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Ayushmann Khurrana on how 2023 debunked box office conspiracy theories and validation from South India (EXCLUSIVE)

Bollywood A-list actor Ayushmann Khurrana scored another major success in 2023 with the comedy sequel ‘Dream Girl 2’. But he is nonetheless happy to have achieved what he describes as “validation”.

The film was one of several mid-budget Hindi films that became box office hits, including “OMG 2,” “Mrs. Chatterjee vs Norway”, “Zara Hatke Zara Bachke”, “Satyaprem Ki Katha” and “12th Fail”. These have effectively debunked the notion that only big-budget shows like “Pathaan” or “Jawan” would work at the post-pandemic box office of Bollywood, which had a mediocre 2022.

“Maybe a year ago, there was a conspiracy theory that Indian audiences (were) only looking for larger-than-life shows or films, but this year, a lot of films, which weren’t really big budget but mid budget, really did well,” Khurrana said Variety. “Dream Girl 2” did well, as did “OMG 2,” and “Gadar 2” was technically also a mid-budget film. This norm has been broken, this conspiracy theory has been proven false.

“In 2023, audiences would accept anything that is different, that just connects to them – it doesn’t have to be a spectacle or a big movie. We’ve seen small films work now. The industry is back on track. This is a very positive sign this year,” Khurrana added.

Khurrana made his debut with “Vicky Donor” (2012), in which he played a sperm donor. From there, he made it a point to play a variety of characters, and each of them found success at the box office. These include the role of a man suffering from erectile dysfunction in “Shubh Mangal Savdhan” (2017); a person with alopecia in “Bala” (2019); an outspoken and proud homosexual in “Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan” (2020) and a macho gym instructor who discovers his fiancée was a man and underwent gender reassignment surgery in “Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui” (2021).

While these roles obviously go against traditional Bollywood macho stereotypes, Khurrana’s other role choices have also been unusual by the industry’s prevailing standards. These include playing a city cop discovering the harsh realities of the caste system in rural India in “Article 15” (2019); and a man whose convincing female voice makes many fall in love with him in “Dream Girl” (2019).

“Obviously I would be a little different in each film. I would like to do something that has never been told before, but at the same time in the realm or area of ​​​​the relativity factor, keeping in mind the widest audience. I’m not really genre specific in terms of choice. They just need to resonate with me,” Khurrana said. He adds that he would like to explore the action genre again, which has earned him rave reviews for “An Action Hero” and the horror comedy.

Khurrana also enjoyed success in China with the thriller “Andhadhun” (2018) by Sriram Raghavan, in which he plays a pianist who may or may not be blind. It was released in the Middle Kingdom in 2019, where it grossed almost $50 million. In contemporary India, where films in South Indian languages ​​are frequently remade in Hindi, rather than the other way around, “Andhadhun” was remade in Telugu as “Maestro”, in Malayalam as name “Bhramam” and in Tamil under the name “Andhagan”. Additionally, ‘Article 15’ was remade in Tamil as ‘Nenjuku Needhi’, ‘Vicky Donor’ in Telugu as ‘Naruda Donoruda’ and in Tamil as ‘Dharala Prabhu’ and ‘Badhaai Ho » in Tamil under the name “Veetla Vishesham”.

“It’s a validation that I was really happy with because I really admire the south of the country and the cinema that they make. Each region has a different tone and grammar of cinema and a different audience,” Khurrana said. “It is not as homogeneous as the Hindi cinema that people consume from Calcutta to Rajasthan to Punjab,” Khurrana said. The actor recalls a recent trip to Doha where he was popular with Malayalam-language cinema lovers. “That’s the kind of validation I’m looking for at the same time, because I’m a big fan of Malayalam cinema,” Khurrana said.

Actor Fahadh Faasil, who currently works in South Indian languages, and director Sandeep Vanga Reddy, who directs films in Hindi and Telugu, are among the talents whose work Khurrana enjoys and he wants to work in South Indian industries. “I am open to working with different genres, different directors, whatever I find interesting,” Khurrana said.

Khurrana is also a musician, whose track “Nindiya” in the hit Netflix series “The Railway Men” received acclaim. Starting in 2024, Khurrana will take music more seriously and incorporate it into his acting career. “The music is really moving, it keeps me going. Whenever I’m depressed I listen to music, I always listen to music. It’s something I can’t live without. I need to explore it more on my own,” Khurrana said.

Meanwhile, Khurrana is busy with a series of films, details of which are currently under wraps, as well as his role as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF India. “I have been with UNICEF for three years now and I have been working against cyberbullying and also looking for job opportunities for young adults,” Khurrana said. There are also plans to make commercial films aimed at children. “We also need to empower them through cinema,” Khurrana said.

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