Down to earth, suave and ever-smiling — it’s no wonder that Ayushmann Khurrana’s fan following knows no bounds. In the city to promote his film, Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan, the actor settled down for a chat with us. From his love for Kolkata’s warmth and Bengali cuisine to the need for a commercial film to sensitise people about homosexuality, the posterboy of all things cool gets candid with CT. Excerpts:
This is not your first visit to Kolkata. What is it about this city that makes you want to come back?
I think what makes Kolkata the most interesting place in the country is the fact that it has the characteristics of a big city as well as a small town. I have earlier shot for Meri Pyaari Bindu and a music video here, and it’s always great to be back. I love the city’s food, culture, music and above all, the warmth of the people of this City of Joy.
For any Bollywood actor visiting Kolkata, food is almost always a part of their itinerary. Does that hold true for you as well?
Kolkata is like the food capital of the country. I love the typical Bengali fare that you get only here. Besides, there’s something about the Chinese food served in Kolkata. Whenever I’m here, I make sure to indulge in Bengali cuisine. However, I couldn’t make time for it on this trip.
And what about the famous Bengali sweets?
Every time I’m here, I get some sweets packed for home. And this time I’m taking back some mishti doi, which has jaggery in it!
Are you clued into Bengali films?
Not really. I know Shoojit Sircar, but then he is a national treasure now and not just a personality from the Bengali film industry.
You are known to be the actor with a midas touch. Every Ayushmann Khurrana film is a hit. Does the pressure of living up to all those expectations ever get to you?
I think life is a sum total of the choices we make, and I just try and make the right choices for myself. It’s not that whatever I touch turns into gold. In fact, it is the scripts I choose that are already gold. I am glad to be getting opportunities to work with such great scriptwriters and directors. I am a team player and feel blessed to act in films with unexplored subjects. Also, I think there is a lot of competition now with OTT platforms because they have more elbow room as far as edginess and radical content are concerned. So, that’s why the need of the hour is to choose out-of-the-box content.
You were looking to get a break and spend time with your family after shooting continuously for a while. Have you been able to manage that?
This, for me, is break time as I am only promoting my film, Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan, right now. I don’t know when I will be shooting next. After this, there’s Gulabo Sitabo and then I will be done with two films for this year.
Hitesh Kewalya, the film’s director, recently said that the best part about you is your vulnerable looks that help you connect well with the audience.
The vulnerability comes with your upbringing, your empathy towards different issues and your objectivity in life. I try to lead a normal life as much as possible, which gets tougher as one climbs the success ladder. But I try to stay as real as possible. Wherever I go for a shoot, I meet the common people there. I talk to the driver, the chaiwala because it gives me fodder for the characters I play in my films and also for me as a person.
Do you think Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan, which is themed on homosexuality, will help society become more acceptable towards members of the LGBTQIA+ community?
Homosexuality is still not considered mainstream by a certain section of people. So, we need a mainstream commercial film to deal with this issue. We have seen a lot of art house cinema that deals with homosexuality, but that only caters to a niche target audience. This film will sensitise people further. We are sure the audience will come out of the halls with a different perspective after watching our film.
The kissing scene between you and Jitendra Kumar in the trailer has raised a lot of eyebrows.
Kissing is an expression of love and affection irrespective of one’s gender. I have also kissed my heroines (smiles) on screen, but it is different to kiss a guy. But at the end of the day, it is fine because I have chosen to play a certain character. The scene was necessary for the film because how else will you sensitise the audience? Public display of affection with the opposite sex is common in big cities, but it is still a taboo when you do it with someone of the same gender — it’s high time we normalised it.
Jitendra is a newcomer. How was the experience of working with him?
It was my suggestion to get him on board. He was vulnerable, earnest, intelligent and likeable. Jitendra is a great collaborator, which makes him perfect for this film.
Was it a conscious decision to not portray any of the two characters as effeminate?
Yes. I had dressed up as a girl for Dream Girl, and we could have easily done that in this film too. But it was a conscious decision not to stereotype the characters.
Do you think the scrapping of Section 377 has helped homosexuals find a place in society at large?
omophobia definitely still exists, but the situation is getting better now. I think any kind of change in society takes time to get established. The kind of response our film’s trailer has received is phenomenal and that shows how accepting our society has become.
Source: Times of India