COVER STORY : Aparshakti Khurana on Changing Lanes with versatile roles

Aparshakti Khurana has made a name for himself doing comic roles. Like his brother Ayushmann Khurrana, he too has been part of radio and theater before setting foot in the film industry. Now, he’s all set to reveal a darker, grey-shaded avatar of himself in the upcoming thriller Dhokha: Round D Corner. He’s been paired with Khushalii Kumar in the film and R Madhavan also plays an important role in it. Aparshakti looks up to his brother and says beneath the stardom, they both are still the same people who find pleasure in slurping masala tea as Dilip Kumar or Dev Anand songs play in the background. Excerpts from a candid interview with the talented actor.

Tell us about Dhokha: Round D Corner. What struck you the most about the script, and what side of yourself did you explore through this role?

I’ve been wanting to do something negative for a long time. This was my chance, and I seized it as soon as I heard the script and the narration ended. The shooting started almost immediately. We are already receiving positive feedback. After two comedic roles in a row, it was a treat to play a serious, darker, and more intense role. I’m doing the Kashmiri dialect for the first time, and for the first time ever, I’m on screen with short hair.

You seem to be pleased about the new hair-do…

My father would never allow us to wear our hair short. We used to get a good beating when it was cut too short. He desired that our hair look like Dilip Kumar’s. As a result, we had no opportunity to experiment with a short haircut, either on or off-screen. This was my first opportunity, and I’ve grown to like myself in this new avatar.

What was it like working with your co-star, Khushalii Kumar?

It’s a pleasure to have her on set every day and collaborate with her. Khushalii is someone I’ve known for a long time. She used to come completely prepared with all of her homework, which was incredible given how serious the film was. I think she looks lovely in the film as well. Her persona has many facets. She began her career as a fashion designer and knows everything there is to know about it. Furthermore, because she was born and raised in a musical family, she has had enough exposure to predict what will succeed and what will fail. She is also an excellent dancer, making her a complete package.

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After doing comedic roles in Pati, Patni, Aur Woh, Stree, and Dangal, what made you suddenly decide to be part of an intense film like Dhokha…?

People frequently accept you in a specific space in succession, and then you become typecast in that, to the point where you are barred from portraying roles in other genres. Even if others are unwilling to consider it, you might be able to do the opposite. When I was in the theater, all of my directors used to cast me in dark roles. I used to request that they try me out for comedy, but it was all in vain because of my intense eyes. They didn’t think I could ever look like a comedian. Then when I graduated to films, it so happened that my debut film Dangal I had a comedy role to play and it was followed by two comedies in a row. Bhushan Kumarji and Kookie Gulati (director) Sir gave me this new and challenging role to play one fine day and I immediately said yes as it offered variety.

Are you making a deliberate attempt to break away from the types of roles you had previously played with this film?

I’ll say 50/50. It’s not something I went all out for. I was making every effort to seize these opportunities. However, I continue to do whatever comes my way. At the end of the day, you can’t disrespect your job, especially when people accept you in certain shades of comedy. You can’t also disregard how much love and respect people have shown you.

Have your tastes shifted towards playing more serious characters now?

In reality, I am only getting lead roles in the scripts I am receiving by chance. I believe the fraternity has started to love and respect me. But it’s not like I have any preferences for a specific shade of character or anything else. Whatever work comes my way, I accept it gratefully, whether it’s for singing, OTT, or hosting. I enjoy working on projects that are both productive and allow me to learn or do something new.

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The last few Hindi films did poorly at the box office, and the majority of them were released on OTT. Do you have any concerns about the audience’s reaction?

No way. Dhoka… is a fantastic film, so I’m confident that people will enjoy this. They should pay attention. Isn’t the current bad phase of the film industry a bad phase for the entire world? Even though we’re talking about films from the South, only two or three have been box office successes. We must recognize that the audience is intelligent. So, I believe we are still making good films; it is simply a perception that has arisen. That’s pretty much it.

Was it disappointing that your first film as a leading man, Helmet was only available on OTT and not in theatres?

No way, no how. First and foremost, I believe the most important thing is that the work that we have all done reaches the audience, which is already happening. Second, the producers who have invested

in me have earned their money back. I believe the debate between OTT and theater is never-ending, but you simply need to do good work. The simple fact is that the producers must earn money, and people must watch the content, regardless of the medium.

What are your thoughts on the web as a medium?

Both films and OTT content are suitable for personal exploration. Only OTT has fewer restrictions, allowing us to say dialogues that the censor forbids. OTT allows you to express yourself more freely. To us, OTT is more beneficial because it gives equal time to each character, whereas the film focuses on and lingers on only the lead characters.

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The slogan ‘Boycott Bollywood’ is very popular these days. What are your thoughts towards it?

It’s truly heartbreaking. Artistes are a vulnerable bunch, burdened by the stress of an uncertain life full of ups and downs that comes with the industry by default. I believe we simply need to relax. I’m referring to the general public, who readily respond to trolls and boycotts. I would advise them to be more patient and to use their good judgement. Social media content should be strictly monitored. The government should really keep an eye on them.

Do you believe that the Hindi film industry is in need of change?

Audiences want good stories, and today’s writers have excellent scripts and content to offer. I believe that writers should be recognized and respected in the same way that directors, actors, and producers are. I believe we should pay more attention to the writers. The writer should have the same status as the director, actor, and producer.

Tell us about your relationship with Ayushmann Khurrana, your elder brother.

I adore and admire him. For many years, our family adhered to Papa’s rule of touching the feet of the elderly for blessings as soon as we wake up in the morning. We followed this up to date. This, I believe, is one of the reasons there is no sense of insecurity, competition, or anything else. And why

love and respect are present in just the right amount.

How do you react when people make comparisons between you and Ayushmann?

Such questions arise when you have taken someone’s assistance on your journey, such as if you were launched by a star or if you yourself are a star child. I began my journey with five-minute roles without seeking assistance from anyone. In 2019, I also released a song called Kudiye ni with Neeti Mohan on T-Series. While listening to it, I found myself wondering if it sounded similar to Ayush (Ayushmann) bhaiya’s. We have a lot in common. Every single reviewer, however, stated we are both different. The most encouraging aspect was that no one made any comparisons.

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Did he inspire you to pursue a career as an actor?

Yes, of course. I wanted to be a cricketer and even captained the Haryana under-19 cricket team, but I ended up studying law in Chandigarh for five years. I got my first job working for senior lawyer Amarjit Singh Chandhok for three months before realizing I wasn’t cut out for this field. Fortunately, I was given the opportunity to work as a radio jockey. I’ve seen Ayush bhaiya do everything from acting to singing to radio jockeying to hosting. I figured I’d give it a shot as well. After all, growing up in a family where your parents and even grandparents are involved in the creative field influences everyone. Good energies collided, and God was gracious enough to allow me to accomplish these minor goals in life. Not only has Ayush bhaiya inspired me, but entire Chandigarh has been an inspiration.

Tell us about Arzoie, your daughter, and your new role as a father.

You may have played a variety of roles throughout your life, but becoming a father is a new challenge. I believe it simply brought a lot of happiness, good luck, and positive vibes to the entire family. It is something that truly binds us together. It’s amazing to come home and try to get everyone together for dinner when there’s a new member of the family. It’s wonderful to have this new addition to the family, and I couldn’t be more grateful to have another girl in my life after my wife and mother. My wife and mother have prayed to God for better things to happen in my life. I now have a second soul. I believe she will be my cheerleader when it comes to movies, and I will be her cheerleader when it comes to her education, life, and upbringing. I will always be her biggest cheerleader.

What new parenting skills did you pick up after becoming a father?

Touchwood, I’d like to think I’m a very hands-on father. And I try to make mine
wife, Aakriti, as comfortable as possible. Of course, a father cannot do everything that a mother can. Having said that, I continue to try to fill her shoes by assisting her with minor tasks. I was never a homebody before. I would call Aakriti out for a ride as soon as I got home at the end of the day. But now I try to finish work as quickly as possible while remaining disciplined, and then return home to spend time with Aakriti and Arzoie.

Aakriti is said to have helped you a lot during your salad days…

We used to stay in Delhi when I was filming Dangal. It was her idea for us to relocate to Mumbai. She landed a good job in Mumbai and we both relocated here as she said it will help me in expanding my career. Without her help, it would have been extremely difficult to keep the

passion going.

What new things have you recently discovered about yourself?

I’m just glad I can do hosting, singing, music, and acting all at the same time,
not to mention sports and play. And as a result of all of this, I discovered that I am very happy to return home and

spend leisure time with my family. All of this keeps me so active and upbeat that I wouldn’t ask for anything more from life, not only this but in the next birth as well, even if it means repeating all of my previous mistakes and lessons learned, and finally achieving my goal . My objectives may seem mundane to others, but they are simply fulfilling to me. The bottom line now is I am very happy. Cross your heart!

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What do you find enjoyable in life and how do you perceive it?

Spending time with family or having a cup of tea with a biscuit can assist you in achieving happiness. If you aim for the impossible while ignoring such sweet moments, your pleasure will be fleeting. Happiness is not found in flashy cars or first-class travel. That pleasure is fleeting because it will leave you at will
God. I never asked for the impossible or indulged in envy. My little pleasures are entirely mine, and no one can ever take them away from me!

What annoys you and how do you do it
deal with it?

My desire to complete ten tasks in a
single day irritates me greatly. I am extremely active.

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Which directors and actors do you want to collaborate with?

Raju Hirani, Sriram Raghavan, Suresh Triveni, and Zoya Akhtar are my dream directors. Zoya Akhtar is one of the country’s most talented filmmakers.

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You are doing a show called Jubilee, directed by Vikramaditya Motwane. Please tell us about it.

It’s a show about the rivalry between two Hindi film superstars. I am one of them. It’s a period piece set in the 1940s. I am extremely pleased. I don’t think I could have done what he made me do if he did

hadn’t been my guide! I trusted him and followed every advice he gave me to the best of my ability.

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