A year after ‘Vicky Donor’, Ayushmann returns with ‘Nautanki Saala’ and tells sangeetha devi dundoo he likes being part of quirky, credible films

It’s been a year since Vicky Donor released and ‘Paani Da’ continues to be sung and listened to, at times in repeat mode. Ayushmann Khurrana returns this April with his second film Nautanki Saala and another winner of a song, ‘Saadi Galli’. “I composed this song much before ‘Paani Da’ (originally composed in 2003), soon after my high school during the first year of graduation,” says the actor, pleased with the response to the song. He has also sung the much-appreciated ‘Tu Hi Tu’ in the album.

In Hyderabad to promote Nautanki Saala directed by Rohan Sippy, he says composing and singing have taken a backseat ever since he became a full-time actor. “I would find it difficult to compose for a deadline. I need to be in the right frame of mind to create a composition. Both ‘Paani Da’ and ‘Saadi Galli’ are from my older works, which evolved with time. The mukhda of ‘Saadi Galli’ was done earlier and later I reworked the antra,” he says.

Nautanki Saala, he says, took him back to his days in theatre. “Both Kunal (Roy Kapoor) and I have done theatre and it helped us connect better during the making of the film. Theatre brings in a lot of discipline, decorum and fine-tunes your craft. In the film, I play this theatre guy called Ram Parmar who does the part of Raavan on stage. It’s a comedy alright but we were very serious about it. We worked 14-16 hours a day for 35 days,” he says. The promo of the film has all trappings of a fun flick but Ayushmann says shooting for it was far from funny. “One of our cars got damaged. Now we look back at and laugh. At that time, it wasn’t funny at all.”

Post Vicky Donor, he had offers by the dozen. “I didn’t want to make mistakes. At least for the first few films, I wanted to choose roles I could relate to. In Vicky Donor I played a Punjabi guy from Chandigarh, which I am in real life. There was theatre I could relate to in Nautanki Saala. And in Shoojit Sircar’s next, Humara Bajaj, I am a struggling actor. I’ve been through those days of trying to find my identity in the industry,” he explains. There’s also a Yash Raj film in the offing and he insists he wants to take it one step at a time.

Showbiz can make you feel overwhelmed, says Ayushmann. “There’s so much attention on you that it’s easy to get carried away. I had done television for four years and had my own, small following. I’ve been an outsider to the film industry and asked questions to stars. That, in a way, helps to keep me grounded. I didn’t come to Mumbai from Chandigarh and become a famous Vicky overnight,” he emphasises.

It’s this need to stay on firm ground that brings him back to music. As he puts it, “To sing or compose, you need to let go of the facade of fame. Music keeps you humble; I find it spiritual to create music.”

Vicky Donor fetched him a bounty of awards for best male debutant in nearly all the leading film awards last year. It only got better with the film winning three National Awards, announced recently. “You know, I had to be careful since it was my first film. In television, new shows replace old ones and public memory is short. But people remember films, especially bad ones,” he laughs. Ayushmann knew he was walking on the razor’s edge choosing a film that dealt with sperm donation. “The topic was taboo. It was tough to tread this thin line of being clean, credible and not making the subject look cheap. Quirky, clean comedies are so rare these days. Shoojit Sircar had a certain version in mind and I went with it. I am so fortunate to have been part of such a film for my debut,” he smiles.