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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Ayushmann Khurrana: “This is the Era of Progressive Cinema”

Ayushmann Khurrana, since his Vicky Donor days, has continuously proven that content is king.

The years 2017 and 2018 has proven to be extremely triumphant for him due to the immense appreciation of movies like Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, Bareilly Ki Barfi, Badhaai Ho and AndhaDhun.

Once again, the actor/singer is set to push the envelope in Raaj Shandaliya’s Dream Girl.

Set in an intensely crazy, unusual, bizarre space in North India, our protagonist Karm (Ayushmann) stumbles upon a job like never before.

He joins a love line office and everyone thinks he will not fit in until they hear his beautiful voice and becomes the most popular female friendship caller, Pooja.

So, what happens when –a Haryanvi cop, a young spoiled Delhi brat, Karm’s Girlfriend’s brother all fall in love with Pooja?!

Filme Shilmy speaks with Ayushmann on his Dream Girl journey, his National Film Awards triumph and what drives his unorthodox choice of films.

You’ve done several taboo-breaking films recently. Was this the deciding factor for you to do the film?

Dream Girl is a very unique film for me because till now, I’ve never done a film which is completely mass-oriented and a masala/commercial outing.

This movie caters to the masses. It is an ode to the 90s brand of comedy –which is why I decided to do it.

We will be seeing you alternating between Karm and Pooja. How challenging was the constant shift between the two?

It was quite challenging because being a guy it’s not easy to sound like a girl and have a smooth transition with the voice notes.

I dubbed female part again when going into the studio and did multiple takes so legitimately sound like a girl.

My reference point as an actor was from reality. In particular, I’ve grown up watching Ram-Leelas.

Traditionally, most of the female characters are played by men and this is the story of those guys

At the same time, I’ve played pranks pretending to be a girl.

I have even spoken in a girl’s voice to the father of my friend’s girlfriend when I was aged about 14/15.

Also, I quite enjoyed Kamal Hassan’s character in Chachi 420 because he was a legit woman in that film.

This film breaks the glass ceiling of masculine roles in society. Why has it taken long for films like Dream Girl to happen?

Nowadays, we are celebrating gender fluidity. At the same time, this is the era of progressive cinema.

We have seen the visuals of men dressing up as women in the past – be it Mr Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan sir, Govinda, Riteish Deshmukh.

Having said that, Dream Girl is not about giving a social commentary. It’s a fun film.

Of course, the message towards the end would be that everyone needs a friend. It’s not about an adult chat or something, the movie is a family entertainer.

So, there isn’t that ‘middle of the road cinema’ which I’ve been doing over the years.

Dream Girl is a commercial/masala film.

You’re currently on a winning streak… Back-to-back triumphs (National Film Awards too) with out-of-the-box projects. How would you describe the space you’re currently in?

I was quite overwhelmed with the National Film Award, I wasn’t really thinking about it. 

When you do a film, you don’t really think about the outcome of it.

Thus, you do it because you like the character and story. 

We are in a beautiful time right now as novel stories are being created and people are appreciating them. 

These narratives are striking off the norms of Indian cinema so it’s an exciting space to be an artist.

It’s great to see you do pathbreaking films and roles. Was this always the dream for you as an actor, to stand out amongst the crowd?

It is imperative for any performer or artist to have their own space. 

I’m glad that I have found that for myself.

People, as in both critics and audiences have started to respect me as an actor. It’s so good to get that appreciation from them.

So I guess I really am enjoying it. 

Acting can be physically and mentally strenuous. How do you de-stress and separate reel life from real life?

This is the time where I’ve been shooting four back-to-back films but that has never been the case in the past.

I used to shoot about two films a year but since I was fortunate for getting great scripts and director, so I went for it.

I will be starting Shubh Mangal Zyaada Savdhan on 20th September. After that, I’ll be taking a break.

Recently, I went on a vacation to Austria with my wife.

Apart from that, during my break, I do the gigs and concerts. Music is food for my soul so I don’t really consider that as work.

Whilst we hope Ayushmann has a refreshing and relaxing break, we are eager to see more unconventional works from him in forthcoming films like Bala and Gulabo Sitabo.

Written and directed by Raaj Shaandilyaa, Dream Girl also stars Nushrat Bharucha, Annu Kapoor, Vijay Raaz, Abhishek Bannerjee, Manjot Singh, Nidhi Bisht, Rajesh Sharma and Raj Bhansali.

The film releases in cinemas on 13th September 2019.

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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