Actor Purab Kohli believes in playing his age, which doesn’t go very well with the management. In the last year itself, we have seen him play a single father twice, and his latest offering, Out Of Love, a web mini-series, we see him playing a 40-year-old married man with a school-going child. “I have always believed in playing my age and playing characters who are closer to who I am. Even when I started, as an 18-year-old, with the TV show Hip Hip Hurray, I was playing a high school kid. My management kept bringing me roles of men in their twenties, and I just couldn’t relate to them. I was quite happy with It’s Not That Simple (Season 2), where I had a teenaged daughter, and even in Typewriter; I was a single father,” says Kohli, over the phone from London.
In Hotstar’s Out Of Love, Kohli plays Akarsh Kapoor, a real-estate developer. The show is a faithful remake of BBC’s Dr Foster and has been directed by Tigmanshu Dhulia and Aijaz Khan. “I had seen the show. Akarsh’s character is such a contrast to who I am. He is 40, immature, and just wants to have fun. He just thinks this support from his wife is an interim thing, and he will eventually make it on his own. He doesn’t realise that it’s her who keeps his whole world together. He is living in this bubble. I am sure that there are people like this, but I found it very hard to relate to him,” says Kohli.
The show, which has been received quite well, focuses on the themes of adultery, infidelity and betrayal. Set in the serene hills of Coonoor, the narrative unfolds through the perfect marriage of the lead couple — Kohli and Rasika Dugal. “Earlier, adultery, cheating and infidelity were taboo topics. We as a society didn’t believe that these things existed, or even if they did, they existed in a far-off distant place. These issues are so common now, that it’s stupid to not talk about them. For how long can we talk in black and white tones? The world is grey and the digital space is doing a great job of telling these stories. We are moving away from the moralistic view of things,” says Kohli, who divides his time between London and Mumbai.
Having traversed diverse media — TV, films, VJing — and now riding the digital wave, Kohli has seen it all. “TV had to cater to five-six people, sitting together and consuming that story. At times you go back to a story even after 10 episodes and you can pick up right where you left off. A film meant you had to drag people out of their homes, and make a blockbuster that will blow them away. The digital space is a new beast and caters to those who are left out and are underrepresented in TV and films. It’s an interesting time, but yes, there are trappings, since there is so much content being made. As I am based in London now, I have to really pick and choose my projects. If I were in Mumbai, I would perhaps take up all the work that is being offered to me,” says the former Channel V veejay.
Kohli, who became a household name, courtesy his VJing stint with Channel V, gets nostalgic about those days. “People often ask me, ‘what happened to Channel V’, and I answer ‘it became Instagram or TikTok’. We really thought we were cool. I had a cool life, and by the time I was 25, I had travelled a big chunk of the country, because of my travel show Gone India. It was a heady time. But we were really people who played music.”
Talking about how music was integral to the plan, he says, “We had a mad energy, and we could do anything. It was an absolute party. We did live concerts with Sukhbir, Lucky Ali, and Kailash Kher, and we even got Elton John. We all saw the rise of the Indian independent music scene. We still have a WhatsApp group, where all of us from that time — Gaurav, Yudi and me, and even creatives from the channel, and other VJs from rival channels whom we were not supposed to hang out with — are still in touch,” says Kohli.