It’s been a while since a book made me laugh out loud. So imagine my surprise that the one that made me do so was by a star wife! Aren’t they usually written about rather than writing themselves?
Referred to sometimes as the benign, glamorous presence behind the movie star husband, the one that holds on to his arm and delicately shifts out of the camera frame when the press vociferously demand solo shots. Or the manipulative, all controlling shrews who troll film sets and pick out their husband’s clothes and
Twinkle Khanna, a former actress turned interior decorator turned writer, lets you know early on in her book that she is done with showbiz, decisively so. It doesn’t creep into her reminiscences, it doesn’t colour her present and it only ever sneaks into her future when she makes a wry assumption about the prodigal son – in case he ever wants to join the family business. This is a woman who has moved on, as much as she can being married to who she is. And here’s the other thing, she’s just too much fun, in a self deprecating, off the cuff way, that makes you feel like you’ve known her for years and not in the spot a celebrity way.
While she doesn’t quite slink out off the Manolos, she isn’t strutting around all over the pages in them either. How does the former fat girl that she admits still lives in her head, get so comfortable in her skin, especially in self conscious, judgmental Bollywood?
I think one safe assumption would be that she was born into it. The book dedicated to her father, recalls an instance when an all knowing auto driver relates an alleged family feud back to her about her own family and their sea facing property, drawing Mrs Funnybones into an existential third person angst that the Mister shoots down with what readers will come to recognise as a dead pan, deliciously tactless and practical Delhi style. It is a telling incident in the book, reflecting the “otherness” the young girl anointed with the comical name and born to famous parents must have felt and still does. And how in many ways this book is really about finally being herself; that is where the subtext gets you, with its honesty and uncharacteristically good natured take on life.
Twinkle Khanna, born to famous film stars and married to one, is not someone you would empathise or identify with and yet the skill in her narrative lies in the fact that when you turn the last page, that is exactly how you feel about her and her life. How does she pull it off? Early on in filmy fashion she distances herself from the “autobiographical” nature of the book, its embellishments she warns, people real and somewhat imagined are not entirely true to her life. But she is only being thoughtful and to be fair to her, the most brutal honesty comes when she writes about herself or her alter ego – Mrs Funnybones, then she is as real as the girl you ride the metro with or your 2 am friend, she dips in and out of intimacy with effortless ease… telling you as much as she wants to and sometimes telling you too much! But that is what makes this a book a conversation and not some insider account of a glamorous life, or a tell all about show biz people or worst of all – a sanctimonious “how to have it all” guide.
The reader will enjoy this book for many reasons, it is endearing, real and well written. But for this reader what makes it special is the casual way in which it addresses the human preoccupation with belonging – one that we all experience – be it to our parents, our careers, our bodies, our partners or their families. It is this eternal quest to belong and yet unbelong in order to preserve who we truly are, that is the seed of this book. A seed firmly planted in the mind of a young girl who grew up in the world of mirages and finally found her nook in a sea front apartment with a droll husband (increasingly emulated by his son), haphazard household help, cantankerous neighbors, controlling yet scatty parents, demanding business associates and generic urban anxiety induced and self created – basically all the stuff that makes up our lives and surprisingly Mrs Funnybones.
Is it any wonder then that this entire piece was written without mentioning the superstar husband by name? Since Mrs Funnybones humour can sometimes veer to the scatological (reference: diapers), it is safe to say that this is one “plug” she doesn’t need!