We’ve reached 15 minutes early for a chat with Twinkle Khanna at her beach-facing residence. The lady in question arrives right on time and with just a minor digression into topics like black coffee putting her to sleep — an idiosyncrasy she blames on her being born upside down — we dive straight into a chat about her third book and first novel, Pyjamas Are Forgiving. After all, there’s a particular brand of humour the actor-turned-author has come to be associated with — there’s wordplay, some self-deprecation, irreverence and a pinch of political incorrectness — that has made her one of the most loved ‘no-filter’ writers today. Clad in a striped blue pantsuit, Mrs Funnybones (as she is popularly known) sits down for a no-holds-barred chat. Excerpts…
Did the title strike you first or the story?
As usual, I was writing something else. Then in the middle of it, somebody asked me to be a part of an anthology of short stories and I told them that I would let them know when I had an idea in mind. After a month, I had to call back and say, ‘Sorry, I have a feeling this is going to be my first novel and thank you for pushing me on that path’. Their idea was to have something to do with clothing. I had this story in my head for a while. I had been to a stringent ayurvedic retreat, like in the story, and it has stayed with me.
So, there was no planned move from short stories to novel?
No. In fact, Salaam Noni Appa was supposed to be a big novel. I tried it thrice but instead, it became a short story and this was a short story that became a novel. So, I guess it comes to being born upside down (laughs). Whatever we plan, we end up doing it in a different way.
I guess that’s the way I write. For instance, I wanted to write an adventurous dystopian India sort of novel, but I couldn’t find the scope of any humour in it. So, I abandoned it. Maybe one day, I will write a book which has no jokes, but I think it won’t hold my interest.
You have dedicated this novel to your mother, Dimple Kapadia. Somewhere in the novel, the protagonist says, ‘I still find it hard to figure when my mother is serious and when she is just trying to mess with my head.’ Does that apply to your mom, too?
Completely! So, whether it’s my columns or books, I seem to be writing about women who are not interested in finding a man. They are trying to live life on their own terms as well as dealing with the constant chafing between who a woman is and who she’s meant to be. I think it all comes from growing up with a mother who lived life on her own terms. We never had conversations about feminism or equality in our house, but it was only when I was about 35, that I realised what I have always taken for granted, is something most women don’t have. I never felt I was less than a man, in fact I always felt I was superior and we have to just bear with these creatures. Putting a man on a pedestal had never even occurred to me. That’s why I think not only this book but most of what I write should be dedicated to my mother because it comes from being raised in a particular manner. She did it with a lot of irreverence. There were never any complaints. She just shrugs off her burdens and I think I’ve learnt to do the same from her.
Do you get your brand of humour also from her?
Completely! She is more eccentric than me! You would not believe some of the things she tells me, they are bizarre! So yes, I have inherited my humour from her and her side of the family.
When you have to speak in public, do people expect you to be funny?
Yes, they do. When I walk on stage, they say things like, ‘Now, she’s here to make you laugh for the next one hour’ and I’m like ‘Somebody kill me right now!’ Actually, it’s one of my fantasies to be a stand-up comic. I practise in the mirror. But my husband (Akshay Kumar) has told me two things, to never go back to acting and not to ever do stand-up comedy, because I’m terrible at both! (laughs). But once you get onto that platform you know what’s expected of you and inhabiting that persona is not very difficult for me. Saying things which make people laugh is not such a difficult thing because I’m telling them the truth. It’s just from a person and in a way they don’t expect, so they find it funny. Also, I’m giving them a perspective which apparently most women don’t seem to hold. They would probably expect a man to say things in this politically incorrect way. I’m sure I will find one day that I’ve nothing funny to say and it will be a disaster, but so far it’s been fine.
Have the man of the house and the prodigal son read your novel?
No, they haven’t read it yet, but they know the story in detail. Both of them are my sounding boards. I had a couple of alternative ends. My husband wanted the more dramatic end but my son liked this one. There was an ending which was much darker and my editor Chiki Sarkar and I kept arguing about it. When I started writing, this is the one that made most sense.
I’m the person who wants to start writing a book the day I finish one. I don’t like having that empty space in my head; it bothers me. I don’t know what to do with myself. Suddenly, I have so much time and I’m not used to having time. I have ideas, but of course, I’ll abandon them and start writing something else (smiles).
Writter by : Deepali Sharma