P.C.: Daboo Ratnani
Former actress, interior designer, columnist, film producer and author, Twinkle Khanna is a name that has been celebrated as a success in various fields but her recent book, Pyjamas Are Forgiving, the first fiction novel by the writer, proves her brilliance as one of the greatest storytellers of the country. After the success of her first two books, Mrs Funnybones, a book that emerged out of her columns by the same name and The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad, a collection of short stories, Khanna finally decided to dabble with the genre of fiction in her latest book and the result is an oeuvre that is packed with wit and charm and will keep you engaged and amused till the very end. With the release of the book this month, we had a chance to interview Twinkle Khanna regarding Pyjamas Are Forgiving, her relationship with writing and what does she plan to add next to her writing repertoire!
Former actress, interior designer, columnist, film producer and author. How has the journey been so far and what are the stories behind these transitions in your professional life?
I loved reading as a child and even today, with three books under my belt and five years of writing columns, I still think of myself as a reader more than a writer. It was in boarding school that I first began writing morbid poems. I always had a dream though that when I was sixty, my kids all grown up, I would move to Goa and I would write, it is mere fate that it happened in my forties. I never planned these transitions or any sort of career and aside from acting, I focused on the things that I had a great deal of interest in without really thinking about a career on those lines but eventually just by working at it, I reached the place I have.
Out of all these careers, which one defines you the most and why?
I love design as well as writing. My notebook in school was filled with poems as well as sketches of odd designs, three legged tables and sharp, ruby tipped glass necklaces, but if I had to really pick one out of the two I would choose writing as books have always given me joy and have been my greatest escapes.
How was the writer in you born or awakened?
I wrote half a book about a young girl who lives with her Ismali grandmother in my early twenties and then I didn’t write a single word for almost two decades and it was only when Sarita Tanwar asked me to write a column for her paper that I began writing again. She let this cow out of the pasture and now you have to deal with both the milk and the Gaumutra so blame her.
How has your relationship with writing been so far?
I enjoy the single minded focus, the state where everything else is just white noise, you’re in your mind but you’re still at a distance. You could say it’s akin to, in a strange way, maybe meditation. Because you’re in your mind, but you’re at a distance from your mind. You’re not involved in your emotions, but you’re feeling the things when you write.
Which authors or books were your early formative influences?
I used to be and still am a science fiction reader. Living in the world of probabilities has never been enough; I wanted to live in endless possibilities. Asimov, Philip K Dick, Ursula le Guin were all my favourites.
Pyjamas are Forgiving is your third book but this is your first fiction novel. How challenging was it to write it and what was your creative process behind the book?
The process between writing the three forms is not very different, aside from the time that you spend. What you’re trying to achieve is the same. I would say that even the things I’m talking about are the same – women and their place in the world. It’s just the time, a column takes me about five days as I like to write a little and mull over it a lot more, this book has taken me almost two years.
Your writing repertoire includes columns, a book that emerged out of your columns, short stories, a play that was born out of your short story and now a fiction novel. As a writer, which genre did you like writing the most and which genre was the most challenging?
I find writing the column the most challenging because in fiction I have many layers to hide behind and even though the column is partially fictional, it leaves me very little room to layer my opinions. I also write about social issues and politics and to make it humorous week after week is a bit difficult I feel.
While the book answers the question of why the title, Pyjamas are Forgiving, how did you come up with it and what was your personal intent as an author behind the title?
Literally because the story revolves largely around the physical presence of this piece of clothing. And figuratively about how we sometimes tend to be too accommodating and forgiving, and have a longer drawstring than we should.
You’ve already produced a movie, Pad Man, that has received a lot of critical acclamation. Would you venture into Direction? If so, what kind of movies would you like to make?
I don’t think I would venture into direction, but you never know, I seem to have a penchant for switching careers every seven years. People talk about the seven-year itch with regard to marriages, mine seems to be within my work life.
Lastly, what are you working on next and what are your future literary ambitions?
Currently, I am tinkering with a few ideas about a dystopian novel, I keep working at it and dropping it repeatedly because it is difficult to find humour in the middle of an apocalypse at least for me.
TEXT Nidhi Verma