By Komal Panchamatia
Mumbai, May 19 (PTI) Actor Ayushmann Khurrana says India is a "mishmash" of many cultures and the diversity of the country should be celebrated, something his upcoming film "Anek" is all about.
After receiving critical acclaim for Anubhav Sinha's "Article 15", the actor has reunited with the director again for another hard-hitting subject.
Set against the geopolitical backdrop of Northeast India, the movie follows journey of an undercover cop named Joshua, played by Khurrana, "who wants nothing more than peace for the nation".
“India is a complex country, it is very different from all other nations. We have so many different regions, religions, and communities. We are together because of the feeling of oneness.
“Our country is very unique, we should celebrate that uniqueness and that uniqueness is diversity and diversity is 'Anek',” the 37-year-old actor told PTI in an interview.
Loving fellow Indians, irrespective of their language, religion, region or community, is what being an Indian means for Khurrana.
“There should be a feeling of oneness. That is what an Indian is because we are a mishmash of a lot of cultures and we should celebrate it rather than thinking about dividing,” he added.
Khurrana, who described Joshua as a character struggling with internal conflict, said Sinha discussed the idea of "Anek" to him when they were shooting the end credits song of “Article 15” (2019).
Exploring discrimination against the people from Northeast India, the film also stars Andrea Kevichusa, Manoj Pahwa, Kumud Mishra, and J D Chakravarthy.
As someone whose connection to the Northeast goes back to his youth when he bonded with the students from the region, Khurrana recalled his friends facing "racism" in their college.
"I had friends from the Northeast and in my college in Chandigarh, they used to face a lot of racism so (drawing inspiration for the film) was more of their experience... We know about their lives, the kind of treatment that they get when they come to the mainland and it was not very encouraging," the actor added.
According to Khurrana, the task with "Anek" was to make the subject relatable for the masses.
While one might know about the prevalence of caste-based discrimination in the country, a subject "Article 15" shone a light on, not many people would be aware about the situation in the Northeast due to its location.
“It was difficult for a filmmaker and actor to achieve that kind of relatability because you can’t relate to whatever they (people of the Northeast) are experiencing in the mainland.
“It depends on the interaction with people from the mainland. So, all that was a challenge. If you know the culture or try to get knowledge or make friends with them, then it becomes easier, otherwise it becomes a very peripheral viewpoint,” he added.
Khurrana said he took help from books by Dalit icons such as B R Ambedkar's "Annihilation Of Caste" and "Joothan", the autobiography of writer Omprakash Valmiki which was also the "trigger point for 'Article 15'", to keep "evolving" as an artist.
"Knowledge is never complete. Whenever you are doing a film, you are intrigued and interested in knowing more. And when you are done with the film or even when that piece of art or character is left behind with you but whenever you are reading about that part of the country or that community, you are still drawn towards it," he added.
The National Award winner said he would love to collaborate with Sinha again.
“I would love to connect with him with a hard-hitting subject because that is his USP, he has discovered that post ‘Mulk’. His voice is so distinct as a director, I can’t wait to collaborate with him again.
"They (Sinha and 'Andhadhun' director Shriram Raghavan) have shaped my career in a different way. They have always positioned me far from my regular films, they have always strived to create something new with me, which I have not done in the past. They have reinvented me in every film. I am thankful to them for that," he said.
The actor, who has become synonymous with social issue-based films "Vicky Donor" and "Bala", said cinema is a great medium to usher in change and hopes "Anek" is another step in the same direction.
"I believe in cinema for change. Every artist should have social responsibility, we don’t have to be vocal on social media. You should speak with your art and that is what I believe in doing. It is very important to know about the country, it is important to do a certain value addition with every piece of art that you create."
Khuranna is also of the belief that films like "Anek" should not be judged merely on the commercial basis.
"Commercial success is very important. But a film like ‘Anek’ or ‘Article 15’ should not be seen with (just) commercial lens. They are films that are very important for society and you can’t compare these films with ‘Dream Girl’ or ‘Bala’ because they are mass entertainers. "‘Anek’ touches the chord that is unexplored. We do want the film to reach to as many people as possible, but we can’t see the film with just commercial lens. It is an intelligent film. For this film, you need both brain and heart."
“Anek” is set to arrive in cinema halls on May 27. PTI KKP RDS RDS BK