Article 15, Anubhav Sinha’s hard-hitting thriller, will be first showcased at the London Indian Film Festival (LIFF).
Bollywood’s hottest male star Ayushmann Khurrana plays a police officer from a privileged urban, international, background.
His very first posting is to rural north India where three teenage girls have gone missing.
His honesty does not sit well with the existing, deeply entrenched corrupt system where, in 2019, a 1000-year-old practice where human beings are divided on the basis of caste continues.
Beginning as a riveting police procedural that is a true detective like deep-dive into the Indian Bayou, the movie soon elevates to a gutsy exposé of a deeply flawed structure.
The film’s title references an article of the Indian constitution that prohibits discrimination on the basis of caste, religion, race or sex.
In a special conversation with Filme Shilmy, ahead of the world premiere at LIFF, Ayushmann talks about his experiences of working on the film.
Article 15 will be premiering at the London Indian Film Festival. You must be so excited about this?
Oh yes, I’m very excited. This is the first time that my film is being premiered outside India.
My expectations are that this could be a great trigger for audiences, the film’s buzz and journalists from worldwide will give their view on the film.
Their perspective will hopefully viewers back home in India to see the movie.
Hopefully, there will be takers everywhere.
You’ve done a lot of socially relevant movies like Vicky Donor, Subh Mangal Savdhan and Badhaai Ho. Is this what drove you to do Article 15?
Well, Article 15 is a very unique film for me.
It is the first time I’m playing a ‘man’ as opposed to other ‘boyish’ characters which I’ve done in the past.
In this one, though I’m the victim of a circumstance, I try to become the master of the circumstance and try to fix things up.
Plus, I’m playing a cop for the first time and it marks a first of many sorts.
It is also my primary time of doing a hard-hitting film and one that is challenging.
As you mentioned, this is your first time playing a police officer. What was the reference point for you as an actor?
I met real cops, not only in Uttar Pradesh but also in Mumbai and Delhi.
My friend Mr Manoj Malviya is a senior IPS officer in Delhi and I adapted certain qualities from him whilst playing – the moustache, the way he walks, his uniform.
I spent time with real cops and they were my reference points rather than Bollywood/Hollywood cops.
As the film is realistic and highlights some real incidents, it was important for me to do the homework right.
It was paramount that we keep it as authentic as possible.
Being the main actor and focal point of attention, has this added pressure or burden on you to deliver?
It’s a good thing if people something novel and distinct from you every time.
I have the pressure and it only motivates me to follow my gut, instinct and sensibilities by being true to the character.
That’s a good expectation to have.
You also had to shoot in leech-infested swamps. How did you overcome such challenges? Was there ever a point where it became intolerable?
Filmmaking is always challenging. With every film comes a new set of challenges.
This challenge was quite new for me as I never previously got this vibe.
When you are really passionate about this particular project and go through different lengths to make the film as believable as possible, it becomes worth it.
We shot for a couple of days in that waterbody in such conditions, but we took necessary precautions.
From this experience, I learnt about how some villagers cross a pond as that and the different challenges faced. But it is not impossible.
When you travel across to another part of the country, you identify different cultures and values.
By shooting in that particular place, we tried to be true to that venue.
Hopefully, that is what will come across on celluloid.
How do you hope the film will entertain the audience rather than just making a political statement?
It is interesting as (a socially relevant film like this) could be entertaining in a different way.
‘Entertainment’ is not just comedy even dark films or horror is entertainment. That word has a different definition for every person.
With this movie, it is about intrigue, enlightenment and opening discussions of change in Indian society.
So collectively, these aspects make the film entertaining.
As such, it also focuses on intrigue and novelty. Nobody has spoken about castism so frankly and blatantly in Indian cinema till now.
It is the need of the hour and people should view it as an important/relevant story.
In terms of commercial values, it is beyond entertainment.
You’ve researched into the caste disparity subject and have a keen interest in the issue. In what way do you feel the film will help the caste system to be eradicated in India?
It will take a while. I also feel there is a lack of education and we need to work on the literacy rate.
It’s a part of our history books that we tell them about different castes. To begin with, we need to eliminate that from our syllabus.
We should teach them about different relationships, not about castes. What is the point of teaching them about that?
They should acknowledge a person through their virtues, values and by the person they are, not by their legacy.
It’s redundant and the film will curtail this kind of discussion.
When beginning your career as a reality-show winner, did you ever imagine that you’d ever become a household name?
When you come to the city of dreams Mumbai, one always has a vision.
My ultimate goal was to become an actor and not just that but to also have a particular space for myself.
I’m glad that I have been following my gut and intuition, as far as maturity is concerned.
It is very humbling and satisfying to get the response that I’m getting from people.
I am delighted to be in this space right now.
You also sing and write poetry. Do you feel that it is necessary to have/showcase other talents as well as acting in order to be a successful Bollywood hero?
You don’t have to be a multi-talented artist to get success or something. You only need a connect.
The masses think only about the connect.
They don’t care about how good you look at times, how great you dance or the kind of songs you sing, there just has to be that attachment with the audience.
That connect cannot be confined by just showcasing various talents.
You have that connection if your character speaks out loud and most importantly if your films have a certain resonance, then there’s definitely home.
Listen to our full interview with Ayushmann Khurrana here:
Your choice of films is unorthodox. Does this happen by design or do you actively search for such projects?
I actively look out for such films and at the same time, I get drawn towards a subject.
The subjects that I look out for are of intrigue, of a certain value, something novel or which has never been attempted in Indian cinema in the past.
By looking for such projects, it gives me the impetus to work with directors to crack a script which is content-heavy and entertaining at the same time.
The world premiere of Article 15 takes place on 20th June at Picturehouse Central, London as part of the London Indian Film Festival.
For tickets and information visit the website here.
Article 15 releases officially on 28th June and stars Isha Talwar, Sayani Gupta, Kumud Mishra and Manoj Pahwa, in supporting roles.