Ayushmann dives into his most robust work with Article 15

 

Ayushmann dives into his most robust work with Article 15

In Article 15, releasing tomorrow, the actor tackles a sensitive issue that plagues India

By Arti Dani

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Published: Wed 26 Jun 2019, 5:02 PM

Last updated: Sun 30 Jun 2019, 9:42 AM

In a country as diverse as India, where people of different cultures and religions have co-existed for centuries, we at times come across tales of discrimination, some of which are gut-wrenching, horrendous and unforgettable. Have these issues been adequately represented in Indian cinema? Bollywood actor Ayushmann Khurrana, who tackles the issue of caste disparities in the country in the gritty Article 15 that releases today in the UAE, believes they haven't. The 34-year-old star, who has been validated by critics and audiences alike after working in quirky movies and many with social messages like Dum Laga Ke Haisha, Bareilly Ki Barfi, Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, Andhadhun and Badhaai Ho, believes that this film is extremely relevant in contemporary cinema, "because nobody has blatantly discussed the caste divide 'till now in mainstream Indian cinema." Read our chat with the versatile performer ahead of the release of Article 15.
 
This is not the first time that Ayushmann Khurrana has approached a director on his own for a role. Bollywood is known for being egoist, but Ayushmann had no qualms about asking Anubhav Sinha for a role. Earlier, the actor had requested Sriram Raghavan to audition him for Andhadhun. So what drew him to Anubhav? "His last film, Mulk, had a significant impact on me, and I realised that he discovered himself as an artist in the film! He is extremely well read; he understands the complexities of a country. He knows about social issues, is a socially aware citizen, and that's what inspired me to work with him," said Ayushmann in an interview with City Times. 
 For the Badhaai Ho actor, this film was sort of an eye opener on casteism and other issues in India. "Many people have this notion that the caste divide doesn't exist anymore; it does. Another fact is 70% of Hindus are in the reserved category. So, the so-called upper caste is a minority, that's a great fact that I learned. I also learned about human scavengers, their lives, and read that the average lifespan of a human scavenger is not more than 40 years."
Before this film, Anubhav had offered the actor a rom-com, but Ayushmann insisted that they should do a movie which is hard-hitting like Mulk. "Hence, he offered me Article 15. He was pleasantly surprised when he got to know that I am also socially aware, and I like to read about caste discrimination and divides. Then we started jamming on the script, and he came up with a brilliant draft with Gaurav Solanki. Even while shooting the film, we used to discuss about the various issues our country is facing, especially casteism, because this film is based on the caste divide." 
The trailer of the film shows two young village girls, brutally raped and murdered and their bodies hung from a tree. It shows how the girls, whose families are marginalised and forced to work as labourers, were targeted because they demanded a hike of Rs 3 in their daily wages.
 Apart from calling Article 15 his most robust film as yet, Ayushmann believes that the movie changed him as a person. "It is actually the toughest role that I have done till date because it is dark and it is hard hitting. It really makes you uncomfortable because some things which we think are normal, are not. It's just that I was reading a lot of literature during the film shoot. In Dalit literature there is a book called Joothan by Prof. Om Prakash Valmiki, it's his autobiography. His mother was a domestic help in Bihar and the way he and his family were treated over the years is gut-wrenching. It was difficult getting proper sleep during the shoot as it was just too dark as a film, as a subject." 
The world is changing, and it is changing very fast. Celebrities and public figures are now, more than ever, expected to set good examples for society. So, does an artist have a creative and social responsibility as well? Can movies with strong social subjects help change the mindset?
"I guess, every artist should have an individual social responsibility because artists in a country, especially actors, are opinion leaders and whatever they do, people follow them and aspire to be like them. Having said that, the recent success of my films has given me the courage to do a movie like Article 15," Aysuhmann said. He added that a film might not change everything overnight, but it will definitely trigger a discussion, and things will move towards a positive direction. 
 He also described this film as one of the most relevant and important films in Indian cinema. "Nobody has blatantly discussed the caste divide till now in mainstream Indian cinema. Of course, my recent success has given me the guts and courage to do a film like this. I am not thinking about a certain opening number or a commercial benchmark with this film. I am only looking forward to this film reaching the lowest common denominator. It should reach out to people who believe in discrimination, not just preaching to the converted." 
Ayushmann has been pushing the boundary by doing content-driven movies like Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, Badhaai Ho, Dum Laga Ke Haisha, etc. 
He started his career by playing an unusual character, that of a sperm donor in the movie, Vicky Donor. Ayushmann will next be seen playing a homosexual in a film called Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan. arti@khaleejtimes.com
 



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