Review: “Mrs Funnybones” by Twinkle Khanna

Mrs Funnybones

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 “I’ve seen all your (very bad) movies” way.

While she hasn’t become a typical Bollywood homemaker, she isn’t strutting around all over Page 3 in her Manolos either. So how does the former “fat girl” that she admits still lives in her head, get so comfortable in her skin, especially in our self-conscious and judgmental Bollywood?

I think one safe assumption would be that she was born into it.  The book dedicated to her father, recalls an instance where 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 man of the house” shoots down with what the readers will come to recognise as a deadpan, 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 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 her skill in her narrative lies in the fact that when you turn to the last page, that is exactly how you feel. 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.  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 book a conversation and not yet another insider account of a glamorous life, a tell-all about how showbiz people are the worst, or, worst of all, a sanctimonious “how-to-have-it-all” guide.

I enjoyed this book for many reasons, it is endearing, funny and well-written.  But 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 “un-belong” 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-face apartment with a droll husband, haphazard household help, cantankerous neighbours, controlling yet scatty parents, demanding business associates and generic urban anxiety, induced and self-created–basically all the stuff that makes up all our lives and, surprisingly, Mrs Funnybones’.

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