'Was never desperate to be an actor'


Ayushman Khurrana talks about his role in Nautanki Saala and his bromance with Kunal Roy Kapoor


Unlike other newcomers in Bollywood, Ayushaman’s journey into Bollywood wasn’t rocky. After dabbling with radio and television, he forayed into films with shoojit Sircar’s Vicky Donor. The film hit the bullseye and won a national award making Ayushman a hot property that he is today. But success hasn’t gone in his head and he says  ”while interviewing stars and celebs as a television host, I have seen how it is to be on the other side of the camera. I have seen it as an outsider and that was a reality check for me.” Now he is back with Rohan Sippy’s Nautanki Saala which is based on a French film Après Vous where he shares screen with Kunal Roy Kapoor. In a free- wheeling chat, Ayushman tells us about his role in Nautanki Saala and his bromance with Kunal Roy Kapoor.

Excerpts from the interview:

How did Nautanki Saala happen?
After Vicky Donor, there was a heavy responsibility on me for doing the right films and after Shoojit Sircar, I wanted to work with a director who would do justice with my role. And then I got a call from Rohan Sippy. The Sippys are seasoned filmmakers who have been in the business of film for donkey’s years. I am a huge fan of ‘Blufffmaster’ and liked the way ‘Dum Maaro Dum’ was shot. Even now, Sholay has a cult status. I had interviewed Rohan Sippy in the capacity of an anchor earlier and he is among the new-age directors.  I have seen this French film Après Vous, on which Nautanki Saala is based on and instantly liked it.

You have a background in Theatre. Despite that what were the challenges?
I think it is important for an actor to play roles he has experienced before. For example, In Vicky Donor, I play Vicky. I am from the North side of the country and can read and write Punjabi. Similarly, Nautanki Saala was in my zone because I have been a theatre actor in the past and have directed and acted in plays. Same goes for Kunal Roy Kapoor. It gives you a sense of discipline if you have done theater in the past. So it helped.

In Bollywood, the way theatre is portrayed in full of clichés. How does Nautanki Saala avoids the trap?
The best part is we haven’t used theatre as a caricature in the film. I play a serious theatre actor who is serious about his profession. People may compare it with ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro’ but in that, theatre was used only in the last scene. The entire backdrop here is the theatre and the real story runs parallel with the theatre story. It gives a symbolic touch. Apart from that, theatre acting and film acting are quite different. You are quite loud when you are acting for the live audiences. You have a certain body languages and gestures because there are no close-ups. It is very difficult and challenging also to play a theatre actor on the camera. You are on stage but you are being captured by the camera and it is important to strike the right balance. Since both of us have prior experience in acting and theatre, it worked for us.

What excites you more? Theatre or films?
Both the crafts are different. In theatre, there is an instant appreciation but in films, the wait is longer.In the initial phase of my career, I want to do roles which I can related to  like Vicky in ‘Vicky donor’ and Ram Parmer in ‘Nautanki Saala’ or a struggling actor in ‘Humara Bajaj’. I have been a struggler at one point so I know. So in the initial years, when I am learning as an actor, I would roles I have experienced in real life.

But you haven’t really struggled.
I have not struggled because if you enjoy what you are doing, it doesn’t come across as struggle.  I enjoyed being a theatre artist. I enjoyed being a television presenter and a radio presenter. The first film happened because of the choices I made.

Are directors lining up now after Vicky Donor’s success?
Yes, that’s the rule of the game. If your last film is a hit, the directors and actors are going to ask for a piece of you but again, I am taking it easy. I have never been desperate to be an actor. Even as a television presenter, I used to be offered scripts for second leads and  roles for heroine’s friend. But I waited for four years for the right one. More than the audience, I feel that the actor should relate to the script. I can only make the character believable if the script is up my alley.

How do you approach a film like Nautanki Saala?
It is a mix of both. We had a 30 day workshop and it helped. Like I said, theater teaches you decorum. Rohan was also a part of the workshop and the best part is he is a team player and never dons the hat of the director and preaches newcomers. This is the first time he was working with new comers  since he has always worked with the likes of Abhishek Bachchan etc. During the workshop, we improvised on the scenes and inputs were given by everyone, not just Kunal and me. Even the character actors who had small roles were free to suggest changes; it was a big democratic setup. Also,  the cinematographer was the part of the workshop so we were able to block a lot of scenes.

How has Vicky Donor changed your life?
Best part is I have seen this industry as an outsider as an anchor. I have seen a lot of actors and celebs as an outsider. It becomes easy and get a different perception of both the sides. So I am quite fortunate. I can’t let success go to my head.