Ayushmann Khurrana
Chaya Unnikrishnan (DNA; May 31, 2018)

Ayushmann Khurrana is not only anti-smoking but he has also never been tempted to light up in his growing up years. He was not even influenced by his theatre background, where most people live on chai and cigarettes. The actor has had to take a few drags for some roles in his films in order to essay his onscreen characters effectively, but it hasn’t been easy. On World No Tobacco Day today, the Shubh Mangal Saavdhan actor talks about the advantages of being a non-smoker and how he manages to practise what he preaches.

Despite being a non-smoker, you have been seen taking a drag in films. How did you manage it?
I’ve never had the inclination to smoke, but I’ve had to do it for my movies. While shooting for Dum Laga Ke Haisha, there was a small scene where the female protagonist is shocked that I am taking a puff. But in my upcoming film Badhaai Ho, I had to take 10 drags continuously. It was difficult because I started puking after that. I had to give five takes as I couldn’t get it right. In Meri Pyaari Bindu, it was easier because director Akshay Roy was a non-smoker. So, he could not gauge if I was really smoking or not. There are two ways to do it, either you inhale it or you don’t. I was not inhaling the smoke. But in Amit Sharma’s (director of Badhaai Ho) case, he is a Delhi boy and he was clear that I should do it for real or not do it at all. So I did, but it was too heavy for me. You should be selfish for your health and stay away from cigarettes as it’s not good.

Haven’t you been tempted to smoke?
No, I have never been tempted though I come from a theatre background where smoking was a common practice. I have a wonderful story to tell. My father used to be a chainsmoker and usually, children take after their parents. It’s their first induction. Having said that, in the mid-’90s, I asked my father, ‘Why don’t you quit smoking?’ He just smiled and said okay, ‘I will quit, but you have to promise me you’ll never smoke in your life.’ I promised him and he did not light up after that because he is headstrong and never goes back once he commits himself. I have also kept my promise to him.

What message would you send out to the boys and girls of impressionable age who may be tempted to take a puff?
As I said, most children hero-worship their parents, especially, young boys who consider their father as a superhero. A father is someone who doesn’t do wrong, so whatever he does, the son will imbibe. That’s why, it’s imperative that parents send out the right message and set a precedent. It’s important to not smoke. What happens is your body gets used to it and you feel you have to take a drag to freshen up in morning. In such cases, one has to join rehab centres where your body learns to live without cigarettes. It’s difficult but not impossible for a chain smoker to kick the butt.

Not only parents, but teenagers also get influenced by peer pressure...
(Cuts in) Yes, peers influence you, but you have to be wise enough to stay away from it. You also look younger if you don’t smoke. Being an actor, you need to look a certain way. I will give you a practical example of what happened when I participated in Roadies in 2004. There was a task of sperm donation and my sample was selected because I was a non-smoker. Most of the contestants in Roadies were smokers. I used to donate blood also because I had a healthy haemoglobin. All these things matter a lot.

Have you always been conscious about your health?
Yes, I had no inclination towards smoking or drinking. Nobody said no to it. My father was lenient — in fact, he is an occasional drinker, but I don’t drink. Health is everything; if you have it, you will lead a good life.

Do you follow any particular diet?
I live to eat. Thankfully, I’m blessed with good metabolism. It’s only before a film shoot that I follow a certain diet for a couple of months. I eat fewer carbs, stay away from wheat, consume less rice, etc, otherwise I eat everything. My favourite food is homemade rajma chawal. I love Indian cuisine, be it from North East, Gujarat or the South.

Do you cook?
Khaane se fursat hi nahin milti, when will I cook! My brother Aparshakti, however, has discovered his love for cooking, recently. I am shocked! Both of us love to eat and now he has acquired a sudden passion for cooking (laughs).

What is your fitness mantra?
I maintain a fit body. I have never had bulging biceps because I never went for that. But I would like to explore that side where I have to put on muscles if I get to play such a character. I am known for realistic films, so I maintain a natural physique by doing a combination of weight training and cardio.