Sunday, January 10, 2016

Book Review :: Mrs Funnybones

Mrs FunnybonesMrs Funnybones by Twinkle Khanna
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This review was first published in The Hans India.

Had this book been written by a person not so famous it wouldn’t have been well received. It is also this very reason that the book garners interest. Twinkle Khanna, former actress born into a superstar family and married to a superstar husband; Indians love to peek inside celebrity lives. It is also why most reviews come for Twinkle and not the book per se. But, let’s try to keep it to the book.

There can be no doubt from “Mrs Funnybones: She’s Just Like You and A Lot Like Me” that Twinkle Khanna is intelligent and witty. Establishing early on that she’s done with her acting life that comes from her husband, the superstar, Akhsay Kumar saying, “You can’t act” and her agreeing to it, Twinkle has donned the role of a modern wife, who works in her swanky office, takes care of her kids (one of whom is still in diapers) and vacations abroad every June. But, she is far from being “just like us”. She belongs to the elitist group and it isn’t easy for the average “modern Indian woman” to relate to her experiences. However, the book is mostly about being a mother. And, that is where most women can probably relate to her words.

There isn’t anything striking that stays with the reader throughout, except perhaps her witty advice when it comes to marriage and in-laws. Things like, “After fourteen years of matrimony, I have discovered that hoping your other half telepathically reads your mind only leads to someone wanting to punch the other in the face”, “If you know how to cook, it is rather useful to pretend otherwise, unless you want to be periodically nagged by snotty children to make their messy and time-consuming favourite dishes right up to the day you get Alzheimer’s and luckily forget the recipe along with your name” and finally the best of all, “All you mummyjis (that is mothers-in-law) beware! If your daughter-in-law claims that she loves you like her own mother, then daal mein kuch kaala hai and that little black spot could very well be rat poison” are words to live by.

There can be no doubt that Twinkle is smart. She very casually mentions her IQ being 145, reads sci-fi, mostly Asimov, and references Nolan’s Interstellar when talking about her time “wasted” on Twitter. And of course, the notorious “denim jeans button-opening incident” is mentioned as a matter-of-fact when a case was filed against her for indecency. Her cleverness shines here as she mentions her side of the story and actually gets the reader to empathise with her. Well played, Twinkle!


Presentation wins
More than the writing, it is the presentation of the book that wins. There is no sequence to any chapters. It is a witty banter bound with the English alphabet, so we have 26 chapters, each with one letter of the alphabet starting the title. The subtext is feminism and it is very cleverly represented through the artwork at the beginning of each chapter. The ladies are curvy, sometimes fat and not perfect, once again trying to win the readers through connection.

However, there is such a thing as too much self-degrading humour and after a point the words become repetitive and predictive. The repeated use of “blimey” and “point to be taken milord” doesn’t lend to the funniness either.

The book has been released under the humour genre. And, Twinkle manages to get a couple of chuckles here and there and a soft smile at the end but, at its core it is about being a mother and what stays with the readers is the incident when her son has high fever late in the night; the man of the house is giving him cold sponges in spite of having to be at a shoot early in the morning, yet asking her to sleep and she writes, "As my eyes are shutting, I think about the word ‘love’. It is not your heart beating fast when you look at him or constantly wanting to be with the other person. Love in any relationship, family or an intimate friendship, is only about putting the other person’s needs ahead of your own, and that, my friend, is just as simple and as complex as you make it”.

Simple, yet profound.

Sure, the book is clich├ęd and filled with self-deprecating humour (a little too much of it). The reader is left with a picture of a privileged life, bustling with activity and the perks of being a star wife who travels a lot and has the “normal” responsibilities of raising children amidst paparazzi, diapers and a mummy ji who calls herself the tigress of the house.

But, the book proves to be a light-hearted much-needed break for readers whose life is filled with heavy routine, nagging relatives, demanding jobs or marriage to laugh at nonsensical random stuff. It isn’t really a “book” book. However, this could be the beginning of seeing India’s likes to towards popular feminist humour books much to the likes of Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Mindy Kaling. It’s a quick read and at the end, it’s all about having some fun.



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