Believe it or not, there’s a new success ‘formula’ in town. Identify a ‘quirky’ social issue that isn’t talked about enough and get writers to write a sincere conflict around it. Get Ayushmann Khurrana to star in the film, and surround him with a competent supporting cast. As visible in the teaser/trailers for Dream Girl & Bala, it’s safe to say that Khurrana’s brave choices have invented a whole new genre in mainstream Bollywood. There’s legitimately something like an ‘Ayushmann Khurrana film’ that the public comes to watch with a certain expectations. An ‘Ayushmann Khurrana film’ encapsulates laughter, warmth and a message to break a social taboo.
In Dream Girl, Khurrana plays an actor with an ability to modulate his voice like that of a woman. Playing the role of Sita or Radha, Khurrana’s character seems to be asking pointed questions about the overwhelming masculinity that is casually attached with a ‘leading man’. Khurrana isn’t the first Indian male actor to do this. Vijay Sethupathi in Super Deluxe and Kamal Haasan in Chachi 420 brought a fabulous dignity to their characters of a different gender, never allowing them to be caricatures. And Khurrana seems to be going down a similar road, where he invokes #MeToo during the vastra-haran scene in Mahabharat. Khurrana’s films have a strong point-of-view, they seem like they are trying to engage the audience in a dialogue about the contemporary society.
From the Bala teaser, one can sense that it talks about premature balding and its many struggles. Even though the subject was hilariously covered in 2017 Kannada film, Ondu Motteya Kathe, we can be rest assured that Khurrana will have his own entertaining take on the topic. Its directed by Amar Kaushik, who helmed the implicitly political Stree (last year), that means that Bala, hopefully, will not be reductive or didactic.
Khurrana has curated his ‘type’ of a film by choosing to be a part of these charming films since the beginning of his career. Whether it was his 2012 debut in Vicky Donor that had a triple whammy of conversation around fertility clinics, sperm donation and adoption, or his ‘rebirth’ in Dum Laga Ke Haisha where he played a man fat-shaming his wife. Khurrana’s Shubh Mangal Savadhaan opened the road for a discourse on erectile dysfunction while navigating the many landmines of middle-class sensibility. While his 2018 blockbuster Badhaai Ho talked about the uncomfortable topic of an unplanned pregnancy for the parents of a 20-something boy.
It’s also worth noting how Khurrana has gone through a variety of films, where his acting hasn’t been remarkably dissimilar. And yet, he’s never been fallen into the trap of sounding repetitive, like some of his colleagues. There’s a sincerity about him that shines through, even in his (relatively) weaker films. And it’s most visible in a film like Bareilly Ki Barfi where Rajkummar Rao gets the more ‘acting-based’ role, Khurrana holds his own even through the most cliched, unconvincing climaxes for a love triangle. How he holds his own in a Sriram Raghavan film, in front of a towering Tabu, purely by being a reliable foot soldier. He isn’t trying to project, and it works splendidly.
After Dream Girl & Bala, Khurrana is set to star in Shoojit Sircar & Juhi Chaturvedi’s Gulabo Sitabo, where Khurrana will be sharing screen space with Amitabh Bachchan for the very first time. Just like Khurrana’s other films, even this one’s said to be exploring a ‘quirky’ relationship.
Along with a stellar line-up of films, Khurrana is also currently savouring his first National Award win, and Andhadhun‘s blockbuster success in China, where it made close to Rs 300 crore. It’s a lush green patch for Khurrana, and his Bollywood career couldn’t seem more ‘Ayushmann’ as of now.