A good thriller was always on my bucket list: Ayushmann Khurrana
The actor and director Sriram Raghavan discuss their upcoming film, AndhaDhun
After playing relatable characters in quirky comedies such as Vicky Donor, Dum Laga Ke Haisha and Shubh Mangal Saavdhaan, Ayushmann Khurrana is finally ready to break his mould and surprise us with his mysterious blind pianist act in AndhaDhun. The film, which is directed by Sriram Raghavan and also stars Radhika Apte, Tabu and Anil Dhawan, has kept audiences intrigued with its puzzling premise and dubious characters. “A thriller has been on my bucket list for a long time. As an actor, I believe it is important to establish yourself in a certain space before exploring other areas. Which is why I stuck to slice-of-life stories for the last six years. With AndhaDhun, I finally decided to take the plunge into a totally new genre,” says Ayushmann.
Many of Sriram Raghavan’s films, including Ek Hasina Thi, Johnny Gaddar and Badlapur - as well as his 45-minute docudrama on serial killer Raman Raghav - are considered modern classics among Indian thrillers. Gushing about his director, Ayushmann adds, “He is a master of thrillers. We do not have a culture of making good thrillers in India. There have been very few successful, well-made thrillers in our country. Most of them have come from Sriram Raghavan.”
When probed about what draws him to the genre, Sriram says, “Believe it or not, these stories just come to me. I do not have a set plan to make thrillers all the time. For instance, Ek Hasina Thi was a story that was given to me. In Johnny Gaddar, I was attracted to the premise of a caper going wrong, which is an old trope of noir cinema. Badlapur happened because I was fascinated about doing a revenge story where you start hating the guy you are rooting for. AndhaDhun, I guess, is less like Badlapur and more in the mood of Johnny Gaddar. It is very wicked and breezy.”
To prepare for his role in AndhaDhun, Ayushmann attended separate workshops to master the body language of a pianist and a blind man. “For the piano part, I trained under Akshay Verma. He is a musician from LA who is based out of Mumbai now. I did intensive workshops with him for five hours a day for 3-4 months. The most difficult part was learning to play the piano without looking at the keyboard. Even if you see my close-ups in the film, those are my hands. As for playing a blind man, I visited blind schools for three months to observe the body language of a visually-impaired person. I wanted my performance to be very authentic.”
The trailer of AndhDhun ends with a cliffhanger about Ayushmann’s supposed 'blindness' in the film. Fans were left wondering if he is actually blind or if he is pretending to be. Commenting on the duplicity of the character, Sriram Raghavan teases, “I won't reveal any of that! All I can say is, Ayushmann is playing a person who goes through various choices. Rest you must find out for yourself. I am a student of Hitchcock, and AndhaDhun is filled with many such interesting, Hitchcock-ian situations.”
AndhaDhun brings together two of India’s most powerful female actors, Radhika Apte and Tabu, in two very different but equally interesting roles. Praising his female co-stars in the film, Ayushmann says, “I'll start with Radhika first. I think she is a very brave actor. Her choices have always been very unconventional and radical. However, this time around, she plays a very conventional love interest, which in a way is experimental for her. Tabu, on the other hand, is amazing in the film. She has a very quirky character. I have always been a big fan of Tabu. The best thing about her is that she remains malleable with changing times. She did films like Vijaypath in the 90s, followed by something like Cheeni Kum in 2007; recently, she did Haider (2014) and then a commercial film like Golmaal Again (2017). It goes to show how versatile she is as an actor."
AndhaDhun also marks the comeback of veteran actor Anil Dhawan. Last seen in the action-comedy film Himmatwala, Dhawan took a 5-year hiatus from the big screen but continued to appear in television serials. “He is fabulous in the film. He is playing a very wily character; I think such people really exist. He was such a sport to come and do the role. For me, another incentive was to use some of his old songs (Yeh Jeevan Hai, Teri Galiyon Mein and others) in the background score of AndhaDhun. They bring a very retro feel to the film,” Sriram Raghavan says.