Not much remains to be said about Ayushmann Khurrana’s film choices. The actor has made a career out of accepting brave, unusual and relevant subjects for his projects. Today (June 27, 2019) sees the release of one such film – Article 15 by Anubha Sinha that tackles the rather uncomfortable subject of caste discrimination, head on. The trailer has gotten a lot of positive response on social media and from the early reviews, it looks like Ayushmann has another winner on his hands. It’s cinema that needs to be supported and it’s time to talk about these burning social issues, says the actor in this exclusive interview…
Article 15 seems unlike any other movie you have done so far. What was that one aspect about the script that made you say yes to it?
The film is very relevant and important and it was a part of bucket list to do a film which is socially relevant. Because of my theatre days, I have always been a socially conscious artist and Article 15 fits the bill and it is going to be noticed as one of the landmark films, where we have discussed caste and other issues latently.
There have been a lot of films on social evils but why do you think mainstream Hindi cinema has shied away from tackling subjects like casteism and communalism head on?
You know, it doesn’t come up in the realm of formula films. Because, you tend to play safe when you think about commercial games but somebody has to take one step towards creating a stir in society, towards positivity, towards caste discrimination and Article 15 is one such brave film.
How has your own outlook and perspective towards the issue changed after working on this film?
I was always sensitized towards this subject coming from street theatre background. We used to tackle a lot of social issues. Back in the day in college, I have travelled the length and breadth of the country, met a lot of people from different castes, colour, creed and social strata but having said that, I have read a lot on Dalit literature.
When I was shooting for Article 15, there was a book called Joothan by Mr. Om Prakash Valmiki and I read that book. Apart from that, I have been having healthy discussions with Anubhav Sinha sir and meeting lot of people from different walks of life and this film has made me more empathetic towards the under-privileged.
Have you ever experienced or witnessed prejudices based on caste/religion/race?
No, I have not, not in India. Coming from so called priviledged class, I was quite protected but may be outside India - Australia or Britain, I have faced certain issues of discrimination because of being a desi boy or a brown guy but that was sporadic. It was not quite very often.
Do you, as a citizen and as an actor, feel we are more divided than before?
I think, every community, every religion, every caste has people who are not inclusive. At the same time they are a lot of good people as well. So, I guess it’s the same status , it’s just that I feel that this film is not ahead of its times, in fact, this could have been made like 50 years back or 100 years back because this kind of demarcations and divisions have been existing since a long time.
You have been doing some interesting videos of late, promoting the film. Is it a way to reach out to the urban millennial audience, speaking to them in their language?
Yes, I think social media is a huge power and this particular film needs the youth connect and most of the youth are on social media and we have been jamming with a lot of ideas and some of the videos are really hard hitting. They are with the arc of the film and they would create lot of impact when consumed by the millennials. It’s bound to speak their language.
These days most celebrities who voice their opinion against such issues are either trolled or their agenda is questioned. How do you tackle the inevitable criticism?
Adding more to this question, is that somebody has to take that step! I know you can’t be really not doing the film because of the fear of getting trolled, you need to be brave enough to know, put forward your beliefs, your sensibilities and so only then a change can happen. If you want that transformation in the society, you need to be brave enough and courageous enough to do films on such issues.
How would you describe your character Ayan? Based on the trailer, we feel he is upright and brave. But does the caste of the protagonist come into the picture?
Ayan is a well-educated, urban Indian. Having studied abroad as well, this film has an outsider’s perspective towards rural India, where caste divide is very rampant. So, he is the one who goes there, who tries to fix things according to his own capacity and yes, his caste also comes in the picture in the film and he just gets little surprised and shocked, like you see in the trailer that he gets really intrigued and uncomfortable discussing these caste schisms in society.
Watch Article 15 trailer here: