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Interview Hindi

Dream Girl brought out the Govinda in me, says Ayushmann Khurrana

The actor-singer speaks of the challenge of impersonating a woman in the movie, shares his method of working, and looks back at the period when he used to question his choices.

Keyur Seta

The last two years have seen the rise and rise of Ayushmann Khurrana. He was known to be a good actor since he made his debut seven years ago with Vicky Donor (2012). But now, he has achieved star status. After five back-to-back hits — Bareilly Ki Barfi (2017), Shubh Mangal Saavdhan (2017), Andhadhun (2018), Badhaai Ho (2018) and Article 15 (2019) — the actor is one of the more bankable in Hindi cinema today.

What is interesting about Khurrana’s filmography is that he does not repeat subjects. And keeping the trend going, his latest release, Dream Girl, directed by Raaj Shaandilyaa, is very different from his other films. The comedy sees Khurrana impersonating an imaginary woman named Pooja. 

In a group interview ahead of the film's release, Khurrana spoke of the challenges of pretending to be a woman, shared his method of work, and looked back at the troubled period in his young career when he used to question his choices. Excerpts:

Dream Girl appears to be very different from your other films.

Dream Girl is completely different from my filmography. It is the most masala and commercial I have gone. Generally I have played with subtleties in my films. In this one I have gone all out. It is actually an ode to the 1990s brand of comedy. I have brought the Govinda out of me. So, it’s a lot of fun. 

With Nushrat Bharucha in a scene from Dream Girl

I would love this film to reach the single screens. The tonality of the film is like that. It is slapstick, it is slightly illogical, but it is humorous. It’s a laugh-out-loud film. The songs are also very commercial. They are not off centre. I just want to reach that audience so that I can do more films like Article 15 (2019). This kind of film will give more reach to the Article 15s of the world.

The idea was to do something completely and diagonally opposite to Article 15. After a very serious and dark film like Article 15, I wanted to do something completely light, which was not even considered my zone. Dream Girl is that film.

How challenging was it to play a girl?

It was just so difficult being a girl. [In terms of] physicality at least. Like when I was dressing up. I had to shave in the morning and take two hours for hair extensions and makeup. By evening the stubble used to grow, so I had to shave again. Then again hair and makeup.

In the past as an RJ you must have pulled such pranks on the phone. Did that experience help?

That experience actually really helped me because I have dubbed my entire female voice in a studio. It was synch sound [during the shoot] but I re-dubbed the female parts.

Does winning the National Award add any kind of pressure in selecting scripts now?

It’s a very happy pressure and a happy responsibility I have right now. The National award is a perfect validation of the fact that my choices have been right. So, I don’t want to think about anything else or change my formula or way of thinking or approach towards scripts. I want to keep the basics right. I don’t have to get overwhelmed by the name of the director, producer or co-actor. I just want to go with the material and the script. 

You have played different types of characters in your films. How long do they stay with you?

My films don’t affect me in my personal life. I don’t take the character back home. I am very detached as an actor. I am also detached with my films. I don’t see them more than once. Nahin toh khud se pyaar ho jata hai [Else you fall in love with yourself]. When you get self-obsessed you can’t think beyond yourself, so you can’t do anything else. Hence, if I am shooting one film today, I can shoot another tomorrow because I detach myself. I don’t take the character back home.

Was there ever a period when you had any kind of self-doubt? Especially when some of your films didn’t do well?

I don’t know. It was only once, when Hawaizaada (2015) bombed. That was the time when I was questioning myself on what’s going wrong with my choices. That was a great learning curve. If that didn’t happen, this couldn’t have happened. So I give credit to my non-successful or unsuccessful films. That was the only phase, I guess. After that Dum Lagake Haisha (2015) happened in, like, three weeks after Hawaizaada.

Meri Pyaari Bindu (2017) also didn’t work at the box office, but the film has been praised a lot and is remembered.

I gave my heart and soul to the character, in fact. I loved Abhi’s character. But I don’t know. I also got mixed responses, by the way. Like some people loved it, some people felt it drags a bit. I have got mixed responses from my family also, to be honest. But the character and the film are very close to my heart.

There are a lot of memes being shared on social media about how the Khans should learn script selection from you.

I think it’s very unfair. The new generation has to spend at least 25 years in the industry and give consistent hits. There is no comparison. 

You said Dream Girl is like an ode to the entertaining cinema of the 1990s. Would you be open to doing a hard-core masala film? Something like a Rohit Shetty movie?

I would love to! Of course, I would love to!

With back-to-back hits, it seems your band and gigs have taken a back seat these days.

These days are the toughest with all the travel, film promotions, back-to-back releases. I hardly get time to write. I used to write a lot of poetry when I was shooting Meri Pyaari Bindu because the film was poetic and the character was like that. So, it started during that time but I’ll write when I get time again. I will do gigs and travel with my band also when I get time.