‘We tried to not go overboard with the humour’: Ayushmann Khurrana

Unwilling to dwell upon his previous commercial failures, Khurrana speaks to CE about the Raaj Shaandilyaa directorial, in which he stars alongside Ananya Panday.
In frame: Ayushmann Khurrana
In frame: Ayushmann Khurrana

In a previous interview, Ayushmann Khurrana said that he can’t let go of the quirk factor when it comes to choosing films. Although his recent experiments (An Action Hero, Doctor G, Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui) didn’t pay off (at least in the box office), the actor has admirably stuck to his guns. With his latest outing Dream Girl 2, the dry spell has been broken. The film has made over `50 crore in five days since its release. In comparison, the lifetime collections of his recent releases peaked at around the `40 crore mark.

Unwilling to dwell upon his previous commercial failures, Khurrana speaks to CE about the Raaj Shaandilyaa directorial, in which he stars alongside Ananya Panday. The film is the spiritual sequel to the 2019 comedy-of-errors Dream Girl, where the actor played Karamveer Singh, an unemployed youth who puts his androgynous voice to use to lure customers at a sex-chat call centre. “I had a girlfriend when I was 15. Sometimes, when I called her place on the landline and somebody else picked up, I had to mimic a woman’s voice,” shares Khurrana. He also credited his previous work as a radio jockey for acing a believable falsetto. “I didn’t know those prank calls would come in handy here.”

Dream Girl 2 seems like an expansion of the original idea. This time, Khurrana didn’t only have to sound but also look like Pooja (Karamveer’s female alter-ego).

“I had to lose 10 kilos,” he says. “It’s a logistical nightmare when you are shooting in North India in sweltering heat and you have to drape a saree and wear a wig. Moreover, my beard kept growing every three hours.” The actor states that the ordeal was not to dress as a woman but to portray a ‘very attractive’ woman. “My benchmark was Madhuri Dixit and Hema Malini,” he says.

In addition to paying off his father’s (played by Annu Kapoor) debts, the shenanigans Khurrana pulls off as Karam/ Pooja in the film are also to make quick money in order to marry Pari (Ananya Panday). The actor, who has played mostly urban roles, is fairly new to Khurrana’s brand of middle-cinema. “I didn’t want to stick out as a sore thumb,” says Panday. “It was important for me to get the language and the accent right. I am a city-bred girl so it was necessary that I travel to these small towns and listen to how people talk,” she says. “I guess, I am a bit of an eavesdropper.”

Apart from Khurrana and Panday, the film also has an envious ensemble of comic talents like Paresh Rawal, Vijay Raaz, Rajpal Yadav, Annu Kapoor, Asrani and Manoj Joshi. In such a multi-starrer, there is always the possibility of the role of the female lead getting reduced to that of a love-interest, needed only to add to the glam. Panday, however, disagrees.

“I am all about women empowerment,” she says. “I choose characters which are representative of the women of the country. That’s a conscious choice I have to make as an actor.” The arduous task, she says, is to do comedy. “Although I have seen my dad (Chunky Panday) do comic roles all his life. For me, it is very difficult,” says Panday, adding, “If you are surrounded by funny people on set, that surely helps.” Khurrana agrees. “It is more difficult to work with actors who don’t have comic timing,” he says. “It’s like a cricket team. Even if there are different comic energies, what is important is to score.”

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