A few months ago, Ayushmann Khurrana performed in Dubai at a concert. We expected it to be like any other event (let’s admit, Bollywood concerts are dime a dozen in this city) but how wrong were we! Ayushmann was a livewire on stage. He energised the 2000-odd audience with his mere presence, his lively interaction and his fantastic music. What really set the ball rolling was his enthusiastic rendition of some hits from the past – which immediately took us back to our school days!
The good news is that the actor is coming back to Dubai, this time for MTV India Unplugged Live (the other performer for which is Lucky Ali) on February 17 at Le Meridian Hotel, and it’s all set to be more fun and more energy this time around. Ayushmann certainly promises so in this chat…
Your concert a few months ago at Dubai was a huge hit. What do you have in store for us this time?
It is likely to be more or less similar. Well, I have a limited repertoire of my own songs (laughs) so numbers like Paani da Rang, Mitti ki Khusboo etc will be naturally a part of the set. But then we have the ‘90s songs segment that will be rendered with a slightly rock touch, along with some recent hits. There are two flautists in the band so they bring a certain novelty, leading to the creation of a unique set overall. In a nutshell, it’s going to be similar scenario with more energy!
What made you incorporate songs from the ‘80s and ‘90s into your performances?
I started doing that during my US tour some time back. I realised that the audience had a large section of people who had grown up on this music and no one was quite recreating it for them. Performers usually like to go fully retro – back to the era of Mohammad Rafi and Kishore Kumar – or totally contemporary. There is nothing for people in between. So we decided to include Udit Naryaan and Kumar Sanu hits but by adding contemporary beats. It worked really well.
It’s surprising considering the 80s and 90s weren’t really known for great music. On the contrary, the music and films of that era were considered quite basic and tacky.
Indeed! But those were the times when cinema was largely focused on single screens. There were no multiplexes and people watched movies on VCR. Back then, during Doordarshan days, we had excellent television with very elite programming but the target audience for films was essentially massy. It reflected in the music too with tacky lyrics and basic compositions. But let’s admit it, most of us live in the past. The nostalgic value always strikes a chord. This is what we proved in my last film Dum Laga ke Haisha too!
As a performer, how do you connect to say an 18 or 19 year old who may have not heard these songs? What’s the challenge of making it relatable to them?
I play my current music for them! Isn’t it surprising that the 90s is considered retro today? (laughs). But that’s the reason why you have to make it sound modern. Recently I performed for a college fest and the kids hadn’t even heard of songs like Mere Pant Bhi Sexy (the superhit Govinda number from the 90s). But they loved it when it was performed.
Which genre of music did you grow up on?
Everything! My father is a flautist and was heavily into music and I had a chachi who was literally an encyclopaedia when it came to Hindi film music. My taste in desi music was eclectic and I got into western music primarily due to my first girlfriend who was interested in it. Then I have a radio background so my fondness for and knowledge about music increased. I basically grew up listening to everything!
How do you get time to devote to your music in between your film shoots?
It’s easy. I usually do one film a year so there is enough time. This year, it might get hectic because I have three films releasing (Meri Pyaari Bindu, Bareilly ki Barfi and Shubh Mangal Savdhaan).
Honestly, how much do you think technology can help an average singer to sound like a good one?
Technology helps only in the studio, your voice can be manipulated only to a certain extent. Live singing is a different ballgame altogether. Your abilities as a singer are completely exposed.
Would you like to be known as an actor who also sings or a singer who also acts?
I love both! I see myself more as an actor though I have been singing more than acting. I don’t the actor the singer away! Also, when you lend your own voice, it adds to the credibility.