How Bollywood actor Ayushmann Khurrana came of age

How Bollywood actor Ayushmann Khurrana came of age

He's had two (unexpectedly) big - and back-to-back - hits this year


Khalid Mohamed

Published: Thu 8 Nov 2018, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Fri 23 Nov 2018, 9:24 AM

If a film needs some sauce and spice, just dial Ayushmann Khurrana. Whenever he has shown up in a risque, guffaw-inducing drama, he's scored a hit, right from his debut Vicky Donor six years ago to the lately-released, surprise hit of the year Badhaai Ho.

The disarmingly dimpled 34-year-old actor, to be fair, essayed a blind musician in his other success of 2018, Andhadhun, without his trademark, off-the-cuff brand of comedy. Far more restrained and nuanced in this diabolical thriller, he has indicated that he could be capable of versatility.

After years of multi-tasking in theatre (street plays included), making a mark in the reality show MTV Roadies, TV hosting, stage anchoring and playback singing, as a film actor, he's finally on a roll.

And to think that he had almost been written off as a lost cause when the fussily-mounted period extravaganza Hawaizaada, besides formula-ridden romedies like Nautanki Saala!, Bewakoofiyaan and Meri Pyaari Bindu had neither pleased the mandarins nor the masses.

Fortuitously, the Yash Raj banner-produced Dum Laga Ke Haisha, which dealt with a reluctant bridegroom, proved he still has what it takes to catch the audience's eyes and ears. Ears because he's been frequently assigned to record his onscreen songs in his own voice ever since that melodic ballad Pani da rang from Vicky Donor whooshed to the top of the charts.

However, the jury's still out on the verdict: whether it's wise to double up as an actor and a singer simultaneously. Like it not, the song Aap se milkar, sung by him in Andhadhun, just about passed muster.

Be that as it may, Ayushmann Khurrana seems to be perfect malleable material for Bollywood's mainstream cinema. He's camera-friendly, and, mercifully, he doesn't overact. Moreover, he doesn't attempt to overshadow his heroines, stepping back when, say, Bhumi Pednekar in Dum Laga Ke Haisha or Tabu in Andhadhun steal quite a few of the key scenes from the formal hero of the screenplay.

Similarly, he doesn't mind blending into the woodwork, if need be, as in last year's Bareilly Ki Barfi in which Rajkummar Rao, quite effortlessly, stole the show.

Believe me, that's a virtue rarely detected among Bollywood's heroes who insist on dominating the screenplay and the publicity campaigns. Although he receives sufficient attention from the media, he hasn't either bragged or belted out sensational quotable quotes. Evidently, the struggle to find a niche in the cruelly competitive world of entertainment has taught Ayushmann not to speak out of turn.

Am I overpraising the current flavour of the season? I would like to think not, and hope he retains his easygoing personality instead of letting success go to his head. Plus, there's the risk of getting slotted into roles a la Shubh Mangal Saavdhan, another box-office winner, in which he was faced with the dilemma of proving his masculinity - or a "gent's problem", as the screenplay put it.

As they say, only the future can tell. Or his father, a practising astrologer, could. Indeed, luck appears to have played a part in the career of Ayushmann Khurrana, accounting for the curious spelling of his first name with an extra 'n' and surname with an extra 'r'.

Born in Amritsar, he majored in English literature and completed his master's degree in mass communication from Punjab University. Familiar with the societal mores of Chandigarh and Delhi, he has picked up the quirks of the youth segment of north Indian towns, which he transmutes into his performances, particularly in the use of the Hindi-Punjabi dialect and body swagger.

I've seen the actor at a couple of showbiz functions, where he keeps to the sidelines. Married to his childhood sweetheart, Tahira Kashyap, they have two children who are kept out of the range of the paparazzi. Tahira, who will soon debut as a director in her own right, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Fortunately, her illness is under control and, after incessant requests, the couple agreed to be clicked together for photographs which went viral on the Internet.
Here's the quintessential Mr Nice Guy, then, who incidentally even gives a patient hearing to scripts authored by rank newcomers. And his underplayed appeal reminds me of the boy next door who, in the last millennium, would be portrayed by Amol Palekar in the works of Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Basu Chatterjee.

The vital difference is that, unlike Amol Palekar, Ayushmann Khurrana isn't squeaky clean. The new-age boy next door has come of age, and hopefully with disparate themes can vary his act to avoid typecasting.

After all, that's the secret behind the longer and admirable shelf-life of an actor. Fingers tightly crossed!

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