Bollywood star Ayushmann Khurrana has used all the time he had at hand, due to the coronavirus pandemic, to find some really brilliant scripts. He is excited to translate these into films and hopes that his next slate of projects will manage to pull people to theatres in 2021. Ayushmann, whose brand of cinema is now lovingly called ‘The Ayushmann Khurrana Genre’ says, “It has been a reflective year for me and it has made me focus on my priorities. I have been fortunate enough to read some really cracking material through the year and have managed to handpick some unique films which I can’t wait for audiences to see.”
He adds, “The content landscape has been changed by the pandemic and the industry has to make superlative cinema to pull people back to the theatres. Anything less than that would not do the job. I have tried my best to ensure that my next few releases are superbly fresh in terms of storytelling and I will wait for the reaction of audiences to validate my content choices for 2021.”
2020 saw Ayushmann shatter a huge stereotype as he became the first Bollywood leading star ever to play the role of a gay man on screen in Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan. No big actor had ever ventured into this space and Ayushmann managed to bring this important social issue out in the open through his belief.
Ayushmann says, “I have been trying to normalize taboo conversations in India through my cinema and it was good to shatter a big stereotype that leading men cannot play a gay man on screen. Every time someone told me that I was making a mistake by doing this film, I couldn’t get myself to believe that people of my country would not be accepting of their big screen heroes trying to trigger positive conversations.”
He adds, “Right from my debut film Vicky Donor, I have tried to do my bit to have a constructive discussion with society about the need for change. I have strongly felt that through cinema, we could tell society to widen its gaze, to think ahead and change the nation. Shubh Mangal Zyaada Saavdhan definitely did its best to spark an important conversation about same sex love.”
This year also saw Ayushmann being roped in by UNICEF to be a Celebrity Advocate and raise awareness on their marquee global initiative Ending Violence Against Children (EVAC) in India. As a parent himself, Ayushmann wants to keep championing this important cause.
He says, “I’m grateful that I could associate with UNICEF this year and learn a lot about how children are vulnerable to violence. This campaign has become close to my heart and I have tried my best to constantly raise awareness on this plaguing issue. I will continue to do my bit on this because it has been an eye-opening campaign for me. I want all parents to understand how children can be at risk and therefore protect them from these challenges.”
While 2020 has been a lacklustre year for Bollywood with no big film releases since March due to the pandemic, Ayushmann’s credibility and equity has soared through the roof. He was voted as one of the most influential people in the world by TIME magazine due to his conversation starting social entertainers.
Ayushmann sees this honour as a huge responsibility. He says, “TIME magazine validated that my life choices, my content choices and my belief system has been accurate. I consider myself as a citizen who only speaks through work. Through my brand of cinema, I speak about things that I think matter, that I want to bring focus upon. Being voted as one of the most influential people in the world was too humbling and at the same time empowering for an artiste like me. I do realise the responsibility at hand for me and I will try and do justice to it.”
Ayushmann has also been called a ‘pandemic proof star’ in the brand endorsement space. His solid equity as everyman’s hero, his self-made journey to stardom and his constant efforts to uplift society with his brand of cinema, has made him a go-to person for A-list brands. He has signed eight new brands during the pandemic, the highest among all A-list actors this year.
The versatile actor says, “All I can say is that it is humbling to be called pandemic proof. I still have to grasp what it fully means (smiles) but I have a vague idea why people have tagged me with this. I believe that every individual has to do their bit for society to change slowly and I’m trying to do that through my cinema. If I’m contributing to that change, then I’m doing my job as a citizen.”