'The years 2017 and 2018 were really good for me.
'It gave me the courage to attempt something different, without thinking about the commercial aspect.'
Ayushmann Khurrana is in the most exciting phase of his career.
One of the busiest actors in Bollywood today, Ayushmann plays a cop for the first time in Anubhav Sinha's Article 15, which tackles an important issue.
"While shooting for this film, I realised that 70 per cent of our Hindu samaj is filled with Dalits.
"We always talk about a 30 per cent reservation in our country, but the majority is a minority and the minority is a majority in the real sense of the world.
"This film will be an eye-opener for everybody because people have no idea about the actual situation in our country," Ayushmann tells Rediff.com Contributor Divya Solgama.
Is this the best phase of your career?
I don’t know. I’m just enjoying this phase. The fact that I’m getting to do different stuff, playing different characters and doing things I have never done before.
It’s an exciting phase of my life.
How different was it for you to explore Article 15?
It is different for sure. I’m playing a cop for the first time. I'm also starring in a hard-hitting film for the first time.
Earlier, I had done light-hearted films.
Andhadhun had a lot of drama, but the film was light-hearted overall.
But Article 15 has a social message and is a need-of-the-hour film.
As a country, you need to address this issue as soon as possible. It has been going on for more than 70 years now.
What was more taxing -- your physical transformation or the film's emotional content?
The physical transformation is always easy. I have good metabolism and so I put on muscle easily and lose weight easily.
The emotional transformation was tough because, at a human level, you change.
Despite living in a secular country, life is not easy when you are treated like a third-grade citizen.
While shooting for this film, I realised that 70 per cent of our Hindu samaj is filled with Dalits.
We always talk about a 30 per cent reservation in our country, but the majority is a minority and the minority is a majority in the real sense of the world.
This film will be an eye-opener for everybody because people have no idea about the actual situation in our country.
Did you draw inspiration from other movies or characters?
No. Article 15 is a real film, so I met real cops to prepare for my character.
A friend of mine is an IPS officer in Delhi and I have seen him operating. I have been to his office to observe his mannerisms, the way he walks, talks and salutes his senior officers.
In most of our films, police officers salute every two minutes. But they are not just meant to salute other officers, they have other important work as well.
So we have kept the story and my character in the real space.
That's why I was not inspired by any filmi cop; I was inspired by the real ones.
How was your experience working with director Anubhav Sinha?
I became a big fan of his work after I watched his film, Mulk.
It's one of the most balanced films (I've watched) and he discovered a certain voice after that film.
He has strong opinions and is a great filmmaker.
He has made films that are formulaic commercials, as well as sensible films like Mulk.
So his sensibilities are very varied.
He understands the market sensibilities as well as the complexities of our country.
That’s a good combination to have. I have learned immensely from him.
What made you select a film with a social message attached to it?
When I met Anubhav Sinha for the first time, he offered me a rom-com.
But I wanted to do something hard-hitting.
I asked him for options and he gave me three-four scripts that he was working on.
Article 15 immediately struck me.
I started talking to him about the caste situation in our country because I have read a lot of literature about Dalits and discrimination.
Also, I used to do street theatre since my college days and we would tackle such issues in our plays.
He was surprised that I knew about these things.
He said that he could not find an actor who knew these things, and he added that he felt strongly about these issues.
During the looks test, when I wore the uniform, it felt like I was a real cop. It just changes your dignity. The uniform has great power and poise.
If you know real cops personally, it becomes easier to play such characters.
It's important to believe in the cause.
Anubhav sir was convinced that I could play this character, and do justice to it, because he could see that I believed in the cause.
Any fond memories while shooting Article 15?
Many think that, while shooting for a dark film, everyone would be serious on the sets.
But the shoot was fun! In fact, Article 15 is one of my easiest shoots.
We would not shoot for more than seven hours a day.
We only shot during the magic hours, that’s why the movie looks so beautiful.
We would shoot from 6 am to 8.30 am, and then directly in the evening from 4.30 pm to 7 pm.
In the afternoons, we would sleep or play cricket.
Is it tough playing a cop?
To play a cop in this film was never easy because I am quite a goofy person in real life.
I can do slice-of-life kind of films anytime; I can act in such films in my sleep also.
But playing a cop is different. It's difficult to maintain that intensity on screen.
That’s where real acting comes into play.
Also, if you feel strongly about a particular issue, you automatically get into character.
But I can switch on and off easily. I am not one of those who takes a character back home.
When the camera is on, I am a different person. When it's off, I am totally different.
The sequel of Shubh Mangal Savadhan is about homosexuality.
Nobody has played a gay character with a social message in mainstream cinema.
We’ve only had films with gay caricatures, but the Shubh Mangal Savadhan sequel is different.
It’s not only funny, but also gives a message.
You have become one of the most bankable actors in the industry.
I feel very gratified as my work is getting appreciated.
The day I started following my instinct, things started falling in place.
I also started learning the dimensions of the industry.
After Vicky Donor, I did not receive unique or benchmark kind of scripts that made me want to work in those films.
During that time, I was trying to figure out my own space and that period was a great learning period for me.
Now, times and the audience are changing. That's why such offbeat scripts are commercial business. I am glad I am part of this phase.
The years 2017 and 2018 were really good for me.
It gave me the courage to attempt something different, without thinking about the commercial aspect.
Article 15 isn't focusing on making Rs 200 crores at the box office. The focus is to deliver the message.