Fringe Benefits

My dad would have been shocked had he known that my brother and I have settled in India," says Adhuna Akhtar. Born and raised in the UK to an English mother and a Bengali father, she claims that her father "always ran away from India whereas my brother and I ran to it". Having visited India only once—at the age of 14 — before moving bag and baggage in 1995, Adhuna, a celebrated hairstylist today, has since built her personal as well as professional life ground up. Married to filmmaker-actor Farhan Akhtar, she is the founder of the salon chain b:blunt with her brother Osh Bhabani, and has Bollywood celebrities such as Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta and Arjun Rampal as clients.

Adhuna fell in love with India on her second visit when she took a sabbatical between jobs in London. "I did not have responsibilities and came here for three months with £500 in my pocket. The energy, the people were all lovely and I stayed back," she recollects. Osh followed her six months later. By then she was freelancing as a hairstylist with fashion photographers and magazines. In 1998, the brother-sister duo started the salon chain Juice, which they gave up after eight years to launch b:blunt. The salon soon became the hair grooming destination for the unconventional, with branches in Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai.

While Osh handled the business, Adhuna continued as a hairstylist, working closely with ad filmmakers. It was on one such project 14 years ago — the video for Shankar Mahadevan's song Breathless — that she met Farhan. The attraction was instant and, by the time she came on board Farhan's directorial debut Dil Chahta Hai, they were dating. The two got married in 2000.

This month, the 44-year-old takes her professional journey forward as she makes her television debut with the show called Be Blunt with Adhuna Akhtar on TLC. A six-episode series, Adhuna and Osh will be giving makeovers to people who are embarking on a new journey in their lives, such as a student who will be taking on her first job. "The focus is on hairstyling, but we give these people a whole new look since clothes are a big part of any makeover," she explains. The show will extend beyond makeovers to give viewers an insight into the lives of hairstylists. "For instance, we shot a part of the show when our b:blunt team was styling for a magazine cover shoot," she says.

Her decision to make a TV debut comes as a surprise since Adhuna is perceived as a spouse who stays away from the limelight that surrounds her star husband. "I am quite social with people I am close to and can be the life of a party," she says. Yet, she prefers to lead a private life, focussing on work and her children, Shakya (11) and Akira (5).

"They are quite a handful and since Farhan mostly stays away for work, I spend time with them," she explains. That may have had her taking it easy on the professional front — she now limits work to ideating for creative projects and training people at the b:blunt's hairstyling institute. At the same time, she is supportive and proud of Farhan's recent ascent from a director- producer to a TV host and then a successful actor. "He was always multi-talented. People are only catching up on what I've always known," she says with a laugh. Adhuna admits that she is not as multi-talented. "I have been horse-riding since childhood because I grew up in the countryside. But Farhan, who had never been near a horse till Luck By Chance, comfortably took off on one for the movie. It is such a pressure to be with him," she says.

Work aside, Adhuna prefers Farhan most in the role of a father. "He shares something so special with them. Together, they are always up to something, there is always raucous laughter. In comparison, I get to do all the boring things, such as asking the kids to eat their meal and go to bed on time," she says.

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