The laddoo of the prom

mohini chaudhuri | Updated on January 22, 2018 Published on August 28, 2015

Stand apart: Twinkle Khanna can often appear an aberration in the glitz of Bollywood

Mrs Funnybones; Twinkle Khanna; Penguin; ₹299

With her straight-talking and no-nonsense ways, Twinkle Khanna wants to prove that she can be just like any other woman riding an autorickshaw

Being an overweight child is probably the best thing that ever happened to Twinkle Khanna. Having a name like Twinkle comes a close second. The teasing and bullying left her no choice but to develop a quick-witted personality as a defence mechanism. “Who has heard of the prom queen after the prom? Nobody! Because she doesn’t develop anything... except maybe breasts,” says Khanna, explaining why she was better off likened to a laddoo. She makes a valid argument. At 41, she is one of the most widely read humour columnists in the country and has now turned author with the launch of her debut book, Mrs Funnybones. Her latest avatar as writer is in addition to her flourishing career as an interior decorator, and a less-successful one as an actress. “I’ve blocked out that part of my life,” she says of her film career, over a cup of black coffee at her store The White Window in Bandra, Mumbai.

It’s the beginning of a manic day for Khanna. After our conversation she has an online interaction with readers, and then an appointment at her son’s school. As she juggles all of this, her lunch remains untouched in a small bag. “I’ve been trying to catch up on my children’s school work because I’ve missed out this entire week. This junket has left me a little brain-dead. It was my two-year-old daughter’s show-and-tell in school yesterday and I didn’t know what to send, so I gave her my book,” she says, laughing at her ingenious solution.

Khanna has studiously kept away from the media glare for years now, but her re-invention as Mrs Funnybones — a moniker she came up with for Twitter because her own name wasn’t available — has put her back in the forefront. Her star husband, Akshay Kumar, who was promoting his film Brothers recently told her with a giggle, “‘This is like Abhimaan. They’re asking me more about you.’”

In many ways, Khanna seems like an aberration in the society she was born in and married into. One would have expected her book to resemble the fashion magazine covers she graces occasionally. Or that she’d at least dole out pointers on how to look ‘fab at 40’, or be a fashionable mother of two. But she insisted on an illustration of her riding an autorickshaw, her mane flying wildly in the wind and her two children peeping out curiously. “I felt putting my face on the cover would take away from what the book was about. It is not really as much about me as it is about a normal woman who lives in India. Our country is so unique that it doesn’t matter that your economic backgrounds are different, because you experience the same things in varying degrees. So if I have four staff members who are driving me mad, my accountant will have one bai who is driving her mad,” she says.

If she had her way, Khanna would have made her debut with a “sober book about a pre-Partition family”. But then her publishers convinced her to extend her columns — vignettes from her life which she deftly ties up with larger issues of government policy and social taboos. About two years back, when she started writing her column, Khanna admits her editor was expecting juicy material on the world of showbiz. Though she found that topic too uninspiring to write about, she occasionally entertains with her hilarious insights into the world of society ladies. A world she frequents at times. “There are some mandatory things that every society lady has to do, like their hair is always blow-dried, they are always well-dressed, and they love carrying these designer bags. I’m not like that. But can I adjust to that situation? Of course. I can slip into that role and slip out of it just as easily,” she says. Khanna’s introduction at the beginning of the book even states that she ‘narrowly escaped a gruesome tragedy when Bollywood tried to bludgeon her brain to the size of a pea’.

Her straight-talking ways may be a new discovery for the public, but her friends seem accustomed to her quick wit. At the launch of her book last week, her friend and one-time co-star Aamir Khan described her as someone “who insults everybody”. Khanna says her sharp tongue was the bane, especially during her acting days. “At the time there were a lot of dodgy producers from the underworld and I had no clue. Once while doing a movie I came late to the set. So I screamed saying, ‘What will you do to me? Will you stab me? Will you kill me?’ Everyone around me was horrified. They probably thought, ‘Yes! He will kill you!’”

It’s no wonder then that her column goes through many rounds of proofing before making it to print. Her husband sees the first draft. On most days he thinks she’s their in-house Salman Rushdie, but he has made her remove words such as ‘lotus’ and ‘penis’ from her column. “Just yesterday I had a column on godmen and I had to remove an entire paragraph. It was really funny,” she rues. “But I’m okay with it. Next thing you know, I’ll have a case on me,” she adds.

Yet, she feels that for someone with a tendency to shoot her mouth off, writing is the perfect fit. “My ideologies are not warped,” she explains. “But I talk too fast. Writing allows me time to refine these thoughts, so that I’m not hurting anyone’s feelings but am getting my point across,” she says. If initial reactions to the book are to be believed, Mrs Funnybones has achieved precisely that.

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Published on August 28, 2015
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