Call it lack of boundaries or tact, but being teased about your ballooning weight or receding hairline seems to be socially acceptable behaviour in India and beyond. Somehow, there’s never any filter when it comes to mocking people’s appearances and looks.
However, director Amar Kaushik — whose credits include the empowering horror comedy ‘Stree’ (2018) — isn’t willing to let that obnoxious shtick slide as he brings his latest comedy ‘Bala’, out in UAE cinemas on November 7. He’s taking one for the men’s team with ‘Bala’ this time, unlike ‘Stree’ — a masterclass in advocating for women’s empowerment subtly through the medium of a horror comedy.
“It was an eye-opener for me that many people are obsessed about their hair. I had no idea. Thankfully, I am blessed with full hair and I had to meet people who had receding hairlines,” said Khurrana in an exclusive interview with Gulf News tabloid!. The Indian National Award-winning actor claims he’s on a mission to be a part of progressive films that question and deconstruct conservative mindsets.
“The movie is about self-love and self-acceptance … This movie will question the age old notions of beauty in our country.”
They also addressed the multiple controversies surrounding the movie including actress Bhumi Pednekar’s deliberately darkened skin and plagiarism charges.
Here’s what you need to know before you enter the cinemas to watch ‘Bala’ this weekend…
1. Award-winning actor Ayushmann Khurrana, who’s on a career high with hits including ‘Andhadhun’, ‘Badhaai Ho!’ and ‘Article 15’, spearheads this satire.
Nobody can fault him for not mixing things up. So what was it like to occupy the mind space of a bald man?
“It was not easy at all,” said Khurrana. “I had to meet a lot of people suffering from premature baldness. I had a lot of friends from school and college who experienced hair fall in their late 20s or early 30s. I found two types of men — one who were under-confident and nursing a complex. The second one were such men who were extremely confident in their own skin. Bala is that person who is undergoing a transition from an under-confident man to a confident person… Empathy was required to understand and play this role.”
2. Khurrana lost around 7kg for this role and spent hours doing hair and make-up every day of the shoot.
“I had to lose the muscles when I took on ‘Dream Girl’, but then I had to lose more weight for ‘Bala’. I had to play a 20-something here with a receding hairline, so I had to look lean. Apart from that, I had to undergo prosthetic make-up. So for a 6am shot, I had to be up at 3am,” said Khurrana. He did intense cardio with no weights. He followed a vegetarian diet so that he could lose weight quickly.
3. Director Amar Kaushik, who grew up in Kanpur, has co-written this film and has woven his personal memories into it.
At first he though he would produce this film, but seeing the layers to his developing script compelled him to be its director. It’s a commentary on the society that we currently live in, Kaushik said in a separate interview.
“This is a film which was very close to me. The things that you see in this film is something that I saw happening when I was growing up … The way people label you colloquially — mote [fatty] or nate [shorty] — thinking there’s no harm in that. Right now, looks are very important. If there’s a party, there are million apps telling you how to look good … People are being judged increasingly by their looks alone and not your personality,” said Kaushik.
Khurrana describes his director as a man who is intensely aware of the milieu that he’s painting in his films.
“He’s grounded as a person and knows India inside out,” said Khurrana.
4. Khurrana re-unites with Yami Gautam, his first co-star in his 2012 debut film ‘Vicky Donor’.
Bhumi Pednekar, who plays a vital role in this comedy, has also worked him in her first film ‘Dum Laga Ke Haisha’ in 2015 and their subsequent 2017 hit ‘Shubh Mangal Saavdhan’, a whacky comedy that dealt with erectile dysfunction in the lead hero played by Khurrana.
“Yami and Bhumi are poles apart in this film ‘Bala’ though, but they are strong headed women. Bhumi plays my childhood buddy, whereas Yami plays my love interest. Both of them worked with me in their first films and they have given their heart and soul into this script. They are such great actors and they have elevated this film to a whole new level,” he said.
5. ‘Bala’ has invited its share of controversies including actress Bhumi Pednekar being blasted for deliberate skin darkening for her role in this film.
Both the director and its main actor defend the casting call with all their might. Their take on the debate:
“It’s extremely unfair. It’s every actor’s dream to portray different characters and don different looks. By that logic [of dark skinned actor playing such roles], then only cricketers should play cricketers on screen or musicians playing musicians on screen. As actors you are supposed to be a part of the look. It’s the director’s discretion on whom he should cast to bring credibility to the role he has written. Bhumi is a credible actor,” said Khurrana. Director Kaushik is equally ferocious in his defence. It’s a director’s prerogative to cast actors that he thinks would fit the bill and Pednekar did.
“I was a bit surprised by the controversy. It’s an actor’s job to change their looks according to their roles. Nobody asked Aamir Khan why he changed his looks or put on weight in ‘Dangal’. He did it perfectly well and when you saw ‘Dangal, it became very clear why he was cast in that film,” Kaushik said.
Another scandal that has rocked ‘Bala’ is the series of plagiarism charges against it. The makers of Sunny Singh’s ‘Ujda Chaman’, which released last week in the UAE, were the first ones to slam Khurrana’s new film. They withdrew their case, but now another filmmaker, Kamal Kant Chandra, has alleged that ‘Bala’s’ script is lifted from his biopic and has demanded a ‘permanent stay’ on the release of the film.
But director Kaushik maintains that it’s an original story derived partly from his own childhood memories when he grew up in Kanpur.
“This is a film which is close to me. When I was growing up in Kanpur, most of the things you see in the film has happened to us. The film not only touches about going bald, but it is much more than that,” said Kaushik.
“I firmly believe that bald actors are pretty hot. I love Vin Diesel and in India it was Amrish Puri sir, Kulbhushan Kharbanda in ‘Shaan’ and Shaakal. Akshaye Khanna for that matter. He is somebody who’s confident and is a tremendous actor. He’s hot too,” Ayushman Khurrana on his favourite bald actors.
Don’t miss it!
‘Bala’ is out in the UAE cinemas on November 7.