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In Your Dreams, Girl! Candid conversations with Ayushmann Khurrana and Nushrat Bharucha

Here’s what happened when Dream Girl lead pair Ayushmann Khurrana and Nushrat Bharucha met Box Office India’s Rohit Patil aka our version of Pooja

Films are increasingly breaking barriers every Friday and actor Ayushmann Khurrana is at the forefront of this new wave of Hindi cinema. He is all set to surprise his fans once again with his alter ego Pooja in the film Dream Girl that just released this Friday. Since Khurrana so readily broke gender barriers with this film, we at Box Office India also decided to attempt this brave step with our team member Rohit Patil deciding to interview Khurrana and lead actress Nushrat Bharucha, by opting for a rather interesting wardrobe choice, a saree. Here’s what transpired: 

Rohit Patil (RP): Ayushmann and Nushrat, welcome to Box Office India.
Nushrat Bharucha (NB):
But today, the Dream Girl is Rohit himself!
Ayushmann Khurrana (AK): Rohit, I am very happy that you have worn this saree. And this daadhi with saree is looking even better. 
(Everybody Laughs).
AK: I am so proud of you.

RP: Thank you so much. You were the inspiration behind it. And speaking of inspirations, Ayushmann what was your inspiration for your alter-ego in the film, Pooja?
AK: Pooja’s inspiration were all those actors, male actors, who participate in the Ram-Leela in small towns across our nation. They do it in the big cities too. These things mostly have male actors who portray female characters on stage. That is where Pooja’s inspiration stemmed from. And yes, my character has got a unique talent of taking up two voices, male and female. He utilises these voices and befriends men. On the other hand, they fall in love with Pooja not knowing that he is a man. Our film revolves around how my character then gets out these complicated situations. 

RP: But Nushrat, when you heard the title Dream Girl when you were approached, did you think that it might be about you?
Firstly, with the fun way you are dressed today, you should seem like you are chilling with us and not ask these serious questions, yaar. 
(Everybody Laughs).
NB: But jokes apart, coming back to your question, yes of course, I thought that. By any film industry standard or normal English language standard the meaning of Dream Girl will be that it is about the girl in the film. But when they said that there is this twist in the film that the hero is actually the ‘dream girl’ of many, my initial reaction was, ‘Wait, tell me more about it.’ Because, when you listen to a storyline like this, it will catch anyone’s interest. Your first reaction will be - How can this happen? How will it happen? And when I finally heard the full narration, I just could not stop laughing. I went on laughing for an hour. I felt like this is such a quirky take on the story that there was one Dream Girl so long ago whom no one can replace. If this was a girl’s story, there would have been a direct comparison, which would never ever be justified. In fact, I think that in 2019, we are making such quirky cinema with such great stories and it is such a great idea to take a boy and make him the Dream Girl. 

RP: Ayushmann, when you heard that you were essentially playing a woman, was there a transition part that you most looked forward to?
AK: My character’s name in the film is Karm. So the story is that Karm hi Pooja hai aur Pooja hi Karm hai. (Laughs). 
NB: But he is asking what part of Pooja you most looked forward to.
AK: How can I answer that? What ‘part’ of Pooja, I have no idea what you are talking about! (Laughs). But in all seriousness, it was the character change, the voice change, the voice modulation, there was a lot to do in the film. And thanks to that, there is a lot of scope for showing my versatility or playing a part that is so different. This is the first time I am playing such a character, which gives me lots of scope for being in-your-face. I am also being slapstick at times and this is my first masala, commercial film. So I actually got really excited with all the elements. 

RP: But we have to say that your body language and nuances are just perfect. How much did you work to get that right?
(Laughs). No, there were no workshops as such. 
NB: It seems like Rohit is doing R & D on how Ayushmann became a woman so that he can also get there. He is trying to understand ki kya kya kiya tha so that he can also do it.
(Everybody Laughs). 
RP: But I am almost there with this get-up.
(Everybody Laughs). 
AK: I have done stints in theatre and as a radio jockey, I have made many prank calls. I pretended to be a girl, made calls to my first girlfriend’s house also. (Laughs). I have done all of that. It seems like I have been preparing for this role in Dream Girl since 15-16 years now. (Laughs).
But that was about it. Our director, Raaj Shaandilyaa had a lot of videos of actors mimicking women so I was just going through that. And I dubbed my voice in the studio because it was difficult to get the perfect pitch. 

Read Box Office India's review of Dream Girl

RP: Did you find any part extremely challenging?
Make-up was one of the most difficult things for sure. I took almost three hours to get ready. 
RP: I only took 10 minutes. 
AK: Lekin make-up nahi kiya na tumne!
NB: You took only 10 minutes to wear the saree?!
AK: Arre lekin make-up bhi hota hai na? Beard kaun saaf karega?!
NB: Yes, I agree. And Rohit, nobody will think you are a girl! Ayushmann had to be convincing as a girl. Believability takes time.  
(Everybody Laughs). 
AK: Yes, it does take time. As I said, it took me three hours. And in fact, Nushrat did not recognise me at first when she saw me in make-up.
NB: Oh yes! I had no idea. We were on the sets of the song Radhe radhe and there were a lot of people there, men and women, who are dancing as couples. And I thought he is just one of the other Radhas on the set. But when I did come to know about it, I was like, ‘Umm…WHAT?!’. 

RP: Nushrat, did you give any tips to Ayushmann on how women carry themselves or even other nuances?
Of course, I did! 
AK: Like?
NB: Like I taught him how to walk. Generally, men walk in a different way but we have been taught to walk with legs going right over left and then left over right and so on. 
AK: I had worn a ghagra for the song and the can-can in it made it extremely heavy. And then I went and asked Nushrat that how does one pee in this? I mean really, kaise yaar?
RP: That really seems like the most difficult part. 
AK: Of course! When I had to pee, my assistant went with me. Abhi kya kar sakte hain, he had to be there! You know, now that I think about it, that’s why girls go together to the washroom, Nushrat.
NB: (Laughs). Yes! If you ever wondered why girls go together to the washroom, now you know. There is someone to hold this and that always. It is like bhai chalo kuch pakad lo, utha lo, carry karlo ya phir darwaaza hi pakad lo agar bathroom mein can-can ke saath fit nahi ho rahe ho
AK: But then doesn’t it go inside the….
NB: No! It’s just…(Hesitates). 
AK: Mujhe kya pata kya hota hai!
NB: Yes, because you have a different system of sitting and getting up and we have a different one. 
AK: Oh yes! Now I understand. 
(Everybody Laughs). 

RP: Nushrat, there is a grey image attached to you with the success of your films like the Pyaar Ka Punchnama series and of course, Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety. Do you think that with Dream Girl you will be able to break it?
I didn’t plan to break that, generally speaking. But with Dream Girl, I guess that it has been broken. In this film, for the first time, I am not playing anything grey. I am pure white. I am an ati sundar pure soul, white from within. And I love this man from within and eventually marry him. But yes, this is the first film where you will see me actually getting married on-screen. My first successful on-screen wedding. (Laughs).
AK: Yes, interval se pehle hi shaadi ho jaati hai aur woh bhi pehli baar. Otherwise, she does films where till the end you are wondering whether the marriage will happen or not. Whether Titu will go with her or choose Sonu. That suspense was there before but not this time. And she is very happy ki iss baar shaadi ho gayi
NB: Yes, I am very happy that I finally got a guy!

RP: Both of you’ll have had a steady rise to success. What learnings do you have when you look back now?
AK: I can say that the journey was very fruitful and beautiful. I am actually glad that I could take baby steps towards success. It was not a phenomenal rise for me. With every film, the acceptance grew. And not only me, but the audience also started accepting the novel concepts more too. Then suddenly there was more audience for concept-driven films. This year was absolutely beautiful with the National Award and everything. But now, I guess I want to push the envelope and Dream Girl is that film which will give me a wider audience. It will get in the single screen audience as well as the multiplex audience. We are all just hoping for that. 
NB: Yaar, I have learnt a lot. All of that learning has helped me become who I am right now. And everything that has happened in this course, I am thankful for it. Whatever, be it the good, bad or the ugly, I am genuinely thankful for it. To everybody who rejected me, I would like to say that thank you very much because if they hadn’t rejected me, I would have done those films and they would not have worked. Stuff like that also happens. I am happy where I am and I am happy that I am still starting off in a place where there is not too much pressure on me. I like being in a space where I can experiment, do things that I like doing. I like that I am still new. 

RP: But you also have experimented with new concepts in cinema. What elements do you choose your films on?
Just the story. I hear a narration and then I read the script, I think about it from the audience’s point of view. But every kind of audience, I feel, has their own sensibilities. One group may like something and the other may like something else. So, if I like something then it doesn’t mean that it has to match with what the masses are thinking. It will not be a call where the opinion is unanimous. But since I like it, I enjoy it, I instantly want to essay that part or be part of that film and be in that world. Then I just say yes. 

RP: Ayushmann, what is that one thing you learnt or realised about the opposite gender with this film?
I think it is just the physicality. The rest, of course, you know, you live in a world where you attract a lot of women and it is just that…well, I don’t know what to say. I believe in gender fluidity and believe that knowing a man is no different from knowing a woman. They are just people. There is nothing specific that I can pin-point but just the body language and the physicality, the voice modulation, that’s about it. 

RP: What do you think the audience will take back from the film?
From the film, the audience should take away a lot of laugh-out-loud moments and entertainment, entertainment, entertainment. Apna dimaag ghar par rakho aur yeh film dekho. This is the first time I am saying this for a film of mine. It is in-your-face, it is a lot of fun and it is very entertaining.


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