It hasn’t been long since we celebrated Rakshabandhan and pretty soon, we’ll be celebrating Bhai Duj – both traditional Indian festivals that celebrate the bond between siblings.
But there’s one tiny fact to note. Indian history is littered with fratricides and sororicides – siblings murdering each other for power and pelf. Add the new(ish) attitude of looking after yourself – and you’ll see how the ties that bind could swiftly become the ties that throttle.
We don’t mean to scare you with visions of sibling bloodshed. But we do need to inform you that one more Khurrana is entering Bollywood, and the competition could get a little intense.
Ayushmann Khurrana and his younger brother Aparshakti might give a whole new spin to the word ‘bromance’ when they mug for our camera – cracking jokes, improvising poses and being generally goofy. But let’s face it. The brothers are polar opposites in the same industry.
From their home town, Chandigarh, Ayushmann made it to Mumbai, contesting in a reality show, becoming an RJ and then an anchor and actor. Aparshakti graduated from law school, swallowed the dust of the Delhi High Court for a few months and then chucked it all to become an RJ and the host of a food travel show.
Now, Aparshakti is set to make his debut in the Aamir Khan-starrer Dangal that releases in December. Will Bollywood have more drama than it can cope with? We got the brothers together to find out.
Ayushmann is married to his college sweetheart Tahira Kashyap, the woman, he says, who loved him despite his glasses and braces. “I didn’t get much attention from girls. Tahira was the hottest girl in class. In fact, she was way out of my league and I could hardly believe it when I discovered that she had a crush on me,” he says.
Aparshakti shakes his head at Ayushmann’s self-deprecation. “All the girls in my class had a huge crush on Ayushmann,” he says. “One of them even changed her name to Ayushi, no kidding.”
Aparshakti was the school sports captain, so naturally, he attracted the girls. “Bhaiya dated one girl and married her. I was more outgoing and had my fair share of crushes. Not that I was a player,” he says with a straight face.
The brothers are barely three years apart and grew up sharing a room. Says Ayushmann, “We’re both the same height, have the same shoe size and a similar body structure. So there were lots of fights over clothes, especially in college.”
Aparshakti was more stylish. “Once, we were going together for a party. I asked Ayushmann how I was looking. He said, ‘you give me the shirt you’re wearing and take this one’,” he recalls. Naturally, the boys have grown out of each other’s clothes, but were they to live together again, they say, they’d probably fight over their wardrobes more than anything else.
Ayushmann is a homebody – he loves to read, strum an instrument and jam at home. Aparshakti, on the other hand, is always trying new places with his friends. He’s also learned to cook, which Ayushmann appreciates. “I recently discovered Rabindranath Tagore’s legacy and the essence of spirituality in his works. In the same way, Aparshakti has discovered how spiritual it is to cook,” says Ayushmann.
Now that Delhi boy Aparshakti visits Mumbai more often, Ayushmann too has begun to explore places in the city. The brothers recently went to a Bandra cafe in a refurbished vintage bungalow. They also explore old haunts back in their hometown. “There was a roadside parathawala in sector 40 where I used to go very often,” says Aparshakti. “When I went back recently, I realised he wasn’t there anymore. After asking around, I discovered he had shifted to a bigger place with a designated seating area. I’ve taken Ayushmann there.”
Ayushmann looks like the tender-hearted one, but isn’t. “I’m slightly detached as a person. Aparshakti may seem aggressive but he’s also more expressive,” he says. Aparshakti adds, “I cry in a jiffy.” The younger one is also more family-oriented. Every time he’s back from a holiday, his bags are packed with gifts for the family.
If a big-ticket director was casting for the role of a quintessential Chandigarh boy, would the Khurranas fight for it?
“I’m a subtle Punjabi, as oxymoronic as that sounds. But Aparshakti is a total Chandigarh boy and in fact, was my inspiration for Vicky in Vicky Donor,” says Ayushmann. Aparshakti is terribly respectful. “I have a long way to go before I catch up with Ayushmann.”
The brothers are somewhat different in their acting styles, says Ayushmann. “My films, such as Vicky Donor and Dum Laga Ke Haisha, have been off-centre while he’s debuting with a huge film like Dangal,” he says. However, adds Aparshakti, it’s too early for Ayushmann to guide him about his acting or film choices. “He’ll probably have more to say after Dangal releases,” says Aparshakti.
Ayushmann, who won the second season of Roadies, says he was an avid biker in college and even rode from Kolkata to the Wagah Border. “Since I was the older one, I always had the upper hand in choosing the car,” he says. That meant that Aparshakti, in the manner of all younger siblings, got hand-me-downs, such as Ayushmann’s college Santro after big brother moved on to a Corolla. “Now I’m waiting for the day a film role Ayushmann rejects comes to me,” he laughs. Each brother now has his own fancy car, ending all possible conflict.
Nothing gets the Khurranas more excited than food. The Punjabi boys grew up on a steady diet of rajma chawal, and tandoori chicken is a perennial favourite. Any mention of mithais has them in raptures.
“We would often drive to Kasauli from Chandigarh as it was the nearest hill station,” recounts Ayushmann. “Normally, when boys are on a road trip, they buy beer on the way. But both of us are teetotallers so we would stop by a sweet shop and buy a big box of mithais instead.”
Aparshakti, the school sports captain, was always more athletic than skinny Ayushmann. “I often feel I’m a Bengali trapped in a Punjabi’s body as I love art, literature and music,” says Ayushmann. “Nobody in my class ever thought I’d become a commercial, desirable actor. There’s been an evolution in that sense.” Adds his brother: “That’s what inspires me about him, how he’s worked so hard.”
Aparshakti is a marathoner. “He once left from Chandigarh at 12am, drove for five hours, started running a marathon at 6am and managed to come third. Crazy!” says Ayushmann.
Cricket brought the brothers closer. Aparshakti captained the Haryana U-19 team, while Ayushmann was a leg spinner in the U-19 district team. Now, they often compete in a game of squash. “Ayushmann almost always beats me,” says Aparshakti.
Ayushmann’s wife, Tahira, is a published author – she co-wrote his book, Cracking the Code, with him. She also writes and directs plays in Chandigarh, while bringing up their two kids, Virajveer and Varushka. Aparshakti’s wife Aakriti (whom he met at a dance class in Chandigarh) works in an HR consultancy.
“There are no devrani-jethani stories here,” says Ayushmann. “Our family is traditional. Hard to believe, but Aparshakti and Aakriti actually touch our feet.” Aparshakti adds, “You can’t have conflicts when the relationship is like that. We can’t even complain because of that.”
“I like world music, like Coldplay and Indian and Western classical. I discover a new genre every day. I recently went to Georgia and loved Georgian music,” says Ayushmann. Aparshakti is rooted in Sufi music, ghazals and Punjabi songs. “My core is more desi. I think, read and write in Punjabi,” he says.
They’ve recently collaborated on a new single, Ik Vaari, in a mix of Hindi and Punjabi. “Collaborating has given us a unique perspective into each other’s works,” says Aparshakti.
They may be set for some competition at the box-office soon, but there’s plenty of sibling revelry to get them through.
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From HT Brunch, September 25, 2016
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