Bollywood actor Ayushmann Khurrana talks about his drastic transformation in ‘Action Hero’
Bollywood actor Ayushmann Khurrana talks about his drastic transformation in ‘Action Hero’ Image Credit: Supplied

There are few things that are a constant in Bollywood.

Shah Rukh Khan’s iconic romance ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’ will make you swoon, and you will cry when watching Aamir Khan’s seminal film ‘Rang De Basanti’.

Similarly, actor Ayushmann Khurrana will always remain that amicable star with a perennial guy-next-door appeal. His winsome personality and carefully curated career choices, in which he plays relatable roles — be it that frustrated young man dealing with premature balding in ‘Bala’ or the blind pianist in ‘Andhadhun’ — have strengthened that image.

Unlike actors like Salman Khan, Hrithik Roshan and Akshay Kumar, who have thrived from their on-screen swagger and dynamic star-power, Khurrana — a former VJ, singer and trained journalist — build his stock as an actor with a string of regular guy roles. But all that’s about to change this December 2 as Khurrana, who has acted in over 18 films, rolls out his new flashy ‘An Action Hero’. In this testosterone-charged thriller, Khurrana plays a hugely successful Bollywood star who’s embroiled in a murder investigation and falls off the pedestal as the film progresses.

“This is my re-invention act and this is my first action film ever. And I feel like this is my first film. I feel like a debutante,” said Khurrana in a Zoom interview with Gulf News.

In the trailer featuring Khurrana as Manav — the stereotypical buffed-up Bollywood hero with a gleaming torso — his character displays a borderline arrogant attitude as he indulges in a cat-and-mouse game with an in-form Jaideep Ahlawat and Neeraj Madhav. The latter are convinced that the famous actor is faking his innocence and is hiding something sinister under his fashionable sleeves.

“Listen, this character is not even my alter ego in real life. I have always wanted to keep it as real and simple as possible … In films like ‘Andhadhun’ and ‘Article 15’, there were a few shades of me in them. The musician in me in ‘Andhadhun’ and the vulnerability that you saw in ‘Article 15’ came out of my own experiences in life. This one is different. Manav is hyper flamboyant and wears his stardom on his sleeve. I am not that person,” cautions Khurrana.

And we believe him. In the last decade since his entry into Bollywood, Khurrana has been the poster boy of wholesomeness. His humility off-screen was a welcome antidote to some Bollywood idols who walk around with their chests puffed out and an entourage that would rival a country’s president’s.

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Ayushmann Khurrana turns a new chapter in his career filled with endearing roles with 'An Action Hero' Image Credit: Supplied

So did he base Manav on some of the real-life Bollywood superstars who proudly exhibit a larger-than-life, enigmatic persona?

“Being flamboyant isn’t limited to somebody from this industry … Flamboyant personalities are everywhere — he could be that industrialist, or that famous college stud or probably that attention-seeking professor who taught you … And in North [India], where I come from, flamboyance is right there in places like Delhi and Chandigarh. I was born and brought up among those people of that ilk,” said Khurrana.

And if there’s one thing we can vouch for is how Khurrana is a chameleon of an artist. Depending on his character’s milieu, class and demeanour, Khurrana dives into his roles with a mixture of abandon and earnestness. He’s also one of the rare actors in Bollywood whose films have strong female parts woven into them. Unlike Bollywood big-scale entertainers that squeeze a star’s on-screen persona to its last drop, he’s one of the few actors who have supported films with strong women. But ‘An Action Hero’, as the title suggests, deviates from his usual trajectory.

“Yeah, it’s an all-boys films … There’s no female character, other than Malaika Arora’s guest [dance cameo] appearance … But when we had these focus group screenings, women were loving this film,” admits Khurrana. He isn’t shouldering this film on his sturdy shoulders. Consummate actors Ahlawat — known for his spectacular turns in series such as ‘Pataal Lok’ and ‘Broken News’ — and Madhav of ‘Family Man’ series fame, throw their weight behind this film and add heft.

Pataal Lok
Actor Jaideep Ahlawat impressed in 'Pataal Lok' and will share screen space with Ayushmann Khurrana in 'An Action Hero' Image Credit: Supplied

And what’s a typical Bollywood action film without the hero strutting around in a towel and showing off his muscles? Khurrana, for the first time in his 12-year-plus career, was able to showcase his newly-developed washboard abs for this film. And he’s mighty pleased to tick that off his list, even at the risk of being blatantly objectified for his body.

“That scene where I am in my towel comes in the first half and it took me three months to get into that shape … Rakesh Udiyar was my trainer and he has trained Salman Khan and Vicky Kaushal … I also learned MMA with Akshay Rajoria Sharma for eight months … I was prepping for ‘An Action Hero’ even while shooting for ‘Doctor G’,” said Khurrana.

While we are cheering Khurrana for his smooth, sculpted and cookie-cutter abs found on Bollywood hunky heroes, did he feel like a sell out for ultimately going down that same rabbit hole?

“I really don’t know. I had an unconventional journey in Bollywood because I always thought I was unconventional. This film probably is my most commercial film. But the grammar may be commercial, but the narrative is still unconventional. There’s a certain zaniness and quirks to this satirical film. It’s a crazy ride and I can’t do any film without some quirks,” said Khurrana.

Ayushmann Khurranna and Bhumi Pednekar in ‘Dum Laga Ke Haisha’. Image Credit: Supplied

This film is also a topical satire, he claims and explores the themes of celebrity culture and the fickle side of fame.

“Most people in the public eye are very vulnerable. They are open to public backlash and media trial. We have seen that happen a lot in the last couple of years. There’s always a media trial on a celebrity even before it reaches a court. We have shown all of that in ‘An Action Hero’. People will find this movie relatable and will make you think about the fickle side to fame and adoration. ‘An Action Hero’ is a film that belongs to this era. It’s very now.”

And the best part? Khurrana, who’s the kind of humble actor who confesses to setting aside an hour during his filming of ‘Anek’ in North East India just to take selfies with his fans swarming his hotel every day, is loving every minute of this throwback of a film to the era of blockbusters and megastars.

“I have never done this in the past. During my theatre days, I played aggressive characters on stage. But I waited for ten years for somebody to offer me a role like this. I carried the baggage of social comedies, so I knew if the audience had to seem in this hero light, then the script has to be extraordinary. And ‘An Action Hero’ has that in plenty.”

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A still from 'An Action Hero' Image Credit: Supplied

Don’t miss it!

‘An Action Hero’ is out in UAE cinemas on December 1.

Did you know?

Ayushmann Khurrana is born with a great metabolism.

“If do a little bit of cardio and cut down on gluten and lactose, I have a flat stomach. I am blessed. But gaining muscle is not easy for me. I have a tendency to lose weight,” said Khurrana.

Ayushmann Khurrana
Ayushmann Khurrana and his metabolism Image Credit: Insta/AyushmannKhurrana