At the core of Dream Girl 2, the sequel to Ayushmann Khurrana's 2019 film, is comedy and the actor says the movie is a pure entertainer that caters to all kinds of audiences.
The actor has tackled various social and taboo subjects in his cinema, be it sperm donation in Vicky Donor, fat shaming in Dum Laga Ke Haisha, erectile dysfunction in Shubh Mangal Saavdhan or premature baldness in Bala.
Dream Girl 2, however, tonally follows its predecessor.
"It's a slapstick film, a frontbencher, massy film. We are not really touching on any issue here. It's a movie where you don't have to take your brains to the cinema. It's not a woke film," Ayushmann said.
"Dream Girl was something which gave me the highest box office of my career. It really set the tone right and we've taken that tonality forward. So this is a more tier-2 or tier-3, not just multiplexes but also single screen kind of cinema," he added.
Directed by Raaj Shaandilyaa, Dream Girl featured Ayushmann as Karam, a man known for making a living by impersonating a female voice known as Pooja. The film, which also featured Nushrratt Bharuccha, Annu Kapoor, Manjot Singh, Vijay Raaz and Abhishek Banerjee, had turned out to be one of the highest grossing movies of 2019.
Four years later, Ayushmann and his gang return with the sequel but the question was how to make the follow-up better than the first part.
"The biggest inspiration for this movie was that the love from the audience for 'Dream Girl'. And, of course, that triggers you to do something else or maybe go to the next level with better and higher stakes. We were always thinking, how should we do this?
"And Raaj came up with this brilliant idea that Pooja should be revealed, like in the whole flesh and blood. And not just the sound, but also visuals in the film as Pooja. So that's the next level we've cracked in 'Dream Girl 2'," he said.
In Dream Girl 2, scheduled to be released in theatres on August 25, Ayushmann reprises his role of Karam, who decides to cross dress as Pooja to make enough money to marry the love of his life, played by Ananya Panday.
Ayushmann, 38, said he had to maintain a fine balance in playing the part as he didn't want to come across as insensitive to the opposite gender with his crossdressing act.
"The way I take a particular character, I try not to overdo it. I try to make it as real as possible, keeping in mind the sensitivities. In the end, it's the entertainment that matters. We are not putting anyone down and that's our aspiration with this film. But the real crux and core of this film is comedy."
The Chandigarh-born actor joked that the women in his family found him "pretty" as Pooja.
"They found me really pretty and my mom always wanted a girl child. So, her wish has been fulfilled. Every boy has a photo in his childhood, especially mine where my mom dressed me in a frock. So, I have a picture like that. And I think I'll share that on Instagram soon," he said.
Ayushmann further said the sequel has been made on a bigger canvas.
"When the first film is successful, you put in more budget. This looks bigger, the production value is bigger in this film. The star cast is bigger, we've introduced bigger actors also, like Paresh Rawal sir, Seema Pawar ma'am, Asrani sir, Rajpal Yadav. And there are more characters, which was very fun," he added.
The Hindi film industry seems to have to put the dismal 2022 behind with the back-to-back box office success of movies such as Pathaan, Zara Hatke Zara Bachke, Satyaprem Ki Katha and Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani.
Ayushmann's theatrical releases Anek, Doctor G and An Action Hero also suffered last year. "An Action Hero" found appreciation later with its streaming debut on Netflix.
According to Ayushmann, he is encouraged by the change in audiences' taste. "It was a wave and that has gone, (people) sitting at home and watching cinema. Now they want to come out and watch it on big screens.
"I'm glad even the mid budget films are working, which is like a very welcome change. It really encouraged me because my kind of films are not really big budget films. They are all small budget films which are high on content," he said.
Dream Girl 2 is produced by Ektaa R Kapoor's Balaji Motion Pictures.