Conversing with Jayant Kripalani is like going down memory lane. The actor-writer, who was in the city for Pune International Literary Festival 2017, has recently launched his second book Cantilevered Tales, published by Readomania.
When we caught up with him at a city hotel on Saturday afternoon, Kripalani informed us that he is already working on his third book, but refused to divulge details.
Coming back to Cantilevered Tales, the book, he said is a sequence of thoughts. “I started writing this book after moving back to Kolkata. I had great fun when I was living in that side of Howrah. I used to commute by bus or train and met lot of people. One day I was sitting in a bus and a 25-year-old boy called Khokon was sitting next to me. In a disgusting voice, he said something which sounded offensive but funny. That got me curious. When we got off the bus, we got talking and I came to know that he was a clerk at the high court.”
“Khokon was stuck in my head. Years later, I connected with him and he told about his case. There’s a waterfall near in his house in Santragachhi which the builder was trying to take away. Later, while writing, I mixed these facts and created the characters of Khokon and his mother who were fighting against the builder.”
Kripalani, who has worked in films like Rockford, Ru Ba Ru,and 3 Idiots among others, says that the characters in the book are like cantilevers. “They are grounded but are slightly crazy,” he describes.
Kripalani adds that though his characters look real, they are fictional. “I have met thousands of people over the years. All my characters are composites of these people. I give them a history and a background. Like there is a character called Bongshi in my novel who is a mix of six to seven people I had met, Khokon himself is a composite of three people,” says Kripalani whose first book Tales of New Market was launched in 2013.
“My book is a series of short stories and characters who have a back story. Everything makes for the bigger picture,” says the writer.
Ask him if he consciously chooses nuances of one person and fits them into a character, and Kripalani says that it happens on a subconscious level. “If I have this government clerk in mind whom I had met in the past, I put him as a secretary in the Writer’s Building. I have met people at the Writer’s Building and I know how they react or work. While writing, I don’t form their lives, it happens automatically. Having said that, I know where my story is going,” says Kripalani, adding that he sits at his desk regularly from 5-9.30 am and just writes.
The Bengal connection
Though Kripalani has spent a major part of his life as an actor in Mumbai, he continues to capture West Bengal, specially Kolkata, in his books. Both his books are based in and around the city. “What happens to you when you are young affects you more. The first 30 years of my life I have lived in Kolkata and North Bengal. Those memories keep coming back because they never die. The memories you create at the latter stage of life do not stay with you because they are work-related or because you are busy trying to make money for a living. The time you spent in your para (locality), experiences like these are aways enjoyable and memorable,” says Kripalani.
But doesn’t he wish to write about his acting days? “There is this publisher who wants me to write about my life in television but it’s boring. Television is all about waiting for the next shot. It’s dull, the lines you read are worse and you are waiting in your vanity van for 12 hours to shoot a five-minute shot. I found life passing me by in television and I wasn’t getting any younger. So one day, I left it with no remorse or regret,” he adds.
Staying away from acting
The actor says that though he loves acting, he is not doing TV or films because of his growing age. “I find it difficult to remember my lines, can’t deliver on time and the cuing is wrong. There’s a phrase in the business, ‘hitting the mark’ but I kept missing the mark to help my costar and give my shot. So I thought to myself, ‘just leave it’,” says the actor who will start directing his play in December, which he has also written.