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Ayushmann Khurrana. (Wikimedia Commons)

By Sugandha Rawal

Actor Ayushmann Khurrana entered Bollywood seven years ago — and that is the number of back-to-back hits he has churned out over the past two years with “Bala”, his new release, becoming the latest chapter in his success story.

With “Bala”, Ayushmann registered his career best opening-day haul of Rs 10.15 crore on Friday, eclipsing the Rs 10.05-crore day one collection of his last release, “Dream Girl”. Incidentally, “Bala” is his 13th film in Bollywood since he started off with “Vicky Donor” in 2012 and, in the likely scenario that the film will see profits, Ayushmann will have an enviable track record of nine hits out of 13 releases.

For an actor who started out being identified as the master of offbeat roles and a poster boy of unconventional films, Ayushmann Khurrana has emerged Bollywood’s most unconventional hit machine.

When the actor entered Hindi films with Shoojit Sircar’s “Vicky Donor” in 2012, he instantly won hearts with his charm and witty screen presence. The film, presenting a light-hearted take on the taboo attached with sperm donation and artificial insemination, was said to be made on a budget of Rs 5 crore. It went on to earn Rs 65 crore.

“Vicky Donor” made Ayushmann a household name, the multiplex hero with guy-next-door charm. What followed, however, was something he wasn’t prepared for. Films such as “Nautanki Saala!”, “Bewakoofiyaan”, “Hawaizaada” and “Meri Pyaari Bindu” performed below expectations, and the only bright spot in that early phase was the unusual “Dum Laga Ke Haisha”.

Ayushmann, with his blend of good looks, abundant acting skills and singing talent, isn’t exactly the sort of actor you keep down for long. The actor who started his journey on the small screen soon understood that, with changing times and tastes, the winning trick lay in being part of stories about flaws and imperfections, and in essaying men who has issues to struggle with.

He loves the thrill of risk-taking with such roles, he tells you, and, if anything, delivering back-to-back hits only increases that thrill.

“I don’t feel scared as such but I think when you deliver back-to-back successful films, the producers of your film feel confident their film will get a better opening at the box-office I feature in it. I think after being a part of successful films, you become more fearless and more confident because you know that your past choices have been proven right. It tends you to take more risks,” Ayushmann said while interacting with media recently.

Over the past two years, he has struck gold with experimental subjects such as “Bareilly Ki Barfi” (2017), “Shubh Mangal Saavdhan” (2017″), “AndhaDhun” (2018), “Badhaai Ho” (2018), “Article 15” (2019), “Dream Girl” (2019) and now “Bala”.

If he won hearts as innocent Chirag Dubey by offering flavours of smalltown India in “Bareilly Ki Barfi”, Ayushmann opened a dialogue around erectile dysfunction with “Shubh Mangal Saavdhan”.

He continued his golden run essaying the blind hero in Sriram Raghavan’s quirky thriller “AndhaDhun” and showing the plight of a frustrated older son over his aged mother’s pregnancy in “Badhaai Ho”. He went for a police officer avatar to fight against discrimination in “Article 15” and took on the image of an entertainer in “Dream Girl”, while putting spotlight on the subject of loneliness. All these stories were tied together with Ayushmann’s enduring charisma and effervescence.

Talking numbers, “Bareilly Ki Barfi”, which was made on approximate budget of Rs 20 crore, earned over Rs 18 crore in first week of release in August 2017 while “Shubh Mangal Saavdhan”, made on a meagre budget, did a lifetime domestic business of Rs 41.9 crore upon opening in September the same year.

Was confident of my film choices: Ayushmann Khurrana. (Wikimedia Commons)

With “AndhaDhun”, Ayushmann went global as the film did wonders not only at the domestic box-office but the international market as well. The film, also featuring Tabu and Radhika Apte, opened to rave reviews in India on October last year and made over Rs 95.63 crore. The film grossed over Rs 300 crore in China after its April release this year. It is set to release in Japan later this month.

“Badhaai Ho” gave Ayushmann his first Rs 100 crore superhit in India, opening in October last year.

“Article 15”, which opened on June 28 this year, registered a lifetime domestic collection of Rs 63.05 crore.

“I think I pushed the envelope a little bit further by choosing another script that was about a taboo topic that was not explored in detail. It gave people a lot of laughs but I hope it also taught people more about love, unconditional love. It was meant to trigger a thought, spark a conversation and I’m delighted that ‘Badhaai Ho’ did all this in its own unique way,” Ayushmann said about the film.

“Dream Girl”, a September 2019 release, is his highest-grossing movie as of now, having raked in over Rs 139 crore. In “Dream Girl”, directed by Raaj Shaandilyaa, Ayushmann played the role of a man with the talent of impersonating a woman’s voice.

Now, he is winning over the box-office game all over again with “Bala”, a film about a young man struggling with premature balding.

According to trade analysts, it is “Shubh Mangal Saavdhan” time for Ayushmann.

“He got a hit formula wherein he took up subjects which were a taboo or were brushed under the carpet, and told these stories in a neat and clean manner, laced with humour. So families could watch his films get entertained even as the films also gave a message,” trade expert Girish Johar told IANS.

According to trade expert Rajesh Thadani, Ayushmann’s “common man” appeal makes him a star.

“People think he is the common man or more of a boy-next-door, and that has worked for him,” Thadani told IANS.

The back-to-back hits come with some pitfalls. There will be the pressure to continue the golden run, pick the right movie with a lingering question — to continue on the “offbeat” path or not?

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“The expectation from him is sky high now. Everyone will have huge expectations. He has to pick and choose very carefully,” said Thadani.

To this, Johar added: “As a fan, I would want him to do something different other than the films dealing with taboo topics, through which he can increase his fan base and stay strong at the box office.”

Ayushmann’s love for offbeat cinema will continue as he will next be seen with megastar Amitabh Bachchan in Shoojit Sircar’s “Gulabo Sitabo”, and address the issue of homosexuality in “Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan”. (IANS)



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