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Twinkle Khanna: a Bollywood girl crush worth having

Devika Bakshi | Updated on: 15 June 2015, 2:58 IST

I'm having some strong feelings about Twinkle Khanna. There are other Bollywood-related things worth feeling strongly about - Kangana Ranaut's chronic underratedness, Amitabh Bachchan's chronic overratedness, Fawad Khan's facial hair - but there's usually a fairly low glass ceiling to how strongly one can feel. Khanna has Superman-punched her way right through that ceiling this week.

It's not just about that straight-talking column on the AIB roast; it's the whole package - her ready wit, the consummate ease with which she negotiates the public eye, her air of all-round competence and refusal to be ruffled.

All of this, I confess, comes as a complete surprise to me. I hadn't spared much thought for Khanna since Baadshah fifteen years ago. This is, of course, a prime example of the soft bigotry of low expectations and I am guilty as charged. That I am impressed by her ability to turn a phrase and her evidently robust reading habits says more about me than her - I'm just one more schmuck surprised that she is a smart, savvy human woman. I'm glad to be shown up.

Twinkle is too clever to have persisted in becoming a late-'90s celluloid mannequin

Twinkle is the daughter of Famous Actors Rajesh Khanna and Dimple Kapadia. She's best friends with Celebrity Director Karan Johar. She drifted inevitably into Bollywood, but didn't make it. She then got married to Movie Star Akshay Kumar and stopped trying.

This does not seem like a happy story. Khanna's go-to anecdote about her decision to quit films and get married - she left it to the fate of her film Mela - doesn't quite go down the right way either: it has an unfortunate undertone of 'those who can't do, marry'.

But consider Khanna's version, in her own words: "She narrowly escaped a gruesome tragedy when Bollywood tried to bludgeon her brain to the size of a pea, but she ducked at the right moment and escaped miraculously unharmed."

Just this sentence makes two things plain: one, she's too clever to have persisted in becoming a late-'90s celluloid mannequin, and two, she does not see her brief season in cinema as a failure.

Khanna is just not running that race. She is not a standard-issue trophy wife with a lapsed film career - she's a sharp, funny woman who happens to be in the public eye and is relatively untortured about it. In fact, she's using it as material.

Her best gags, whether on Twitter or in her columns, are little family sitcoms in which she is usually ribbing her children or rolling her eyes at her husband's celebrity (one description of Kumar's morning exercise routine is particularly hilarious), but she also makes a wide-range of solid topical quips on everything from the Minister's new suit to the absurdity of godmen.

All this may not be new, but it is refreshing. It is satisfying for the same reason as are award-show goof-ups and red-carpet feminism: because it so pointedly punctures the facade of bland glamour and indifferent composure that characterises celebrity culture. It is natural that she should speak in favour of the AIB roast: the best evidence we have of a shift in Bollywood celebrity culture away from self-seriousness.

Khanna seems poised to be the rational voice in la-la land, and what a droll voice it is.

First published: 23 May 2015, 16:59 IST
Devika Bakshi @devikabakshi

Senior correspondent at Catch, Devika specialises in furnishing the office with quality coffee. Previously: staff writer at Open magazine, waitress and student of Comparative Literature. Generally preoccupied with climate change, usually reassured by mid-20th century American music. Loves podcasts and tomatoes. Moonlights as a student of Spanish and is frequently mistaken for an owl.