to such a film. AndhaDhun made 75 crores at the box-office. This was a huge victory.

  • What would you say is your USP as an actor?

    My pre-exquisite for signing a film has always been a fresh concept. There should be no reference to my past characters. India is a multi-cultural country, which is full of taboos and also fun. There’s scope to tackle so many of these in films.

  • The Black Lady seems to be smitten by you. How was it holding the Filmfare Award for AndhaDhun?

    It was a dream come true. I had this feeling that I’d win it for AndhaDhun. That’s why I brought my father (P. Khurrana) along. It was my dad’s dream also, not just mine. So, seeing him happy made me happy. When we were travelling back home, he was numb with emotion. Being honoured with the Critics’ Award for AndhaDhun, which was a commercial success, was special because it’s a revered category. It’s heartening that content is winning praise. It was a personal victory for me. I came with this dream to Mumbai that I’d win a Filmfare Award some day. Today, I have three. Earlier, in 2012, I got the Best Male Debut and Best Playback for Pani da – both for Vicky Donor.

  • How close are you to your father?

    I’m close to both my parents. My father is an astrologer. He’s the best and the worst critic of my performances. He taught me to grasp the audience’s pulse right from childhood. When as a kid, I was asked to dance at parties, dad would say if a few are insisting it’s not necessary to perform but if many are then go ahead. Public kya chaahti hai… that has been my focus even today.

  • How did being a 100-crore actor change the perception around you?

    First and foremost you get respect from the trade. You also receive love from the masses. With Vicky Donor and Dum Laga Ke Haisha, I was adored for my performances. But now the reach has become bigger and so has the respect from the industry. People take you seriously; you feel empowered as an artiste. Your opinion begins to matter.

  • Does that come with the pressure of matching up to your last success?

    Even if there’s pressure, I view it as a happy expectation. People expect something out of me. You take on a project relying on your gut feeling. It depends on the audience how they reciprocate. I can only promise that my films will be different. They will have a message and be entertaining at the same time.

  • With experimental actors like Vicky Kaushal and Kartik Aaryan coming in, will the competition get stiffer?

    I guess, it will only increase. Now content is most important, way beyond actors or stars. There will be newcomers and better films coming in. The idea is to be just consistent and play your own game. Follow your intuition, own your space. I’ve done films, which most wouldn’t dare to do. So many actors had said no to AndhaDhun. I guess, no leading actor would have agreed to play second fiddle to the parents in Badhaai Ho. But what matters is that I’ve a beautiful film in my filmography.

  • What did you learn from your wife, Tahira during her fight with cancer?

    To remain undefeated is the inspiration I derived from her. We both are similar in a way. I’ve been through a low phase in my professional life too. We maintain calm and composure through tough times be it physical, personal or professional.

  • Is your wife, Tahira- your real hero?

    Of course. She’s my hero. She inspires me the most. The way she dealt with the situation, no one else could have. It’s easy to be broken in certain circumstances. But she refused to be. I only saw her smile when she was undergoing chemotherapy. The operation was painful. But she was brave. It’s not that she was putting up a brave front, she was genuinely happy.

  • Are you glad Tahira’s turning a feature film director after directing the short film Toffee?

    Yes. I hope it happens soon. She’s been doing pre-production for some time. She should do it independently (Toffee was produced by Ayushmann). We will probably collaborate some day.

  • How Ayushmaan felt by receiving National Film Awards 2019?

    I am feeling ecstatic. Actually, I am still trying to digest this. It was on my bucket list when I came to Mumbai to become an actor.

  • What you think about getting an award?

    The kind of films that I do are about credibility and content. I was actually looking forward to this to happen someday in my life. Actually, when you're doing a particular film, you don't do it thinking about an award, but I am glad this happened with 'Andhadhun'.

  • What he said about his family's reaction on winning the award?

    My father was almost choking on the phone when we spoke, after hearing the news. He was so overwhelmed that he could not talk properly. I feel it was even more overwhelming for him than me. Tahira (the actor's wife) was also emotional.

  • How he felt when he get to know the news?

    I was shooting for an ad-film and there were people around me. So, it wasn't exactly a 'me moment' for me. I was busy with the shot when suddenly congratulatory messages started pouring in on my phone. I was so shocked to learn that all this has happened -- it was all so surreal!. Incidentally, I was shooting with the cinematographer of "Uri" (which won Best Actor and Best Director). So, both of us did a high five and the entire crew started applauding. They arranged for a special celebration for me on the set. It was quite overwhelming.

  • What is your best memory?

    When I was in college, I used to travel to Mumbai in second class sleeper compartments along with my friends. Every year, we used to travel by second class sleeper for different competitions. That's my best memory

  • What he said about the journey from being a radio person to national award winner?

    The journeys used to be quite long. The trains would sometimes take between 28 to 48 hours. But the journey from being a radio person to a TV guy to an actor and finally the national award, has been a really long one.

  • What he thinks about Vicky Kaushal?

    Vicky was the first person to call me after getting the news. It was very sweet of him. Even as I got to know of the news, there was a call from Vicky. We virtually hugged each other over the phone! He is such a gem of a person. It was very gracious of him to give me a call.

  • How does it feel to be on the cover of Rolling Stone India?

    I’m too excited! Probably doubly excited because it was on my bucket list to be on the cover of Rolling Stone and it has happened, finally!

  • Things are going so well for you! With two back-to-back releases (Article 15 and Dream Girl) and a precious National Award to your name, how are you feeling right now at this point of time in your career?

    I feel validated that my work is getting appreciated. I’ve always wanted to do this as an actor and singer — to do my kind of films, my kind of music, although I’m not getting time for music these days. But the films that I have been doing — thanks to the scriptwriters and directors I get to work with and the characters that are made specially for me which also resonate with the audience — I think it’s amazing. Life is beautiful!

  • How amazing! You must feel very grateful too?

    I feel really grateful. I was always there at the right place at the right time. I started doing radio in 2006, when radio was surging, and then I became a VJ [when] people were looking for a VJ. And then Vicky Donor happened. That [film] was kind of a case study for the taboo subjects that never did well in Indian cinema. So I think I’m very fortunate.

  • You have served as a guinea pig of sorts; a few filmmakers test the waters with you thinking, ‘This guy will do it’ and the rest follow suit…

    I don’t know about that. I just love taking risks. Thats my USP. You know you would carve your own path, [that] you would tread the territory that was untreaded till now. And that’s my space. I have created that space for myself.

  • Tell me about all the hard work and discipline that goes into being an actor and a musician.

    Discipline, yes. You can’t do anything without discipline. Talent is overrated at times. Hard working artists overtake talented artists. I had written a line I remember: ‘Bachpan mein papa ki lagayi hui pabandiyo ko todne me bada maza aata tha/ par bade hokar khud pe lagayi hui pabandiya todi nahi jaati.’ (What fun it was to rebel against your parents as a kid/ Today, I find it tough breaking free from my own shackles) That’s the story of life itself — hard work is extremely important. But wisdom is more important, even more than intelligence. You have to be wise enough to take the right decisions.

  • What were the most important decisions you made and the experiences you had that got you here?

    Failures, of course. You know, success is a very lousy teacher. Failure is a philosopher and guide, and you learn everything from your failures. You haven’t lived your life if you haven’t failed.

  • What do you consider your one big failure which brought you your biggest learning?

    My three back-to-back films after Vicky Donor. They didn’t do well. You know when you strike a goal with your very first film, you feel you have that Midas touch and that anything you touch will now turn to gold. And [when] that doesn’t happen — it has to be beyond you. It is a team effort. I got my basics right eventually. You just go with the content — the material — it doesn’t depend on your co-actor, if that person is an A-lister or not. Or the stature of the director — A-lister or a big name. Anybody can write a great script sitting in the remote corner of Aaram Nagar or Chandigarh or anywhere.

  • But in your case, the time when you weren’t faring well as an actor, you were doing great as a musician, writing your songs and performing with the band.

    You know, I’m gifted that way. I have options in life. I’m also a journalist — I have a masters in journalism. So sometimes, you just have one plan in life and that’s great. You don’t have to be multi-talented. If you have different talents, you have to be wise enough to choose and have your own game plan. A very unique story of my life was when Hawaizaada failed at the box office and I was like, ‘I need to look for plan B.’ Within four days, I formed my band. I collected the best musicians from Coke Studio — there was was Kelly aka Kalyan Barua [on guitar], Lindsay D’mello [on drums] and a few newcomers. It was a mix of musicians that were experienced and awesome. And my first concert was in Goa, at the Vfest organized by Channel V. It was my very first show and there was an audience of 10,000 people — college students from across the nation! It went pretty well — I got goosebumps. That was the time I was also rattled. I didn’t know what my future was in the industry. That was the time when I decided to have a band. Because immediately after Vicky Donor, I was like ‘I might never get to sing again. I’ll focus on acting and sing one song in a film.’ I was not travelling or touring. I had no band at the time.

  • The feeling that you experience on the stage is something else though, right?

    It’s an amazing feeling on the stage. If you have prepared with your band, you can improvise. Improvisation only happens when you have performed multiple times in that closed rehearsal room. Every performance has to be tight, smooth. You know, I have rehearsed so much as a musician over the years that I have started programming whole songs now. Earlier, Kelly used to program for me. After that, I started learning and doing it myself. It was so liberating! You know you get that kick after giving the first shot in front of the camera while acting. It’s the same feeling in music. But when my films started doing well again I thought I should not leave this. Music is a part of my identity.

  • Apart from your original songs, does your setlist include other tracks as well?

    My setlist is a mix of my songs, some Nineties rock songs and other hits like “Meri Pant Bhi Sexy” (from the 1994 Govinda, Karisma Kapoor-starrer Dulara). We also perform a slow medley of songs like “Moh Moh Ke Dhaage” (Dum Laga Ke Haisha) seamlessly going to tracks such as “Udta Punjab” (the title track of the 2016 Shahid Kapoor hit). I have no problem singing songs sung by other artists or which featured other actors. I have no ego like that. If I love a song, I sing it!

  • What do you make of the independent music scene in India right now?

    I think this is the best time to be an artist in India. A lot of people from back in the day say theirs was the best time, that the movies, the songs made then will always be the best. But I think this is the time. This is the best time for Indian cinema and Indian music. Earlier, there was this divide between indie music and commercial music. Now there’s something in between also. There’s a congruent area where people like Prateek Kuhad, Ankur Tewari and others are doing really well. And they are commercial too. For the first time I’m seeing English vocals doing well in our country, which is great! We had a lot of rock bands like Orange Street, Mrigya and others in the past but they were not selling, you know. There was only niche audience for those. But today, a lot of that is commercial – be it rock or hip-hop. I think as artists we just need to follow our heart and be true to our art.

  • Five hits in a row and a National award. Does it get to you by way of pressure? Will it influence your future choice of films?

    Nice question! But I think it is a happy pressure and a happy responsibility. More than that, I think the award is the perfect validation that what I am doing is right, that I should not change my formula. I just have to continue to get my basics right, and not get overwhelmed by who the director is, who the producers are, their paraphernalia and my co-actors. I just go by the material I am getting and continue to do so.

  • What are your basics? Can you elaborate?

    That I want to try different things. I was never thinking about hits. I go by my gut-feel and my wife Tahira and manager Sunita read every script I get. All I look for is that the film should be absolutely fresh for Indian cinema, and the freshness must last for two hours – very often, the idea is great, but there is not enough material for a nice full-length film – and there should be some kind of value addition. I keep the script ahead of my character. If the script is good, and there is elbow room for my character, I go for it. “Dreamgirl” is actually very different from all my films. It is the most masala and most commercial I have gone. My films generally have been about subtleties. But this is an ode to the 1990s brand of comedy. I have taken the Govinda out of me!

  • How attached do you get to these very different characters?

    I don’t take a character back home. I detach from a film after it’s over, and from a role after the shoot. If there is self-obsession, you can’t do anything fresh, anything more.

  • Your choices have led to a lobby that says that the Khans should learn from you on what films to choose?

    That’s pretty unfair. Let us, the new generation, survive in the game for at least 25 years! Till then, there is no comparison.

  • You said that when you wore uniform, you felt like a cop in “Article 15.” What did you feel, externally and mentally, when you dressed up as Pooja in this film?

    It is difficult to be a girl, man! The physicality itself was tough. I had to shave, and the hair extensions took two hours. When the stubble began to grow back by evening, I had to shave again! And I had to think I am a girl, but I was a man!

  • Did you take inspiration from anywhere?

    “Chachi 420” was so legendary. So was Govinda’s role in “Aunty No. 1,” though the film did not do well. For me, “Dreamgirl” is that film with which I hope to reach the single-screen audiences and connect with them. It is slapstick, slightly illogical, but laugh-out-loud fun. Even the songs are commercial, not off-center. If this works, it will give my films like “Article 15” or “Bala” in the future better mileage with the masses. And by the way, I have grown up on slapstick comedies. Also, as a Radio Jockey, I did play pranks here and there and spoke occasionally in a female voice. That experience really helped as well! And I would also watch Ram-Lila programs back home, wherein many female character were played by male actors.

  • There was buzz that your voice as Pooja was to be dubbed by some actress. So which actress would you have preferred to dub for you had you not done it yourself?

    I think my main concern was that I should sound sexy! Among the girls, I think Priyanka Chopra has the sexiest voice. And also Rani Mukerji.

  • Would you be open to, say, a Rohit Shetty film or a multi-hero movie?

    I would love to do a Rohit-sir film, and as for multi-hero films, I have done “Bareilly Ki Barfi” with Rajkummar Rao and am now doing “Gulabo Sitabo” with Amitabh Bachchan-sir. If you think about it, Gajraj Rao was actually the other hero in “Badhaai Ho,” so I have done films like that! (Grins) I think it’s all about a good script.

  • In this journey as a film actor, did you ever have phases where you had self-doubt?

    I think I did go a bit low after “Hawaizaada,” and questioned my own choices, wondering where I was going wrong. Happily, “Dum Laga Ke Haisha” released exactly three weeks after it and was a legit hit!

  • Do you see yourself as an actor or a singer?

    I am passionate about music, but acting is closer to my heart. Though both disciplines are intrinsic to me, I feel I am more versatile when I am acting because I feel I can do much more as an actor. I have a natural flair for comedy but I would like to do dark edgy roles. I guess I would describe myself as an actor-singer rather than a singer-actor.

  • Despite your success you have not signed on for too many movies. What’s the reason behind that?

    I guess I am a patient guy. After my MTV stint, I got many roles where I was cast as the hero’s best friend in big banner films but I chose to wait till Vicky Donor was offered. I think it is better to wait for a meaty role than just accept any role. If I have time on my hands I use it to learn new things like assisting ShoojitSirkar on Madras Café. Though right now I am too young and new to direct, learning direction will always be of help to me as an actor and maybe later I can direct a film.

  • How deeply are you affected by success and failure?

    Not too much. I try to stay detached and I have been rejected so many times that I am used to failure now – I just think of it as a passing phase. When success comes after a lot of hard work it’s always sweeter.

  • Who are the people you draw your strength from?

    My dad for sure. Left to myself, I am a laid back person, but my dad always pushed me to work hard to achieve my goals. I am more of an explorer and not so much an achiever so it’s good he is always pushing me.

  • Early marriage and fatherhood – was it an advantage or disadvantage for an aspiring young hero?

    Since I played a sperm donor and was a father to 50 kids in my first film, I guess it worked to my advantage. But having my wife Tahira is a great stabilising factor. She is hot and intelligent and that’s a great combination in a woman and I am lucky to have her. Since everyone in my family is on the shorter side I wanted a tall girl to be my wife. I like tall women. Tahira is about 5 feet 8 inches to my 5 feet 9 inches . Besides her height, I love the honesty in her eyes.

  • How do you and Tahira handle the pressures of life?

    By being honest with each other and being there for each other.

  • How do you and Tahira handle the pressures of life?

    By being honest with each other and being there for each other.

  • After Back-To-Back Hits In 2018, Ayushmann Khurrana Says He Was Confident Of His Film Choices

    He is hailed as the path-breaking actor of 2018, and why not? Doing unconventional films such as Badhaai Ho and Andhadhun, Ayushmann Khurrana gave back-to-back hits and stole the show last year. Discussing his journey so far, Ayushmann Khurrana says he is confident about film choices. He is glad to be a part of an era when talent is recognised -- a fact validated with his consecutive hits in the year gone by. Actor Ayushmann Khurrana says his journey in Bollywood in the last six years has been a great learning curve in which he has gone from being cautious to being confident about his movie choices. Asked if after successful films like "Badhaai Ho" and "AndhaDhun", has he become too cautious with his film choices, Ayushmann told IANS in an email: "I have always been cautious. Initially I use to do one film a year, but now I am doing at least two."