'If every actor does commercial films, where is the space for the Amol Palekars and Farooq Sheikhs of today?'
'I am happy being in that space and want to own that space.'
"Have you guys eaten?" inquires Ayushmann Khurrana, as he enters a room in Yash Raj Studio designated for interviews.
He settles down on a chair with a smile on his face, as journalists place their recorders on a chair in front of him.
"I will try and be louder," he says helpfully, to make sure everyone gets a clear recording of the interview.
Ayushmann's Meri Pyaari Bindu may not have got good reviews or box office collections but the actor doesn't care for the latter anyway.
He talks about his journey from reality shows to the movies. Jahnavi Patel/ Rediff.com listens in.
How much do you relate to your character in Meri Pyaari Bindu in real life?
In my early 20s or probably in my teens, I was vulnerable and that's how Abhimanyu is in the film. So I could relate to that part.
I have probably become more practical in life because I have seen more of it now.
Apart from that, I could relate to his love for retro music.
There is a mix of retro and new songs.
The film is based in 1980s, 1990s, 2000 and current time so there was a need to put current songs also.
The best part is we have used the original songs. We haven't used remixes.
In every film, there is a remix so I think it was a novel idea to put songs in their original shape and feel.
You started off with a hit in Vicky Donor, followed by a series of flops.
If you have talent, you will get good opportunities as an actor.
I am glad that in a span of five years I have given two National Award winning films -- Vicky Donor and Dum Laga Ke Haisha. I am fortunate that I am getting quality roles.
Success and failure will come and go.
Success is a lousy teacher. Failure teaches you a lot.
I think you should have failure, that's the path of your growing-up process.
What have you learnt from your failures?
Sometimes you get very myopic when you think about a particular role. We think that our character is of utmost important but now I have learnt that the film is of utmost importance. You should look at it in totality, not just prioritise your role.
Does a film's failure take a toll on you?
I am a very level-headed guy. On a human level, it does affect you.
I am not very expressive as a person.
I think it's the perspective which changes of the outside world but internally, I just take it as a learning experience.
Was it a conscious decision of yours to take up content-driven films?
I started my career with an unconventional film. I always believed that I was an unconventional actor.
If every actor does commercial films, where is the space for the Amol Palekars and Farooq Sheikhs of today?
I am happy being in that space and want to own that space.
But because of those choices, do you think you will miss out on opportunities of getting offers for a larger-than-life role or action-oriented roles?
It doesn't matter.
A month ago, Aditya Chopra told me that 'your real life persona reflects on screen which is great. You come across an enduring guy which reflects on screen.'
We evolve every day. Till the time I don't feel that I can be an action hero, I cannot become one on screen.
It's an internal process. I still have a long way to go.
Do you plan to make a comeback on television?
I think the web excites me more than television.
I started my career as an anchor for a youth channel. Not many people know that I even did a fiction show for three or six months.
There was a lot of edgy content on TV in 2008 and that youth channel was known for its edgy content. But it's not the same now.
I think the web is where the edgy content happens.
Television is still slightly regressive.
I would love to do some progressive stuff on the web.
This is your third film under the Yash Raj banner.
I am glad that I am a part of this family.
There are selected actors, who are being managed by YRF like Arjun Kapoor, Ranveer Singh, Parineeti Chopra, Anushka Sharma, Bhumi Pednekar and me.
It's great to be here because you feel secure here. You have a mentor like Aditya Chopra, who has seen the world and is doing different kind of stuff. He makes something like Dhoom as well as Dum Laga Ke Haisha. They are doing a variety of films and evolving with times.
What's your take on the debate about actors turning singers?
To begin with, it's a very Indian tradition to lip-sync songs. In the west, you generally sing your own songs.
I don't know what the hoopla is about.
I think if you sing your own songs, it just lends credibility to your character on screen.
What was the life-changing moment of your life?
I think it was when I became an anchor, a VJ on television.
I got rejected many times because of random reasons like you have dense eyebrows or you are not conventionally good looking...
When I started doing fiction on TV, I played the second lead in a serial called Kayamath. I accepted that this was my life.
I was doing radio and TV simultaneously.
But when I became a VJ on television, I was like this is it, I will establish my name as Ayushmann.
You have been a part of reality shows. Just how *real* are the reality shows?
I was a reality show contestant about 10-15 years ago. I was 18 years old. Reality shows had just started in India then.
My first reality show was Popstars. After that, Roadies happened in 2004.
Reality shows had just started and they were really real. It was a journey from point A To B without any faff. We never abused each other. We were a bunch of decently intelligent people.
That's why that was the worst season of Roadies, there were no TRPs.
We were like the nerds on Roadies.
Later, they started taking the back-benchers so that they could fight among themselves.
That was the time when even production houses were experimenting with reality shows. It was the best time for the contestants. There was no pressure.
You are a writer as well. Writers aren't really vocal when it comes to being expressive. They are more expressive through words. But actors have to be more animated and expressive. How did you strike a balance?
I am more expressive as a writer. I am an introvert in real life.
I am a different person when cameras are on.
Otherwise in real life, I am not very expressive.
Sometimes you just want to play your alter ego on screen. I probably feel like a superman but I am not. I want to be a superman on camera.
How important are box office numbers to you?
The kind of films that I have done, they normally do well with word-of-mouth. They mostly depend on reviews and how people accept them.
So I am the last person on earth who can comment on box office.
Vicky Donor was my most commercial film, in terms of profit.
I don't understand numbers, so I just do different scripts and then it depends on how people like the films.
What kind of cinema do you watch?
More than Hollywood, I like international cinema like Fatih Akin or Majid Majidi's.
Otherwise, I am a hardcore Bollywood fan. I have seen Haseena Maan Jaayegi 10 times!