Tough to get representation right when closeted gay actors fear getting typecast: Ayushmann Khurrana

PTI, Dec 18, 2021, 10:29 AM IST


Mumbai: Actor Ayushmann Khurrana says authentic representation for movies with LGBTQ characters is crucial but his experience in the past has also made him aware that it is not easy to get actors from the community on board for projects.

Khurrana starred in last year’s rom-com ‘Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan’, in which he played one-half of a gay couple with Jitendra Kumar, and recently featured in ‘Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui’, where his co-star Vaani Kapoor essayed the role of a trans woman.

Though Kapoor’s performance was lauded by many, a section felt it would have been better if a trans person could play the part.

In an interview with PTI, Khurrana acknowledged the debate but said getting the representation right is not easy.

“I don’t think we are there as a society. There is a lot of difference between us and the West. For ‘Shubh Mangal…’ we got in touch with a lot of closeted gay actors and asked if they were ready to come out and do the film. Because we wanted representation. But they refused, saying they would get typecast and would never be able to play a hetero male character. It was impossible to get a gay actor, (but) we tried our best.”

‘Shubh Mangal’ was a case study for Khurrana, 37, and the team after seeing how a section of the viewers was apprehensive about stepping out to watch a gay romance when released last year, he said.

The actor said the Abhishek Kapoor directorial deliberately masked its actual subject of transphobia in its promotions and created the illusion of just another regular romantic comedy to at least get the audience in.

“We made a conscious effort of marketing the film a certain way. We thought people should discover the subject while they watch the film, it should come as a surprise. In my last outing, ‘Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan’, a lot of people from two-tier cities didn’t go for the film because they were put off by the fact that two men were kissing.

“We thought if we put our subject out in the open and in the trailer, it won’t appeal to the wider audience. That is why we had to create an illusion of a rom-com. This film is a great baby step towards representation. In the times to come, there will be an actor from the trans community, speaking for the community. That is only fair, the mic has to be passed,” he added.

‘Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui’ features Khurrana as Manu, a transphobic man, who eventually undergoes a transformation.

The actor said the film directly aims to speak to the general audience, who are not progressive and are quick to dismiss gender identities.

“The reactive Manu represents the masses, who are as regressive as anyone out there, he is not aware. His transformation means the transformation of the common man on the street. That was interesting for me. It was easy to understand him because I know people like him. They could be anyone, from rich or poor families, because it is a mindset.”

While Khurrana instantly boarded the project, he described ‘Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui’ as his “riskiest project” yet.

Everything, the actor said, depended on how the film’s narrative would treat its central conflict.

“The treatment matters in a film like this. It could have gone either way. It needed someone like Abhishek, who is a progressive person. I knew the school of thought he comes from and the worldview he has. So, we were in safe hands. It is my riskiest film ever. It deals with transphobia.

“It is difficult for the masses to digest. The regular Joe on the street is transphobic and homophobic, which is why it was my riskiest film. But I was never in two minds.”

The film theatrically released on December 10.

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