ELLE Digital Cover Star: Shine On Babil

Babil Khan

It is almost impossible to tell. As Babil Khan zips himself into a highlighter-hued bomber jacket and nonchalantly tilts his head towards the light, there isn’t the slightest flicker to betray anything other than the blithe insouciance that is often lobbed at the rest of his Gen Z cohort. But if you care to pick his brain beyond mere pleasantries, you’d find him careening wildly from one existential inquiry to the next. Today, his mind is wrestling with the arbitrary binary of good and evil. “When the grey is stripped naked, there are more colours visible there than in the conventional black and white,” he observes. 

On Babil Khan: Classic regular fit double flap pocket denim shirt with mild washing for a minimalistic yet casual and effortless appeal by Numero Uno Jeanswear; Rings by Drip Project Co, Ishaara

The unvarnished matter-of-factness with which he cradles these epiphanies perhaps shouldn’t come as a surprise, given that his career trajectory in Bollywood is something of an anomaly. Qala (2022) wasn’t the fairytale, all-eyes-on-me launch vehicle of every star kid’s giddy dreams and yet, his raw, tumultuous portrayal of Jagan monopolised acres of newsprint. So, what does he have that countless other flash-in-the-pan showbiz hopefuls don’t? 

On Babil Khan: Shoes by TOMS India, Centro Shoes, Centro Grande; Outfit by Noughtone01, Neck piece by Drip Project Co, Bracelets by Drip Project Co and Inox Jewelry, Ring by Inox Jewelry

For starters, Khan doesn’t lay claim to their same cookie-cutter rugged physique—and perhaps he doesn’t need to either. Not when he is in fevered pursuit of roles that are so diverse from one another that they scare him at an elemental level. “It is important for me to discover myself in ways that frighten me, make me uncomfortable and fill me with uncertainty. This is where the journey can begin to balance myself amidst the chaos,” he affirms. 

On Babil Khan: Outfit by Amit Aggarwal, Shoes by Christian Louboutin

Khan’s quest couldn’t have come at a more opportune time as the industry witnesses a renaissance of sorts, discarding formulaic depictions of all-brawn, no-brain masculinity along the way. His brow furrows over the notion. “Real change cannot come when our cinema still lives in a world of capitalism,” he demurs, and adds, “But it certainly will. The definition of the ‘typical’ Bollywood hero is still economically more successful.

On Babil Khan: Heritage indigo denim trucker jacket with heavy distress wash and frays, lined with mock fur collar for extra warmth and comfort, layered with a classic indigo blue washed denim shirt, by Numero Uno Jeanswear; Necklace by Drip Project Co, Rings by Drip Project Co, Ishaara

It is only when the change of thought starts to sell—which will happen when our united consciousness goes through a major shift—that we will witness real change, but there is still time. All we can do is keep quiet and put in the work. If you stumble or fall, then pick yourself up and do it all over again. Don’t chase the result of change and yet, be passionate about the journey to usher it in.” 

On Babil Khan: Shoes by TOMS, Centro Shoes, Centro Grande; Outfit by  Siddartha Tytler, Rings by Drip Project Co, Ishaara, Sunglasses by Opium Eyewear

And his choice of movies isn’t the only one to be subjected to a rebellious streak of daredevilry—in the sartorial stakes, Khan is known to tread the path less taken without the barest hint of trepidation. His go-to formula for red carpet dressing? “Blazer without a shirt, strip the straps of a Jacob and Co. Astronomia timepiece and wear it as a choker. A quick whiff of Acqua di Parma Oud Eau de Parfum to finish it off,” he fires off without a second thought.

In his capable hands, antiquated notions of masculinity are reduced to malleable putty—but isn’t this mantle too heavy to be placed on the shoulders of a 25-year-old? “Instead of burdening myself with where I should be, I ask myself am I better than yesterday. If not, I work on trying to be better than yesterday and not to focus on the enormity of who I want to be.” The journey might have its ups and downs but for Khan, crying is an expression of strength rather than weakness. “After all, it is easily hidden but harder to be revealed.” Who is Babil Khan, really? You might not know the answer in its entirety and don’t worry, because he doesn’t either. “To be decided,” he declares with an impish grin. He may not know it yet but in his defiant rejection of the term ‘star kid’, he is quietly scripting a new template for star kids altogether.

Photographer: Neha Chandrakant; Creative Production: Aangi Nahata, Office Hours; Fashion Stylist: Akshay Tyagi; Makeup: Stephen; Hair: Swapnil Diwakar; Production: Grey Production Company; Cover Art: Harsh Jagtap; Assisted by: Kritika (styling), Riddhii Jain (styling); Artist’s PR: Treeshul Media Solutions, Mandvi Sharma, Nishtha Singh

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