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Lisa Ray: There’s no shame in the truth

The actor-turned-social activist’s debut book, Close to the Bone, is her memoir that describes her nomadic, philosophical, rebellious heart. The book also takes the reader up and close to her personal sphere.

bollywood Updated: May 24, 2019 18:33 IST
Henna Rakheja
Henna Rakheja
Hindustan Times
Lisa Ray,Cancer,Multiple myeloma
Actor Lisa Ray says the release of her debut book is bigger than a film release.

This “reluctant, accidental actor” is a self-confessed nomad and rebel. Besides her desire to be a writer some day, what fuelled her passion to write her recently released memoir was to share “the circumstances of life”, in the manner she wanted. The 47-year-old bodacious actor, model, television host, philanthropist and social activist has no qualms about stating the many life situations — including her fight with multiple myeloma and her love affairs — just as they happened. Lisa Ray’s debut book, Close to the Bone, is out and spine-chilling.

‘This is much bigger for me than a film release’

“My memoir is my memories and my story through my filter. I tried to write with grace and respect, my story from my vantage point. It’s hypocrisy in wearing a mask,” says Ray, declaring that “I never wanted to be an actress, I always wanted to be a writer. So, this is much bigger for me than a film release. How the story is told is as important to me as the story.”

“This book is not a cancer memoir. Part of my journey has been about being able to find the source of happiness and perseverance within me, rather than externally. And it led me to a lot of spiritual questioning, and to questioning a lot of the conditioning that we have in society. It led me to pose the questions, and not necessarily find the answers. I could hypothesize that some of my practices perhaps gave me a kind of resilience or a bank of courage to draw on. Also, not every part of life is meant to be fully understood, it’s just meant to be lived.”

Cover of Lisa Ray’s debut book.

‘How to explain that I never planned all this?’

Her life, as stated in the book, was lived with an eating disorder, and the insecurities that most of us face in our personal and professional lives. Yet, she chose to not bow down, and even today states that she has “zero regrets” about how she lived it starting from the age of 16 – when she entered the world of showbiz – until today where she’s married and has twin girls through surrogacy. “I own every single one of my experiences, and believe that there has been some kind of an unwritten design to my life and it was just up to me to surrender and go through it. I was never intent on a traditional career even though I was quite smart, and came from a background which was very academic (she was born to a Polish mother and a Bengali father), but I was very intent on challenging that. I believed that you can be smart and yet not fall into the trap of doing something in order to receive validation from the world. So I’ve wanted to challenge society’s conditioning of us. The way I fell into this line is very serendipitous. And that was another reason why I had to write the book. It’s very hard to explain to anyone today because the industry has changed so much. How [else] to explain to someone that I never planned all this?”

From talking about the time when actor Sanjay Dutt chased her down to offer her a role to the section where she mentions about her love affair with one Mr X — who apparently had some association with the underworld — she doesn’t shy away from stating things as they happened, and even states that in her relationship, she was the one who “would throw things”.

‘I don’t think I betrayed anybody’s trust’

“We have to stop playing the victim and take responsibility. There’s no shame in the truth. The truth can only pain you when there are certain things about yourself that you don’t want to confront. Part of growing in life is falling down and failing because otherwise I would not be the person that I am today, and I’m quite proud of who I am today,” says Ray, adding all this was in the past. “I’m writing about circumstances that happened 25-30 years ago. There’s a lot of water that’s gone under the bridge. I don’t think I betrayed anybody’s trust. We’ve all done things in our youth that we might look back on and say ‘Wow’, but that’s part of growing. Isn’t it? And I find this very irritating in India that people are so afraid of confronting the truth without anything to be honest. Let me put it this way, you wouldn’t ask that question if we were in the West because the memoir is considered to be about your life experiences, right? But fortunately India is also changing in terms of this… I’ve also changed names where necessary and only gone into my personal experiences.”

‘Nothing is wasted in life’

Lisa says she’s looking forward to her daughters reading the book when they grow up. Cuddling them in her arms, she says, “There’s absolutely nothing that I would ever wanna hide from them. I want my daughters to be brought up with love and the courage to be themselves, to make mistakes and to love themselves. The journey in my book is also from low self-esteem to self-love.”

And, what message would she write on their copy of the book? “Two things: One, I will reinforce this shloka that has become a central theme in my life: ‘Padma-patram ivāmbhasā (Live your life like the lotus flower)’. I would also emphasise the line, ‘Nothing is wasted in life’.

But, before her munchkins grow up, she hopes to write many more books. So, hail author Lisa Ray!

Interact with the author on Twitter/@HennaRakheja

First Published: May 24, 2019 18:30 IST