The harness was secured and the declaration papers signed. As he stood at the edge of the steel suspension bridge ready to take what was the longest freefall in the world of 160 m, Purab Kohli admits that he did feel a bit jittery. He had bungeed before, but that was from a height of 80ft. It didn’t help that the bungy operation at the Nepal-Tibet border from which he had to take the leap of faith (from a height of 550ft) into the Bhoti Kosi river gorge was called The Last Resort. Purab didn’t think for too long, he jumped. And, then he smiled. “It was an amazing feeling,” says Purab, recalling the jump. “I just felt the wind on my face and I felt I was flying like a bird. You know even if I had died at that moment, I would have died a happy man.”
Always up for some adventure, Purab says that wanderlust is in his DNA. He inherited it from his father Harsh Kohli, a hotelier who later tried his hand at filmmaking, too. As a child, the many family trips they went on were Purab’s first explorations that broadened his interest in travelling. At the age of 20, when he got a chance to be a VJ with Channel V, he says he jumped at the offer because it was a travel show. “The show was called Gone India and it was like a dream come true for me,” he says. “It was about travelling around the country on a tight budget, like at that time I think it was Rs 100 a day.”
The journey that started there went on quite smoothly for Purab who tried his hand at everything to do with the entertainment business. He was a model, he walked the ramp, he acted in films, he made a short film and he even sang a bit in Abhishek Kapoor’s Rock On! Recently he has added one more feather to his hat by doing a play called Trivial Disasters. Directed by popular theatre director Atul Kumar, the play also stars Cyrus Sahukar, Kalki Koechlin and Richa Chaddha. The one and a half hour play, an ensemble of nine skits, was well received at its multi-city run. “Trivial disasters talk about small snippets of everyday life, which are crazy, quirky, real and at some level very intriguing,” says Purab, who, like his co-actors, play about five to six different characters in the play.
Among all the different things he does, what drives him most is travel, says Purab. The reason why he was the face of many a travel show on television like Freedom Express on Channel V and most recently Life Mein Ek Baar in Fox Traveller. “Travel gifts you such unforgettable experiences that teach you how important it is to live in the moment,” says Purab. The actor, who loves the mountains, says that he considers them temples. “Mountains really do it for me. Once I go up a mountain, I feel stabilised and get filled up with energy,” he says. A trip to the mountains is also his antidote for arrogance. “Such a trip will surely put you in your place and make you realise that you are just a tiny speck in the larger scheme of things,” says Purab.
Despite having travelled the world, he says that the places that have really stumped him and even brought him to tears are Hampi, Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh. Purab, who has travelled the length and breadth of the country, finds it silly that nowadays people boast about their travels to the end of the world, but forget to look out for what their own country offers. “A lot of people have no idea that in our country there are so many breathtaking views, so much culture, heritage and serenity on offer free of cost,” he says. “Still, we go in search for all this elsewhere and are not satisfied until we fall back by a few Euros or Dollars. It is sad that people nowadays are so connected through technology that they have no time to look up from their phones or iPads to absorb what nature has to offer.”
Purab, who is now awaiting the release of his next film Tere Aane Se at the end of this year, says that being an actor makes it difficult to properly plan out trips. “It all depends on your dates and shoots,” he says. “Sometimes you suddenly get a couple of days off and on some days you are just working without an end.” However, the moment he gets his free dates, he grabs his backpack and pushes off. An unplanned traveller, Purab enjoys both budget and luxury travel. “I have done a lot of backpacking and living in homestays in India and abroad. That’s the true way to experience a culture and get to know the people of a place,” he says. “But when I am off for a trip after a long stretch of work or so, I want to just relax. I then opt for luxury destinations and just relax being pampered by good hotels and spas.” The destinations hardly matter, he says, it all lies in the journey. This is why, even a drive around town at night with family or friends is enough to cheer him up after a long day of work.
A true foodie, Purab also loves experimenting with food on his trips. On a trip to Thailand, he did put some weird stuff in his mouth from a cart selling insects and worms. “The deep-fried red ants and some of the worms were surprisingly tasty, but I took a long time to convince myself to put a cockroach into my mouth,” he says. “No taste at all man!” Adventure lies not just in jumping off a cliff, but it is the true spirit of wanting to try something new, he says. A self-proclaimed water child, he is also an avid scuba-diver and loves to surf. “My dream is to dive in the waters of Thailand and Indonesia,” says Purab. “I really have to plan it out and I am waiting for the right time to come along.”
Looking back at his career, he says he was reluctant to get into acting when he did his first series Hip Hip Hurray at the age 18. He considered being part of a Hindi serial “uncool”. But now the process he enjoys the most is being on a set and contributing to a film or show. His last release as a hero Jal saw him play a water diviner in the Rann of Kutchch and he also did a cameo alongside Vidya Balan and Farhan Akhtar in Shaadi Ke Side Effects. However, for someone who has been around for so long, Purab has only done a handful of films, out of which only a few like My Brother…Nikhil, I Am and Rock On! stand out. “Yes, I haven’t done many films,” he says. “This is a combination of the fact that good roles are hard to come by and I am also very selective about what I choose to do from the little I am offered. So this conflict creates a lower rate of work.” As an actor, his favourite performance of his own is the negative role he played in Awaarapan. “People usually find me cute so it is very rarely that I get to play the bad guy,” he says. “My performance in that film did leave a lot of people around me shocked and convinced that I could pull off a character like that.”
For the past two years, Purab has been living in a quaint house in Goa and travelling back and forth between the two cities to meet work commitments. “It is exhausting,” he admits, “but nothing matches the peace of mind I get living away from all the din of the city here.” In harmony with nature, Purab says he enjoys the little world he has created for himself in Goa, away from the blinding spotlights and the deafening paparazzi.