Ayushmann Khurrana Has Changed the Definition of What It Means to be a Modern Bollywood Hero
Ayushmannn Khurrana, with films like Dream Girl and Andhadhun, is fast changing what it means to be the quintessential Bollywood hero
There was a time in Bollywood when angry young men, who would be shoving women right left and centre and killing henchmen with their bare hands, were idolized and praised. Not that the toxic macho male has gone completely out of business (one of this year's biggest films was Kabir Singh, the story of a misogynist manchild armed with drugs and an MBBS degree) but actors like Ayushmann Khurrana are changing the game slowly and surely. Ayushmann's first film, Vicky Donor, was about sperm donors. What a way to make a ... splash.
In an industry that celebrates item numbers and still hasn't completely come out of the girl drenched in water portrayed as an object of men's affection imagery, Ayushmann Khurrana's film choices and the kind of heroes he's chosen to portray are quite interesting. In Dam Laga Ke Haisha, Ayushmann Khurrana plays a young man who marries an overweight girl and resents her, until he doesn't. In Andhadhun he plays a con artist pretending to be blind.
In Shubh Mangal Saavdhaan, Ayushmann played a man struggling with erectile dysfunction. In Badhaai Ho, he played a young man whose mother gets pregnant at a later age in life. All of these roles are about him being a man but also what it means to be a desi man in 2019. In Article 15, he played a cop dealing with caste-based violence and in Dream Girl, he plays a man who speaks to other people pretending to be a woman. In a little moment in Dream Girl, Ayushmann accuses men around him, as Ayushmann is dressed as Draupadi, saying, "Agar Mahabharat ke time pe Me Too hota toh sab se pehle tum sab andar jaatey!" It was a pointed, important comment, one that comes from a lead hero dressed in a woman's clothes. It should, hopefully, shake the concepts of what it means to be a 'man' and a 'lead' hero in Bollywood.
Ayushmann will soon be playing a man struggling with baldness in the upcoming film Bala.
Is there anything Ayushmann can't do?
What's great about Ayushmann's choices is that they're unafraid of the aftermath. Perhaps it comes with being a relatively newer star on the horizon: he's not afraid of hurting his brand like a Salman or a Shah Rukh or even an Akshay. He's not doing to it to essentially give pure entertainment or pure social commentary: his films are a mixture of both and generally just fun and frolicky watches that have been the very definition of Bollywood - but now thankfully devoid of the hateful misogyny that has plagued the industry for long.