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Monday, Sep 16, 2019

Twinkle Khanna, Amish Tripathi speak on how writing can be means to usher in societal changes

Twinkle Khanna was a leading Bollywood actor and Amish Tripathi a banker before they took up writing full time. Both gave their valuable insights at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit 2018.

htls Updated: Oct 06, 2018 07:35 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
New Delhi
Author, columnist and film producer Twinkle Khanna with author Amish Tripathi during the session ‘Reimagining Fiction’.
Author, columnist and film producer Twinkle Khanna with author Amish Tripathi during the session ‘Reimagining Fiction’. (Vipin Kumar/HT Photo)

“I do not want your compliments, I want your sales,” actor-turned-writer Twinkle Khanna told Amish Tripathi at the 16th Hindustan Times Leadership Summit on Friday. The two best-selling authors, Khanna and Tripathi, spoke about how the shift from their respective professions to writing came naturally to them.

Khanna was a leading Bollywood actor and Tripathi a banker before they took up writing full time. Her books, Mrs Funnybones and The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad, were best-sellers and her third book, Pyajamas are Forgiving, released recently. Tripathi’s The Shiva Trilogy was the fastest selling book series in Indian publishing history.

“People have a concept about identity that it is rigid. But to my mind it is fluid… as you go along you keep evolving,” said Khanna about her shift from acting to writing. For Tripathi, banking was a “practical and pragmatic” career choice.

“I was always passionate about reading. I was never creative. I was not aspiring to be a writer. I was writing for myself,” he explained, adding that he took up writing full time only when his earning from his books matched his salary.

In the session titled Reimagining Fiction in keeping with the larger theme for this year’s summit — Reimagining the Future — the two discussed gender roles and expectations and the position of women in society.

Khanna said she needed a ‘wife’ because though she woke up at the same time in the morning as Tripathi, she could not follow the routine that she had read Tripathi did — puja, reading newspapers over cream biscuits and then listening to music before getting down to writing. “Because obviously there is some woman running about… sending the kids to school (while he is doing this),” Khanna said.

And even though she is currently among India’s best-selling authors, she said, “Two writers whose books sell more than mine are this gentleman sitting here in the red shirt (Tripathi) and Chetan (Bhagat),” in a conversation with CNN-NEWS 18 consulting editor Anuradha Sengupta. Khanna underlined that gender cannot be taken out of the equation as India’s “best-selling authors have always been two men — Valmiki and Ved Vyas (two sages credited with having written the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata)”.

The two spoke about the role of literature and writers in rebuilding society and how they take up that challenge.

Both writers, in their different styles, said they captured reality in their writings. Khanna often does it with humour, which she described as “nothing but the intrinsic truth”. While Tripathi, whose books are a retelling of Indian mythology, spoke about the need to learn from our culture. “We should use the past to power the future,” said Tripathi, as he spoke of the country’s cultural heritage and liberalism often found in our ancient scriptures.

They said they tried to inspire constructive change through their writings – whether it was Khanna’s push for menstrual health in a short story inspired by the life of Arunachalam Muruganathan that formed a part of the collection, The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad, which was later adapted into a film Padman, starring husband Akshay Kumar. In Tripathi’s case, it was the retelling of Sita’s story in the Ram Chandra series; his second after the hit Shiva trilogy.

Khanna said she has spoken in support of former actor Tanushree Dutta, who has accused actor Nana Patekar and director Vivek Agnihotri of sexual misconduct. She stressed that harassment of any kind should be addressed. Khanna underlined the problem exists everywhere and should be addressed as such. Tripathi added that any industry whether that of books, media or films should be careful of the message they send across. “In many ways, Hindi films, for example, have normalised stalking…,” he said.

Khanna seemed in no mood to let her fellow panellist escape without some questions of her own. “How do you get your cream biscuits?” she asked Tripathi. “I have an app on my phone to order it and readers at Lit Fests, too, often bring me some,” he responded.

First Published: Oct 06, 2018 07:35 IST