In his 35 years, Aparshakti Khurana has played myriad roles — and we don’t just mean on screen. Cricketer, lawyer, television host and a radio jockey for eight years (he once interviewed Shraddha Kapoor, unbeknownst to him that she’d one day be his co-star!), it was quite the journey that brought him to B-town.
“Yes, it’s been quite the journey (touchwood!). A very fruitful, positive and prosperous one. That’s the reason it even looks like a journey, and I’m grateful for it all,” says Apar, as he’s fondly called.
While his creative pursuits before venturing into the world of cinema were many, it was a piece of advice from his older brother, actor Ayushmann Khurrana, that set things in motion. “Yeh sheher tumhe khud bulayega (the city will call you on its own),” Ayushmann had said, when Apar had voiced his desire to move to Mumbai to pursue acting, after debuting with Saat Uchakkey in 2016. And soon enough, destiny called in the form of Dangal, in which he played Omkar, Babita and Geeta Phogat’s cousin. It was the movie that put him on the map and established him as an actor with impeccable comic timing.
Since then, Aparshakti has starred in a number of commercially successful films, like Badrinath Ki Dulhania, Stree, Luka Chuppi and Pati Patni Aur Woh, in supporting roles that often had audiences in splits. But today, he’s soaking all in the love and praise coming his way for essaying a character that couldn’t be more different from his jovial, energetic self. He brought to life the grey-shaded Binod Das, aka Madan Kumar, in Vikramaditya Motwane’s Amazon Prime series, Jubilee, in a way that revealed a whole other aspect of his acting prowess. And given how different the antagonist was to his personality, Apar had to pay special attention to getting into this character’s mind and world.
“But if I had to answer, it’d be a tough choice among Dangal, Jubilee and Stree. The characters I played in these three projects brought out the best in me. The journey was smooth and productive. And on the sets, it wasn’t just a crew shooting; we found family in each other.”
We live in a day and age where a plethora of OTT content is changing the very face of the entertainment industry the world over. Characters are more nuanced, the writing is much stronger, and there’s far more impactful depth to the movies and series being programmed for the discerning OTT audience.
This growing popularity begs the question of whether the web has the potential to surpass that of our theatres and multiplexes. There are also memes galore on viewers often being unable to sit through three- or four-hour movies, preferring instead to binge-watch OTT series for much longer durations. Having just made a smashing OTT debut with Jubilee, Apar explains why this could be...
“The catch is how well it’s made. At least 99 percent of films, TV shows, OTT content, songs, documentaries, or any pieces of art that aren’t appreciated lack certain parameters. If there’s a well-made product, there will always be an audience. So it definitely has to do with the product, not the medium.”
“OTT is a new medium today, so people are attracted to their new toy,” he quips. “Even after starring in a very well-appreciated series like Jubilee, I can’t really say that OTT has become a bigger, more popular medium of entertainment. It’s just come into the limelight. People have found a new love all of a sudden. Otherwise, it will always boil down to the product.”
Given the retro days of the 1940s to the 1980s that Jubilee is set in, as well as its storyline based on the film industry of that period, it makes us juxtapose the days gone by to the world of cinema as we know and love today. We also wonder how different things were for actors and in filmmaking on the whole. Was it easier or much harder?
“The road to success is never easy, in any profession, in any era,” comes the response. “And I wouldn’t say it’s easier to find success today because if the number of opportunities available have increased, so has competition.”
“In fact, success never comes easy,” Apar emphasises further. “It always comes at a cost, after a certain kind of homework, a certain kind of patience, perseverance, hard work and some talent. It’s a concoction of all these factors that are required in every era and in every field.”
Apar is firm in his belief that hard work will always supersede talent and all else, even when it comes to finding success in the rather cliquish, inner-circle-only world of Bollywood.
“I had to take care of my pace, my temper, the way I’d walk and talk...” he recollects. “My decibel levels and talking temper were high, so I had to lower them both. I wasn’t apprehensive though — I was happily nervous about it.”
While Binod was on the other end of the spectrum for Aparshakti, he believes the character that came closest to his personality was Omkar in Dangal.
“Perhaps because it had an element of sports and a relationship with family. I think if I had a sister, I’d have travelled that extra mile for her to get that blue jersey and that medal. To some degree, Omkar was close to who I am,” he shares. “This was a really tough question though. It’s like choosing one of your babies!”
But we don’t stop there. When we ask which movie he had the most fun shooting for, we’re once again accused of making him pick one from his many babies!
“Then again, there are some whom I might want to call lucky,” he ponders. “I’d perhaps describe them as ‘blessed,’ though, because it has a more positive connotation attached to their craft and effort.”
“And I don’t believe in connections at all!” Apar stresses, bringing us close to our next train of thought. “If that were the case, then right after Vicky Donor (Ayushmann’s debut), I’d have had my big release, starred on all the magazine covers and been dancing around trees in songs. But don’t things work that way. Only work can get you to work. Only good work can get you good work.”
Speaking of Ayushmann, comparisons are part and parcel of the game when you have family in the business. You’d think viewers may have drawn parallels between the two, but Apar says that’s yet to happen since their career graphs and journeys are quite far removed.
While sound advice from his brother may have been the foreword to his acting career, the siblings appear to keep their professional lives away from dining-table conversations. In fact, Apar once said they barely get to meet once a month and prefer not to spend their limited time bouncing scripts and ideas off each other.
And it’s not just with Ayushmann. A family man — his daughter will soon turn two —Apar keeps work and its stresses away from his household entirely. He consciously tries to disconnect from a character because the moment he leaves the set, “I’m somebody’s friend, husband, father, brother and son.”
“It’d be unfair for them to have to deal with me as the character I was playing. So I normally don’t do that. However, I do respect those who stay in character for months while they are shooting. To each their own.”
Following the success of Jubilee, which he says was a dream role in itself, there are high expectations of Aparshakti. Slated for release this year is Berlin, written and directed by Atul Sabharwal, the writer of Jubilee. He’s also completed shooting for a documentary, Finding Ram, for which he travelled from Ayodhya to Lanka, halting at every place where Lord Ram is believed to have made a stop during his 14 years of exile.
“It was an extremely interesting journey, where I met and spoke with priests and villagers. I pulled in some historians and experts, too. I think documentaries are a cool space to be in, and no actor has done that yet. So it was all the more interesting for me to take on that journey.”
Plus, he begins shooting for Stree 2 soon and is clearly excited about that. But what would excite him even more?
“Perhaps a role that’s hardcore Punjabi... I also haven’t done anything around music yet. Since I sing and write my own music, I think it’ll be easier to bring out the best in me, when I’m in my own terrain.”
Here’s us putting this dream role out there for the universe to manifest...
This has been adapted for the web from a story originally published in the July 2023 issue of HELLO! India. Get our copy of the latest issue right here!