The Bala (2019) actor underlines that the country’s social fabric, it’s many taboos will ensure that there will never be dearth of social, content oriented stories
By Mayur Lookhar
Ayushmann Khurrana is busy promoting his next Bala (2019). However, this group interaction felt like a success interview. Not celebrating a solitary success, but when you give six hits on the trot, there’s bound to be varied question thrown at Khurrana.
Some questions smacked of fanaticism but the answers gave an insight into the mindset of Khurrana. Its only later that it dawned upon us that the conversation around Bala was few. The controversies surrounding the film was filed in an earlier article. Bala is based on the life and insecurities of man who is going bald.
Khurrana expressed contentment at his recent successes but remained modest. He refuses to be enamored by the superstar tag. Excerpts from the group conversation.
You’ve been on this rollercoaster ride. Six successive hits. Was this success too hot to handle joh baal ud gaye and you ended up becoming Bala.
(Laughs). It’s got nothing to do with that. It’s just that I’ve ventured into far fetched territories like sperm donations or erectile dysfunction – I have friends who suffer from it. It’s just empathy which I thought about. I’ve met with both kind of people, people who are bothered about it [balding] and some don’t care about it. The idea is to have the latter side more prominent. That’s the message in our film. What’s the fun of making a film without any message or value creation.
After repeated success, do you consider yourself a star now?
I seriously don’t know what to say. (Laughs). Of course, it comes with success. Successful films reflect on your stardom for sure. You get less time with your family. People start seeing you in a different light. There’s a National Award [for Andhadhun (2019)], so that gives you another credibility.
Can you describe stardom?
Stardom by default makes you an opinion leader. Everybody puts you on a pedestal and they expect you to give an opinion on everything. At the same time, stardom is treading a thin line between contentment and ambition, for your own sanity. You can never be completely content or you won’t be excited to work. And you can’t be only ambitious. In that case ,you will be going cuckoo in your head because you might become too bullish. You have to tread onto the middle path.
How do you navigate that?
It’s difficult. You approach a particular film with ambition. If it does well, you have to be content. You don’t have think that you need to do better than this. You just have to go with the craft. Don’t think about commerce. That is not your headache. Go with the craft, go with your gut feel. That’s about it.
How challenging it is to keep picking on varied subjects?
Of course it is difficult to choose topics that are rare, novel every single time but I am glad we are born in a country which is full of taboo subjects. Our country is full of conservative people as well as progressive people. So, when they meet together, that’s when comedy emanates. It’s a bizarre situation in our country where 70 % of our people are in primary sector, rural areas. When these people migrate to urban cities they get this cultural shock as to what is happening here. These are the people when they see women smoking or behave in a certain way, according to them, that is not right. We are in a different cusp. That’s how cinema gets fodder from these kinds of situations. With Bala, there is one definition of beauty which is followed across nation. Lot of people have these diktats that the guy has to be tall. He needs to have good hair, or a girl has to be fair. We need to challenge these definitions of beauty. And we’ve done that in Bala.
After back-to-back successes, do you feel any pressure while choosing your next film whether it will be able to match the success of the previous films?
That is always there. You just have to touch that benchmark every single time. There is pressure, but it’s a happy one to have. It’s just that recent successes give you more confidence to be more radical. It gives you the courage to be more of a risk taker. At the same time, I want to take easy now. My line-up for next year is ready. Gulaba Sitabo and Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan. Now I am just reading scripts. I am thinking about a third one. Let’s see how it goes. Let’s not jump into one.
Reuniting with Bhumi Pednekar and Yami Gautam. Is there pressure to perform better than the previous collaborations?
There is an added pressure as to how different you can be. I had this chemistry with Annu Kapoor in Vicky Donor (2012). Dream Girl (2019) was completely different. There is pressure that it shouldn’t remind of your previous chemistry or camaraderie. With Bala, it was a challenge to be different. I’m glad they [Bhumi Pednekar, Yami Gautam] had different, well etched out characters in the film. Yami is playing a model who is endorsing a fairness cream. On the other side there is Bhumi, who is dark skinned. She is playing a lawyer, my childhood friend. Bhumi’s character is interesting because she is the one who is dark skinned but not complexed. I probably take inspiration from her as to how this girl is so confident in her life. The film is not just about receding hairline, baldness. The film has different layers. It’s about self discovery, just killing your complexes and coming out of it like a phoenix.
Apart from the bushy eyebrow, did you have any other complexes?
I was extremely skinny. I had that complex. This version of mine, ah I am still lean but I was very skinny as a child. I wanted to be a fast bowler but my coach told me that I was too skinny for that. So, I started bowling spin.
How liberating it is to be redefining heroism in films? Would you like to play super hero?
I need to look like one first. The idea is just to have your own space. Bala is about self-discovery. It took me a while to discover myself. After Vicky Donor, there were unsuccessful films. I discovered myself then, and thought this is my zone and I just need to consolidate that and play to my strengths. Once in a while I can change my zone, which is slice of life, quirky. taboo films. Once in a while I will venture into a film like Andhadhun (2018) or Article 15 (2019).
You’ve carved a zone for yourself. An Article 15 was something out of it. Leave aside the commercial success, but personally how satisfying was it to do a film like this?
I discovered that through both these films [Andhadhun, Article 15]. I wasn’t the first choice for these films. So, I had extracted these two films out of the director. I’ll still go to a director and ask that person to just give me an action film or a grey character. I need to make that effort otherwise, no one will write such stories for me.
Speaking of self-discovery, you went through prosthetics. When you saw yourself for the first time in the mirror with the prosthetics, was there a sense of insecurity, any fear?
I became a different person altogether. I didn’t recognize myself. I though I looked like my grandfather. He had less hair. But I couldn’t relate why the complex? I started empathising with a lot of people – like my friends. That was my homework. But the toughest part was prosthetic. I wanted to shave my head but since we had different stages of balding, I needed prosthetic for it. It used to take two and half hour to get ready.