Bollywood Journal: Rahul Khanna, the Wit of Twitter
by Beth Watkins
by Beth Watkins
In the last few years, Mr. Khanna has added some plum roles in well-done romances to his international and genre-defying resumé. He has also been using Twitter to win the affections of filmi fans who appreciate spelling, wit and the occasional goofy photo in online updates.
The Wall Street Journal’s India Real Time spoke with the actor about his unique use of Twitter, his multi-cultural filmography and his thoughts on the film industry. Edited excerpts:
WSJ: Your Twitter profile description —“boutique Bollywood actor”—manages to be evocative and self-aware and still within the confines of Twitter space limits.
Mr. Khanna: It was born out of necessity. When I meet new people, especially outside of India, and they learn I’m an actor in the Indian film industry, they always go, “Oh, so you must do 5-10 films a year.” It can get tedious trying to explain the esoteric space I occupy in such a prolific industry. I had been hearing the term “boutique” used to describe everything from hotels to investment companies and realized it was also quite apt for me. I decided to try using it and found it always got my point across—plus a good laugh.
WSJ: I assume you realize that your Twitter persona could be described as “the thinking woman’s crumpet,” to modify a description I once heard of Emma Thompson. It’s a niche that I don’t think anyone else in the Hindi film industry occupies—or even tries to, perhaps because they know they couldn’t do it. What do you like about using Twitter?
Mr. Khanna: Ha! Discerning are my favorite kind of women. They always have the best taste! I seriously feel I have the nicest Twitter followers. I hear so many horror stories from celebrity friends about how they get bombarded by abusive, inappropriate tweets on a daily basis but I’ve never experienced that. Although I don’t tweet that frequently, I really enjoy the dynamic I have with my followers. We seem to “get” each other and make each other laugh. It’s like a perfect relationship. I know so many of my followers by name and/or profile picture and have often bumped into them at events, airports and walking down the street in various countries. One young lady even flew from Germany to Bombay to meet me.
For a long time I flailed around, trying to find a comfortable platform where I could share information and be accessible to people who were interested in me and I feel fortunate to have finally found my “niche,” so to speak, on Twitter. It appeals to the minimalist in me: It’s clean, uncomplicated and allows plenty of control and privacy. It’s a very civilized way to have a web presence and it has certainly opened up many new doors for me. This interview is testament to that. Given my dismal relationship with stocks and shares, who’d have imagined I’d ever make it to The Wall Street Journal?
WSJ: Have you ever hit the “tweet” button and then thought “Uh-oh, what have I just done?”
Mr. Khanna: Every single time. I’m a bit OCD and I spend quite a bit of time composing and checking a tweet before I click send. In spite of which, about 80% of the time, after posting, I think of a better way of saying something and wish I could go back and edit it. My worst Twitter nightmare is realizing too late that I’ve posted a tweet with an incorrect spelling or a missing apostrophe.
WSJ: What’s the funniest or most surprising exchange you’ve had on Twitter?
Mr. Khanna: One time I had a cold and I tweeted “Perhaps I can use my recovery time to write books under the nom de plume, Ian Phlegming. Should I start with ‘A View to a Chill’ or ‘Coldfinger’?” It prompted a hilarious flood of suggestions from followers like: “You Only Sneeze Twice,” “License to (Ny)Quil,” “The World is Not Cough,” “From Ranbaxy with Love,” “The Man with the Cold ‘N’ Pun.” I remember laughing hysterically at those.
WSJ: You’re a person who chooses his words carefully. What do you think of the term “Bollywood?” Do titles like “I Hate Luv Storys” give you the heebie-jeebies?
Mr. Khanna: I don’t have a problem with “Bollywood” at all. It’s silly but is now a globally recognized brand name and is here to stay. I do hate SMS abbreviations, though and, most of all, those ridiculous numerology spellings, which make me cringe. But I also firmly believe in live and let live.
WSJ: What do you think of the kinds of writing we’ve seen in films lately, especially since you’ve been in “Love Aaj Kal” and “Wake Up Sid,” both of which are examples of the really nicely done romances in the last few years?
Mr. Khanna: I am a big advocate of fully developed scripts. I love ambiguity in art but not behind the scenes and I really need organization to be able to focus. I think one of the reasons I never dove headfirst into the mainstream Bollywood deep end at the beginning of my career was that I was scared off by projects that wanted to start without a finished script. The prospect of negotiating dialogues written on set and vague scheduling were terrifying to me. A lot of people were baffled and offended that what was such standard practice at the time would be an issue for me and felt that I thought I was too good for it. But, to me, it just seemed like starting a building without a blueprint and I was concerned it would be difficult for me to deliver under those circumstances. I am overjoyed to see that changing today. Filmmakers are spending months, if not years, developing scripts and, as a result, we’re seeing so much more nuance, refinement and variety on screen.
Beth Watkins has been blogging for more than five years at Beth Loves Bollywood. She is an expert on Bollywood history and lore as well as contemporary movies and actors. You can follow Ms. Watkins on Twitter at @BethLovesBolly.
Original interview: http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2012/09/24/bollywood-journal-rahul-khanna-the-wit-of-twitter/