HT Brunch Father’s Day Cover Story: The Yash and Roohi Show
Instagram has a new set of ‘influencers’ in a pair of very sassy and very opinionated three-year-olds. From calling out Gucci for being ‘so shiny’, to appearing utterly unimpressed with Manish Malhotra, to pointing out that tie and dye print is just a fancy name for holi clothes, these golden-haired pint-size fashion police are giving Diet Sabya tough competition these days.
But they are kind too. The twins have been trying their best to keep the people around them in shape, even volunteering to eat their fattening birthday cakes on their behalf. So selfless. Meet Yash and Roohi, the Karan Johar creations who are proving to be his biggest hits to date!
Chhota packet, bada dhamaka!
“We were all locked down and it was rather depressing, so I decided to share some of my cheer with the world,” says Karan. “It started off as a one-off thing, but people loved it and requests for more videos of the twins started pouring in.”
The videos that often see the kids hilariously castigating their dad indeed crack the lockdown gloom every morning. But wasn’t Karan afraid they’d get trolled? Especially since he is a favourite trolling target?
“These videos have not got a single negative comment so far. I think my children are taking away the negativity. People had created a notion about me in their heads, but I think that slowly is changing,” Karan says.
Times they are changing
The twins, born to Karan through surrogacy in 2017, have brought significant changes to Karan’s life. The first was being getting used to the idea of being a dad! “Initially it was weird to introduce them as my kids. But I guess that is the case with all new parents. It slowly grows on you and it comes with the realisation that you are really responsible for these tiny humans.” In fact, Karan is now a dreaded ‘paranoid mother.’ “I have never been the hyper kind. But once, both Yash and Roohi had fallen seriously ill and I was not in India. I will never forget that flight back home. I had my heart in my throat. I never thought I had that in me! And I think I have started to understand my mother better now.”
He is also the kind of parent who always gushes about his kids. “I always used to find it damn irritating when parents randomly showered people with baby updates, anecdotes and pictures. Now I do the same thing! I am almost always looking for excuses to talk about my children, and if someone just happens to ask about them, by some reflex action I bring out my phone and start showing them their pictures.”
However, one of the most beautiful changes that happened after the arrival of the kids is that friends who Karan always considered as family, have really become family. “From my cousins to the friends in the industry, everyone has rallied behind me and happily become Yash and Roohi’s didi, bua, chachu.” And the toddlers also have friends in Adira (daughter of Rani Mukerji and Aditya Chopra ), Inaaya (daughter of Soha Ali Khan and Kunal Kemmu), Mehr (daughter of Neha Dhupia and Angad Bedi) and of course, Roohi’s favourite, Taimur (son of Kareena Kapoor Khan and Saif Ali Khan). “Also there is AbRam, who is a little older, and Yash and Roohi really look up to him as a big brother! Another person they absolutely adore is Alia didi, she has been tying rakhis on them so she is extra special.”
But they also love Amitabh Bachchan. “Yash recognises Amitabh Bachchan from the Cry advertisement where he is surrounded by kids. So they think he will come and play with them also,” laughs Karan. Another person they seem to be especially fond of is Shah Rukh Khan. “They don’t know what film stars and celebrities are. They just know him as AbRam’s father. But somehow he is never Shah Rukh uncle, unlike their other friends’ dads, but always Shah Rukh Khan! In fact, there is a Mick Jagger poster in my room, and the other day they called him Shah Rukh Khan,” says Karan. “It is interesting that among all the people they have met, Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan have struck a chord with them. That goes on to show the kind of X-factor these people have even outside their screen persona, something that even children recognise.”
Same same, but different
Although they are twins, they are very different from each other. “Yash has taken after me and my dad. He is a dilfek, always ready to greet you with a hug. Roohi’s is tough love. You have to earn her affection. She is like my mother,” says the doting dad. Though he consciously attempts to give them a gender neutral upbringing, Roohi is already a very girlie girl who absolutely loves everything pink and Yash is a very boyish boy with his love for everything blue and his Spiderman mask. “But I have made it a point to not associate any games or colours with a particular gender and that is a standing instruction to all my house staff as well.”
So far, the twins only squabble, they never actually fight. “They take each other’s toys and run and the other runs behind, and a little bit of bawling happens, but that’s about it!”
‘Mumma’ is the word
Karan’s mother Hiroo Johar often makes guest appearances in his videos with the twins. “My mother is a big part of this. I have realised that the kids need a mother’s energy as much as they need a father’s and I am lucky to have my mom around,” he says. Yash and Roohi call Hiroo ‘mumma’. “I wanted them to feel like any other family. There is a mumma and there is a dadda. Grand is just more mother!” he smiles. When the time is right, he will explain the situation to them, but till then he doesn’t want the kids to feel they are any different from their friends. “I would never lie to them or withhold the truth. I am extremely proud of my decision to have them through surrogacy; in fact I often wonder what took me 45 years to take this decision! Still, every parent like me would have some apprehension about the ramifications.”
Is Hiroo as strict with the kids? “Well, once a mother, always a mother! Just like you don’t forget how to ride a bicycle, you don’t forget how to be a mother. It is like the mummy returns! My own upbringing happening, 2.0,” Karan laughs.
Karan is well aware of the fact that his kids are born to privilege and is very conscious about not raising spoilt brats. But he points out that austerity might not always be the key to keep kids grounded. “While growing up, I almost always got what I wanted. But I never took things for granted or disrespected it or used my privilege to leverage my situation. I was always good at studies, a class topper, I was a disciplined kid, bad behaviour was never tolerated in my family, my dad was very particular about being gracious with everyone,” he says. “I truly believe that the upbringing matters more than anything else. You can teach your kids to have a large heart, teach them to be humble and to give and share. As a father, that would be my aim.”
His status as a celebrity will have some side-effects on the kids, but it is his duty to neutralise it, he says. “I don’t want them to grow up feeling superior to other kids just because they are photographed by the media unlike their friends. It is my responsibility to combat that,” he says.
Note: The lead photographs were shot exclusively for this HT Brunch feature by Karan Johar at his home in May 2020. A few additional pictures have been taken off Karan Johar’s public Instagram account.
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From HT Brunch, June 21, 2020
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