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February 23, 1999


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The little star

V S Srinivasan

Twinkle Khanna. Click for bigger pic!
Few realise how hard it is to make it single-handedly in the industry. And even fewer know that it is far more daunting to have parents who have lorded over that very industry. Expectations are higher, rejection comes quicker, and frustration and defeat are just waiting to catch up, it seems.

That is what Twinkle Khanna, daughter of Rajesh Khanna and Dimple Kapadia, is dealing with right now.

Now with her younger sister Rinke Khanna too being launched in Pyar Mein Kabhi Kabhi, Twinkle is very edgy. However with three good films -- Mela with Aamir Khan, Zulmi and International Khiladi with Akshay Kumar -- slated to hit the marquee in the next few months, Twinkle hopes she makes the grade before it is too late.

As far as we have seen, Twinkle looks a star. Silken hair, flawless skin, shapely body and a posture plucked right out off the ramp.... But somehow she hasn't become the pin-up special that makes for a top Bollywood star.

"No one has ever told me that I act badly. It is just that most of the films I did didn't click," she said when we met her. She was clad in a modest soft blue salwar kameez and answered questions easily.

But, never known for garrulity, she ensured the conversation stuck to matters non-controversial, like her films and if she drifted into the personal, she only dwelt on the comparisons she is subjected to.

She started off talking about Barsaat her debut film she paired in opposite Bobby Deol.

"Barsaat was a wonderful experience but it took a long time in the making and that got very tedious."

With Ajay Devgan. Click for bigger pic!
She remembers how as a 13-year-old she used to watch films her parents starred in and wonder what they did there.

"Now I know what it feels to be there. You always want to be cuddled and fondled when you are a kid. You hate being yelled at and slapped. But when you get a smack, everything changes. It makes you aware of reality. And she uses a personal example to make her point.

"When it came to handling Chinky -- or Rinke, my kid sister -- I was very protective. I used to carry her in my arms. But sometimes, I used to toss her up in the air and then catch her. Once, I was suddenly distracted when I threw her up and she fell down with a thud. Even though she fell on the bed, mummy was aghast and slapped me across my face.

"Initially I cried a lot because I felt that mom didn't love me, but then I realised the truth after a few hours and apologised...." Similarly, she says, the cold douche of a few flops has made her aware of reality.

But she is clearly off on a nostalgic tangent by now, and proceeds to tell of the time she punched Amjad Khan's son Shadab Khan in the nose.

"It was in school. I was selected to be an Arabian princess with a veil and all. Mummy and papa were both there in the audience and I was very tense. Suddenly, my veil slid off my head. Even as I was trying to bend sideways and pick it up, Shadab Khan came in from the wings, picked up the veil and put it back on my head.

"People found it amusing that a boy could actually come up on stage to do that. I was embarrassed and punched him on his nose after the play."

Click for bigger pic!
Demands were always high on her, she says. And when she returned home with 84 per cent in her SSC, the family wasn't pleased.

"My mom told me that I could have done better. So did my father. They weren't too pleased that I had just got 84 per cent.... It's so important that you live up to the expectation of near and dear ones."

Now she finds she has to live with the expectations of audiences.

"A normal non-star kid would have been happy with a launch opposite Bobby, a hit with Ajay like Jaan, a hit like Jab Pyar Kisise Hota Hai with Salman Khan, even a flop likeItihaas. But not me. I have greater ambitions. People expect more from me."

How does she feel now that Rinke is going to be competing with her?

"Not very different. Rinke is a very different actress. I don't think there'll be any competition. Both of us even look different. She is a much better actress, having trained under Satyadev Dubey. Even I'll be doing a couple of plays now.... I'm also into watching many plays now. I'm honing my skills."

But at one time we know that she wasn't even sure if she wanted to be an actress. So how did she get into the rut, we asked.

"See, if you have Rajesh Khanna as your father and Dimple Kapadia as your mother, you wouldn't ask me this question," she replied, a little testily. Then she changes her mind.

"Okay, see, everyone knew that I would make an entry into films, so offers started coming in the day I took admission in college. But I wasn't too keen then. I refused many offers and told mummy not to entertain anyone on my behalf. But then my friends -- and everyone else -- advised me to take the plunge.

With Salman Khan. Click for bigger pic!
"I thought about it and agreed to do it. I went and told mom I wanted to act in films and I had to be launched."

It wasn't long before the Deols heard that the sprite was willing and offered Twinkle a role opposite Bobby that Karisma Kapoor had just dropped.

"The Barsaat screen test wasn't just easy. Director Shekhar Kapur watched the nervous Twinkle walked in, clad in a ghagra choli and then blandly told her that her first line was 'I love you'. Twinkle muffed it.

"I did it so atrociously, that I laugh about it whenever I'm reminded of it. Otherwise, Barsaat was a film anyone would have loved for a launch.

"Once you come here, it's like being baptised. Your life changes from that moment. You start getting the feel of money, fame power and what not. I still remember when I got my fees for Barsaat I ran into a car showroom and purchased a Maruti Esteem. I treasure that car more than anything else in the world."

So what now?

"As I said earlier, I don't want to take on much pressure. I'm not really buckling under pressure, but don't you think it's wrong to describe me or see as a physical and mental extension of my mother or father?

"I'm a different person who's not my father or my mother. I want to be treated differently from them. I am myself, Twinkle Khanna. I am proud of being the daughter of such illustrious parents, but I would not like to be compared with them time and again..."

"Even a child likes to be treated as an individual and I am a much more mature person and actress. I'll prove myself -- soon."

Tough act to follow

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