A few months ago I watched an interview by Anupama Chopra of the best performers of the last decade (2010-2020) where she says that Ayushman Khurrana has a separate genre for himself. You can watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzXS2Nj7GVQ
One couldn't agree less with her. Just look at the range of film genres that he has acted in - comedy, drama, action, thriller, satire... the list goes on. It is not just about the genres. He has made it a niche for himself mainly because of the kind of subjects each of his films tackle. His debut was with something as taboo as infertility and sperm donation! His last film Gulabo Sitabo (catch our review of the film here: https://www.celluloidtales.com/post/gulabo-sitabo-wickedly-hilarious-and-deeply-thought-provoking) is about a relationship between a tenant and the owner both of whom are real-life Tom and Jerry! Isn't this proof enough to her statements?
As if playing a sperm donor wasn't enough to start his career, he continues to play roles that stars would generally politely decline citing their hero status. He continues to break barriers with his choice of scripts and seems to truly believe in content being the hero.
Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan, released earlier this year as a prequel to Shubh Mangal Saavdhan (2017). This marks a debut for the director and Ayushman Khurrana. Hitesh Kewalya, a well-known screenwriter dons the hat of the director for the first time as Ayushman portrays a gay man for the first time. It kind of only seems fitting as the screenwriter of the prequel is the director of the sequel. The film shows the difficulties a gay couple faces while trying to explain their relationship to the "Sanskari" family. Set in the interior UP, this film captures the disbelief. denial. lack of empathy and understanding, through the actions of the father of Ayushman Khurrana's love interest, Jitendra Kumar.
The story is as much of a self-discovery as much as it is about acceptance and empathy. The journey of the parents of Aman Tripathi (Jitendra Kumar) from believing that something is wrong with their son to the father's acceptance of his sexual orientation is heartwarming. The film also talks about other relevant issues like sex before marriage, emotional infidelity, child abuse, filial relationship issues and even questions the superstitions that are blindly accepted in the garb of reethi-riwaaz... But, that's about it.
The film has its moments of slapstick comedy and soul-stirring drama. But it fails to show what it started out to (and even attempted to address in the dialogues as fleeting mentions) - the homosexual relationship. Kudos to Ayushman for skilfully underplaying his role and making it completely about Amit Tripathi. But, the film fails to talk about the issues faced by the gay couple in our country, in their day to day life. We are left wanting to see more about how Kartik and Amit fell in love, their relationship dynamics. They are portrayed as just a sweet and cute couple. The only issues that the couple faces are from Amit's parents. The comedy and drama work extremely well for me. But I would've liked it better if their relationship had an arc too.
In the RS Prasanna directed prequel, Ayushman Khurrana plays a man suffering from erectile dysfunction. No matter how open we claim to be, such films would definitely make us uncomfortable. It did make people uncomfortable then too. Yet, the film was celebrated because of the portrayal of the struggle, though real, was comical. To us, Indians, humour is the sugar through which the bitter medicines of acceptance and empathy are fed. There is always the saleability of the film. This means, "Any film with a hard-hitting subject at its core must be a comedy or an action flick where 'all ends well'". Otherwise, how would the film make any money?
The same logic holds good to even the sequel Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan. This film too uses the sweet tonic of humour while handling the difficult topic of homosexuality. I can't stop but wonder why do we always need a "lived happily ever after" to make people understand that erectile dysfunction and homosexuality are completely natural? Why can't we accept reality as it is in films (This leads to another question, how come there are the occasional box office winners that tackle realities in its honesty?)? Do we look at cinema as an unliveable fantasy where "All is well that ends well"?