Her home in suburban Mumbai, in a by-lane close to the ISKCON temple, is undoubtedly driven by her sense of aesthetics as is evident the moment I am ushered into its well-appointed interiors. I spot the former star and now star-wife cum interior designer, Twinkle Khanna and my first impression is one of subtle harmony and quiet sophistication – it is clear that she has matured into a much-watched style icon.
Khanna disappears for a short while in the bedroom behind her. I spend the time taking in the small water bowl with floating flowers in a corner, the multi-hued dining table, the benign Buddha and other accessories that make the place a loved home. She returns, freshly bathed, wrapped in a pink gown, settles down in a brightly lit area that looks out on to the garden and invites me to do the same. Her profile appears more classical than it did in her movies – she is very much the elegant lady of the home, but she is much more than ‘the ladies who lunch’. The sartorial star-turned interior designer gets into conversation mode, after discussing her look, (smoky eyes et al) and clothes selection with our fashion director, Nisha Jhangiani.
She is adept at defining and doing her own make-up, something she picked up when she got bored, waiting on the sets. But, the more interior designer now than fanatic fashionista, says, “I do not follow trends. My sense of aesthetics comes from my regular work, for every day I am working with structure, colour and texture and automatically that starts reflecting in the way I dress. So, if I am doing clashing prints on couches, then that is what I will wear. Right now, I am in a clean cut space in my work and that is probably the way I am dressing too.”
Though she grew up in a women-dominated household, she was not driven by a desire to dress beautiful. Khanna insists, “I was a tomboy. I lived in one pair of jeans and was happy. I had no sense of style at that time. My mum (Dimple Kapadia) is extremely stylish in the way she dresses and how she keeps her home. I was a rebellious teenager; I wanted to be the opposite of what she was. It is when you reach the age of 30 that you realise that a mother is always right.”
For a long time her mom despaired of her daughter’s sense of dressing. Khanna remarks, “In our family my sister (Rinke) is the well dressed one. So, Mum laughs when people come and tell her that I am so well turned out because in her mind I am still stuck at 13. It’s okay as long as I can make her laugh about something. While I was growing up I looked more at structures. In Dad’s house, the architecture was lovely. It had corridors and big windows, with ivy growing all around.”
As I look at her getting ready for our shoot – slipping into her ‘look’ with ease – I swiftly rewind to her innings as an actor (in films like Barsaat, Mela, Jab Pyar Kisi Se Hota Hai, Baadshah and more) and wonder aloud why she did not take to the industry like a fish to water. After all, given her looks and genes, it would have been a natural progression for her to continue acting. Khanna, known for her frank speaking, ripostes in her characteristic vein, “I don’t think I was made to act. As a person I am too blunt. You need to be slightly diplomatic to be able to act. And as far as appearances go, I pride myself on my brains more than the way I look. My brain is a hurricane but it is a very clever hurricane. That matters more to me. The way I look is temporary. And there is no reason why I should miss films. I have married into a film family, the lifestyle is the same. I meet the same people, go to the same places. What I did not like has been left behind.”
No wonder then she does not really miss the silver screen. For it is evident that she looked upon it as a means to an end and not the end in itself. Khanna admits, “I needed to make a living; we were this household of women working and living on our own terms.”
Today, catch her at fashion shows or at red-carpet events with Akshay, and her look is complete – she is often watched to see what she wears. Laughing at the compliment, Khanna says, “Even today, on a daily basis, I just wear jeans, with mostly a kurta. When I go on sites, it is nice to look invisible. But when I do the red-carpet thing, I do everything – the big hair, the smoky eyes, heels…you name it! I am a Capricorn-born. So, we bloom late in life. It has taken me time to do things. I couldn’t walk in heels. I couldn’t drive around without bumping. Then suddenly I was in my 30s and I could wear heels, drive around without bumping. It is just something that kicked in – perhaps a few neurons that were left undeveloped.”
For her, true fulfillment, work wise, has come from her interior designing. Having set up The White Window, Khanna also did projects for others, travelling across the country and the globe for the same. “That is true,” she emphasises. “It was the only job I ever had. When I was small I wanted to design jewellery. When I grew up, I liked slightly bigger things. I even worked as a site supervisor for two years. You are doing all the dirty jobs in the world but it was nice.”
Just recently she won her third design award from a magazine for her work in the field, proving that ‘you know you are on the right path’. Has being Twinkle Khanna helped or hindered her growth in the field? She replies, “In the beginning it was a drawback. People have this misconception that actresses are not intellectual or educated. But when you have been in a profession for 10 years people know your work. So being me helps.”
All grown up now and more conscious of her likes and dislikes, Khanna admits that like all husbands and wives, Akshay Kumar and she have moulded each other. “I don’t think he has influenced me in fashion or style. But definitely as a person I am more stable and calm because of living with him and Aarav. Akshay is very patient, I am impatient. I don’t really think I influenced his style. I pull out his clothes the way I pull out my son’s clothes. It is a very normal thing. I think almost every wife does that.”
Think clothes and fashion moments and one that stands out in memory is that of Akshay walking the ramp and going up to Twinkle – the next few moments when she played with the zip were recorded for posterity. Khanna rewinds to the controversy it created, saying, “I had no clue what was going to happen. I was sitting there very quietly. Just 30 seconds before the lights went off, they told me he was going to come and stand in front of me. I am a shy person. He had to pull my hand in front. It is something we will always remember. ”
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