From MTV anchor to TV host to motion picture actor in films like the acclaimed Vicky Donor, Ayushmann Khurrana is one of Bollywood’s hottest rising stars and will next headline the new period drama Hawaizaada, which releases across North America this Friday, January 30. Khurrana recently sat down to talk about his career and his latest film in this exclusive interview, check it out!
Q: How was the transfer – shooting to presenter to singer to film actor?
AK: I became an anchor because I was a very natural radio presenter. I was a radio presenter for two years in Delhi and I’ve done theatre in the past for 5 years. So I think the combination of theatre and radio somehow makes me a good presenter. Because one is a visual media, the other one is audio media and both communicate in a way. And after becoming an anchor for four years, I made this transition from television to films. But at the same time I had to unlearn a lot stuff, because anchoring is like talking to the camera and acting is like ignoring the camera. So I again had to do a lot of workshops before Vicky Donor and in fact before every film I have workshops with the director.
Q: And singer?
AK: I used to take classical training as a kid from Mr. Prajesh Uja, but never took it too seriously. I had to choose between music group and theatre group in college – I chose theatre. I think even in theatre we used to compose our own songs for our own theatre productions. So in a way, I got ample practice for acting and singing at the same time.
Q: Ok, next question – have you purposely attempted to be unpredictable?
AK: Purposely attempted to be unpredictable? I don’t know, I think I don’t set some agendas. I don’t set agendas in my life. Things just happen in my life. Apart from that, you know, I tried two conventional films last two times. But I realized one thing, that my way is the unconventional way. I started with an unconventional, out of the box film like Vicky Donor and I’m back with an unconventional film after two not so successful conventional films.
Q: What attracted you to Hawaizaada?
AK: Hawaizaada is a potential cult film, you know, it’s based on true events and even the one liner draws a lot of attention. It’s a very novel script and the director Vibhu Puri has a great eye for detailing. Be it entertaining with the language or the sets or the scripting. I think he’s another prodigy in the Indian film industry from FTI, whose short film was nominated for the Student Oscars.
Q: How aware were you about the original story it is based on?
AK: I was completely unaware. It was a pleasant surprise, pleasant shocker for me when I heard that it was an Indian who made the first aircraft. Though it’s a conspiracy theory but it’s broad enough for a filmmaker to make a story.
Q: How much research did you have to do?
AK: Personally I just had to go more regional, more rooted, more Marathi. But at the script level, I’m sure Vibhu and the co-writer Saurabh Bhave they did a lot of research. But having said that – Shivkar, nobody knows about this person, nobody knows about his invention so this gave the creative liberty to the director to build a beautiful world around this character.
Q: Can you tell us about your character?
AK: Shivkar Talpade is a happy go, lucky, maverick kind of guy, who is a genius, who is wise, who doesn’t believe in a formal education but believes in the education of life. And he has various tracks in the film, one track is a love track, there is another track with his guru, the master Shastri, one track is with his father, and eventually how we fly or propose to fly the plane.
Q: How did you feel setting back in time for the movie?
AK: I always wanted to do a period film. It was on my wish list because I have a good command of the language, I’ve done theatre in the past and Indian Sanskrit. So I always believed that the root on every Indian language is Sanskrit. It was easy quite for me to learn Marathi and I’m looking forward to this film.
Q: How did your look get decided?
AK: We had almost seven look tests before finalising this one. And it took us a good two months to finalise the eventual look. And Vibhu has, as I said earlier, an eye for detailing. Eventually we decided on this geeky/charming look with the girls. And I have two different looks in the film in first and second half.
Q: How was the experience of acting opposite a legend like Mithun Chakraborty?
AK: Mithun is amazing – he still feels like an eighteen year old. He has an amazing energy, and there was this huge fan boy moment when I met him for the first time on the sets of Hawaizaada. And I used to dance to this song ‘I’m a disco dancer’ – it’s wicked. It’s a pleasure working with him.
Q: You star opposite Pallavi Sharda in Hawaizaada who is fairly new to the Indian film industry, do you bounce off each other, help each other for your respective roles in the movie?
AK: We used to do a lot of jamming together and Pallavi is a very natural actress. And apart from that she trained a lot and it required a trained dancer. She’s one of the most intelligent actresses I have ever worked with.
Q: What was your favourite moment in the movie?
AK: I think all the flying shots are my favourite, because I had this fear of heights, which was completely eradicated when I was suspended in the air for long hours and it used to take a lot of takes. Eventually I started enjoying all the flying shots being on a harness.
Q: Are you a good dancer, what’s your favourite move?
AK: I think I have a good sense of rhythm because I am a musician and a singer myself. Apart from that I am a huge MJ fan so my favourite move is the moonwalk.
Q: Who is your all time acting idol?
AK: Shahrukh Khan and Govinda.
Q: Why should we all go watch Hawaizaada?
AK: Because as I said Hawaizaada is a potential cult film. It is the untold story of an unsung hero and the climax is going to give you goose bumps.
Hawaizaada releases Friday, January 30th, be sure to check it out at theater near you this weekend!