She has been in the industry for quite some time and from playing gritty roles to being known for
Choli ke peeche kya hain, Neena Gupta has seen it all. Compared to her, he is a newcomer who has become the go-to man for essaying offbeat and taboo roles, but Ayushmann Khurrana has cemented his place as an evolving actor who knows his art well. Together, the duo has their similarities and differences. But there’s no denying the fact that Ayushmann and Neena’s acts in the upcoming
Badhaai Ho are being looked forward to by many. In a chat with us, the onscreen mother-son pair spoke about the film, their work process and more.
Let’s start with your mom-son chemistry in Badhaai Ho. Tell us about that.
AK: I think my character, Nakul, is a typical Indian son who thinks his parents can’t have sex.
Kyunki wo toh parents hain. And then suddenly, this guy in his 20s is going to be brother to a newborn! That changes things completely.
NG: I think the script had a big role to play in building a good chemistry. I have some scenes with Ayushmann that went so well that I felt content with being an actor.
Aur hum sab achhe log hain, so there were no ego tussles or anything, which made the whole experience fun.
Did you look around for any inspirations for your roles?
NG: I had thought I would prepare and was thinking about who could be an inspiration. I could relate to someone like this but couldn’t find any inspiration for my role per se. So I just went with the flow. Thankfully, the script and direction was so good that I faced no problems.
AK: It’s very unusual in this day and age to see such a situation. Pehle hota tha aisa ki you would have a
maasi who is your age only.
NG: (Cuts in) You know what, a friend of mine recently sent me a photo of his friend, who has two kids, 16 and 18, and she is pregnant again!
AK: Oh my God!
Unn bachho ka jo mazaak udne wala hai…
HINDI CINEMA HAS CHANGED A LOT. I WISH I WAS YOUNGER NOW. — NEENA GUPTA
I AM HAPPY TO HAVE MADE A PLACE FOR MYSELF IN THE UNCONVENTIONAL ZONE. — AYUSHMANN KHURRANA
Ayushmann, you’ve been doing films with subjects that are generally shied away from being spoken about. You’ve become like the poster boy of taboo films…
I think it’s good to be in that space. You have to be different, especially at a time when the digital space is growing with writers and directors presenting more radical thoughts. So, I feel if you are paying money to watch a film in the cinema hall, you should see something different. For me, I went into the unconventional zone right from Vicky Donor and I am happy to have made a space for myself.
What about Badhai Ho clicked?
AK: It was the simplicity and complexity of the film.
Yes, I know, but it is like that. The family is in a complex situation because of the mother’s pregnancy but the treatment of the film is simple.
Badhaai Ho is different from my earlier films because its more commercial in approach. It’s for mass consumption. It has a funny and awkward situation that the family is in.
Neena ji, a while ago, you had put up a post on social media asking for work in the industry. Did it really help? Have things changed post that?
Yes, things have changed a lot. I also posted a video thanking my fans after that.
What was the thought behind that post?
I’ll tell you where it came from. A lot of people used to ask me ‘
Arre, when did you come to Mumbai’ and I used to tell them that I lived in Mumbai only. My base was always Mumbai because my daughter Masaba is here too. A day before I put up the post, I went to meet a director and this girl who was taking me to the director also asked me ‘So, when did you come to Mumbai’, and that was when I lost it. I thought
ki isiliye mujhe kaam nahi milta. Because people think I am not in Mumbai. So, I came home and was very angry. Woh post maine likh diya and I was very scared after posting it. I thought Masaba meri band bajayegi. But she wrote such an emotional response to that post. And yes, things changed. I got four back-to-back films after that.
AK: Really? Wow! You know, I think you will see superstardom after this film.
Iss budhaape mein?
Arre, yahi toh age hain!
Ayushmann, would you do something like that?
AK: Why not? In fact I wanted to do a thriller for a long time and so I texted Sriram Raghavan sir saying
Sir, mujhe aapke saath kaam karna hain. He said I making a very different film, not a slice-of-life film. I told him, ‘Why don’t you take my screen test’. Next day we did a screen test and that’s how
AndhaDhun started. Point is, you shouldn’t have any ego or be ashamed of asking for work if you want to grow as an artiste.
Kaam maangne mein koi sharam nahi hain. Kaam maang rahe hain, bheek nahi.
AK: Exactly! If you are talented, why not?
Mein toh kehti hu, talent nahi hai toh bhi kaam maango (laughs). You should be confident about asking. The rest will be decided by the director.
Over the years, Hindi cinema has changed. What kind of change do you see in the industry Neena ji, considering you’ve been in the industry for a while?
A lot has changed. In fact, I wish I was younger now because the young filmmakers are doing really good stuff right now. Different and interesting topics are being done. It’s more realistic.
Gajraj Rao plays your father in the film. He’s someone who is known for his roles in web series and online sketches. How was it working with him?
AK: The first time I worked with him was for an online sketch where he played the role of a journalist and I played a film critic. The chemistry was so natural. In fact, I was the one who suggested his name for this role in
NG: And Ayushmann didn’t want me in the film!
AK: (Laughs) Woh story aap batana. Coming back to Gajraj, I wanted him because he has a very father-like vibe; pure and asexual. Funny
tabhi lagega na, not if you have an alpha male in the picture. On the contrary, when Amit Sharma, the director, told me that Neena Gupta is playing your mother, I told him
Yaar, wo maa wali feeling hi nahi aayeigu (laughs).
kitni kharab hain meri image!
AK: Honestly, I couldn’t picture her as a mother. She had more of an alpha woman kind of feel. But then I saw her recent short film and I was surprised. I think that shows her range as an actor.
Neena ji, how was your chemistry with Gajraj?
Hamari bohot jabardast chemistry hain!
AK: I think both their spouses are going to be jealous after watching this film.
Mera toh nahi hain. My husband asked me to call Gajraj over for lunch someday. But I will tell you an interesting incident that happened during the shoot. There was a scene where Gajraj had to put his hand on my shoulder and before every take he kept asking me, ‘Can I put my hand on your shoulder?’ He was being careful because he had never done such a role before. But over time, all of us developed a solid bond. He is a really sweet person and a good actor.
Mein to hairaan ho gaya that ki kaise itna cute approach ho sakta hain.
Both of you come from different schools of acting. What approach do you adopt while doing a particular role?
Mein pehle batati hu. Mera funda bohot simple hain. I have come to this understanding that acting is all about meaning the lines you are saying, and hearing your co-actor. I have been around for a while and average kaam toh hum aise hi kar lenge. But to do good work, you should have that kind of focus.
AK: My process was different when I was doing theatre earlier. I would do workshops and a lot of prep for a role then. Then I did radio and television and I think after that I have become more of a natural actor and less of a method actor. What Neena ji is saying is the correct approach. Of course, to each their own, but I think my style has tilted more towards what she said.
Pics: Shashank Sane