'It is important for an artist to be socially vocal': Ayushmann Khurrana on Article 15

Actor Ayushmann Khurrana on how he pushed Anubhav Sinha to make Article 15, how he chooses a script and if it is a conscious choice to do films that are socially vocal

Heena Khandelwal Published :  05th July 2019 12:00 AM   |   Published :   |  05th July 2019 12:00 AM

Ayushmann Khurrana in a still from Article 15

Among the things that make Ayushmann Khurrana stand apart from the rest, it is his film choices that stand out the most. He takes upon unconventional roles and makes them convincing, be it faking a blind man in ‘Andhadhun’ who unwittingly becomes entangled in a number of problems and leaves all of us at a crossroad wondering what exactly happened or making his debut as a sperm donor with ‘Vicky Donor’. As Ayushmann enjoys being showered with praises again for his recently released film ‘Article 15’, we ask the actor what made him push Anubhav Sinha to make this film, how he goes about choosing a script and if it is a conscious choice to films that are socially vocal. Excerpts:

Q: We heard that Anubhav Sinha approached you for a romantic drama but it was you who pushed him to work on Article 15 with you. What exactly happened and how did you dig this film out?
Ayushmann Khurrana:
After watching Mulk, I got excited to work with Anubhav Sinha sir and he was also interested in working with me, it was like a mutual thing brewing between us. When I approached him, he offered me a rom-com but I wanted to work on something on the lines of Mulk as I firmly believe that he discovered himself as a voice with Mulk, a position which I think he has consolidated with Article 15. Anyway, since, I was not interested in a rom-com, I asked him if he has any other subjects and he narrated me two-three themes. One of them was Article 15, which was then named ‘Kanpur Dehat’. When I read the first draft, I was like I want to do something on these lines. So, he worked on that draft and created two-three more draft. He then worked very hard on the script and the dialogues and eventually, Article 15 happened. He was just surprised that I had a keen interest in the social issues of our country!

Ayushmann Khurrana in a still from Article 15

Q: Why was it so important for you to do this film?
This film is socially relevant and as a socially conscious artist, I think it’s a part of my social responsibility. It is also important for me as an actor as this character is different, it is alpha. My character, Ayan Rajan, is not a victim of circumstances. Instead, he becomes the master of circumstances in the film and this is the first time that I am not playing a vulnerable boy, Ayan is the man in the film. Besides, my recent success has given me the courage to not think about the box office and just do something for my own passion.

Q: What is it that attracts you in a script? Tell us how Ayushmann Khurrana go about while choosing his next project.
There are a lot of boxes that need to be ticked when I am choosing a script: a) It has to be novel; b) It has to be the very first attempt in Hindi cinema; c) The one-liner has to be really strong and something that can sustain for two hours. Basically, the script is the most important thing and then the credibility of the director. Having said so, I have no qualm in working with a newcomer. If someone is making a film for the first time then I chat with that person and also check his/her past work, be it a documentary or a short film or whatever that person has created in the past. 

Ayushmann Khurrana

Q: A lot of your films have a social angle. Is it a conscious choice?
Yes, it is a conscious choice. It comes from my theatre background because most of our street plays were on social subjects. And, I see this film career of mine as an extension of my theatre days. Subjects that are relevant and resonate with people give me a different high.

Q: A lot happened in a personal and professional space last year. While you won accolades for ‘Badhaai ho’ and ‘Andhadhun’, your wife battled breast cancer. What were the biggest learnings from the last year, how did it shape you?
It made me a better human being, somebody who is more patient and balanced. It also made me realise that life is not perfect and you need to accept the imperfections of life. Being at a professional high and a personal low all together, it just made me a sane person. My wife was happily taking challenges head-on and she was giving me the courage to be happy. Overall, I think, it was happy.  

Q: Mulk made us feel the impact of cinema even more strongly, especially as it manages to present so many shades of grey to us, making us think about where each one of us belongs in that spectrum. Did you want to create a similar cinema with Article 15?
Yes! What Mulk was on Hindu-Muslim issue, Article 15 is on the caste system. It gives you those details, which probably the urban privileged class is not aware of... so, it’s an eye-opener, a thriller and also something that is entertaining at the same time so that it reaches more people. And, that’s why the audience is appreciating the film… they are shocked by visuals and dialogues that are there in the film because they know it happens in real life in our country.

Ayushmann Khurrana in a still from Article 15

Q: Your body of work, from Vicky Donor to Badhai Ho to Axe's 'Ab Teri Baari', they all carry a social message. How important is it for an artist to be socially and politically vocal?
I don’t know how important it is for people to be radically open but socially vocal, yes! Though in our country society and politics are linked together but, as an artist, I would call myself apolitical because my prime work is to say something through my art. I don’t want to fight trolls on any social media platform or get into an argument with people around because that’s a waste of time. Whatever an artist has to say, can be said via his/her art. So, I don’t waste my energy in the form of an argument, it’s better to thrive through your art.

Q: With Dream Girl, Bala, Shubh Mangal Zyaada Saavdhan and Gulabo Sitabo, how do you see your upcoming line-up?
I think it’s very exciting! All these subjects are very unique and bizarrely entertaining. Each one of them has a solid one-liner, great concept and very entertaining script. Lastly, they all give a message.

Q: Lastly, any plans to make your digital debut?
It really depends upon the script. If I get something radical and crazy because digital censorship is easier and you can go more wild, whacky and edgy then why not! If I get to explore myself more then I can definitely give it a shot.

Email: heena@newindianexpress.com
Twitter: @heenakhandlwal