Here's why Ayushmann Khurrana, our January digital cover star, is one of the most bankable Bollywood stars

Here’s why Ayushmann Khurrana, our January digital cover star, is one of the most bankable Bollywood stars

The actor has always gone against the grain

By Rajeev Masand  January 7th, 2020

They used to call Aamir Khan the ‘Man with the Golden Gut’; it was a reflection of his unwavering instinct for sniffing out the best scripts. If there is anyone among the current crop of actors that is a true heir to that title, it’s Ayushmann Khurrana who hasn’t had a flop in nearly three years…he’s been on a roll delivering hit after quirky hit every couple of months. And none of these have been safe choices. In the last year alone he played an upper caste IPS officer who discovers the true horrors of the caste system (Article 15), a young man who earns a living impersonating a woman on a singles phone line (Dreamgirl), and a fellow who becomes increasingly insecure because of his premature balding problem (Bala).

The 35-year-old Chandigarh-raised former radio jockey who names Shah Rukh Khan as the single reason he loved the movies growing up, recently moved into a sprawling new apartment in Mumbai’s Oshiwara neighborhood, tastefully decorated by his wife Tahira Kashyap. Behind us the wall has been carved into a shelf to display his various awards, and there’s already no room for more. (“We’ll just have to phase some out, or bung in two or three in the space of one,” he jokes about the future).

Currently on a well-earned break from shooting, Ayushmann is fully aware that he cannot let the ball drop. That too much is riding on his success. That one wrong choice could change everything. Yet he is the portrait of calm on this early Saturday morning, dressed in track pants and a black T-shirt, sipping black coffee as we reflect on his silver streak.

Excerpts from the conversation:

Rajeev Masand: You’re coming off a great year—a National Award, three back-to back hits, two films already completed for 2020. How are you feeling?

Ayushmann Khurrana: I can breathe now. Earlier, I was very restless. There was no time to stand and stare. Finally, I can recharge my batteries. These last three months I’ve been hunting for new scripts. I can’t afford to be laidback. I’ve been reading material, meeting directors. I won’t be shooting a film for a few weeks, but I will be doing everything else.

RM: When they announced that you’d won the National Award in August [shared with Vicky Kaushal], where were you and how did it make you feel?

AK: I was shooting for an ad film and when I came back from the shot, I saw 50 missed calls on my phone. And I started reading messages: “You got the National Award.” “You got the National Award.” I got the 51st call from Vicky. I got to know from the crew that he had also won the award. So, we congratulated each other.

And it’s funny because we had literally just moved into this new house, and my mother was visiting. She had been saying this house will be lucky for us. So to hear about the National Award right about then was surreal and quite amazing.

RM: Do you feel the industry looks at you differently since you hit this successful streak? You’ve said before that they never saw you as a star.

AK: My films were always dependent on good reviews. So the critics respected me, but not the trade. They always complained that my films opened small and slow. My Mondays were always bigger than Fridays. But that changed with Andhadhun (2018), which opened on a high note. And yet, I’ll never forget what one trade paper did. This is something I’ve never spoken about before. They did a poll before the release of Article 15 asking people to predict what the lifetime business of the film would be. And this is what they offered: Option A: INR. 5-7 crore, Option B: INR. 8-10 crore, Option C: INR. 10-12 crore, and Option D: INR. 12-14 crore. It broke my heart. They had capped the film’s business at only INR 14 crore! In my head I was expecting the film to do at least INR. 50 crore, and I felt it had the potential to go up to INR. 65 crore, but they had no confidence. This is after Andhadhun and Badhaai Ho (2018) were both big hits. I felt quite bad about it and I remember taking a screenshot of this poll on my phone as a reminder. When Article 15 did the numbers, I think their perception changed.

This is an excerpt from ELLE India’s January 2020 issue. To read the full story, buy a digital copy of the magazine or subscribe to the magazine .

Cotton shirt, INR. 36,000, Kenzo at The Collective. Wool-blend jumpsuit, price on request, Rishta by Arjun Saluja. Canvas shoes, INR. 9,451, Kenzo. Silver-plated earrings (used as brooches), INR. 1,500, Masaba X Tribe by Amrapali

Cotton shirt, INR. 36,000, Kenzo at The Collective. Wool-blend jumpsuit, price on request, Rishta by Arjun Saluja. Canvas shoes, INR. 9,451, Kenzo. Silver-plated earrings (used as brooches), INR. 1,500, Masaba X Tribe by Amrapali

Cotton shirt, INR. 36,000, Kenzo at The Collective. Wool-blend jumpsuit, price on request, Rishta by Arjun Saluja. Canvas shoes, INR. 9,451, Kenzo. Silver-plated earrings (used as brooches), INR. 1,500, Masaba X Tribe by Amrapali

Cotton shirt, INR. 36,000, Kenzo at The Collective. Wool-blend jumpsuit, price on request, Rishta by Arjun Saluja. Canvas shoes, INR. 9,451, Kenzo. Silver-plated earrings (used as brooches), INR. 1,500, Masaba X Tribe by Amrapali

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Photographs: Tarun Khiwal; Styling: Samar Rajput; Hair: Hakim Aalim Hair Lounge Pvt Ltd; Make-Up: Hinal Dattani; Assisted By: Pujarini Ghosh, Tejaswini Sinha (Styling), Nikita Thapa, Sejal Goyal (Intern); Location Courtesy: 25 South, Mumbai