In Conversation with Jayant Kripalani

If you’ve been around since the 1980’s, then you would need no introduction to Jayant Kripalani. In fact, you would most likely have admired his various onscreen performances over the years. Nonetheless, I can’t stop myself from sharing a brief introduction of him, with you.

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An Indian film, television and stage actor, writer, and director, he is known for his performances in television series such as Khandaan, Mr. Ya Mrs., and Ji Mantriji. He has played character roles in movies like Heat and Dust, Rockford, Jaane Tu. . . Ya Jaane Na, 3 Idiots and, most recently, Hawaizaada and The Hungry.
He has directed and produced a number of films, is actively involved with theatre, and has also written the screenplay for Shyam Benegal’s film Well Done Abba.

He graduated from Jadavpur University with a degree in English Literature and worked in the advertising industry, before moving to film and television. He has authored two books – New Market Tales (2013) and Cantilevered Tales (2017). His recent foray into writing performance poetry has brought him acclaim in poetic circles around the country.

Earlier this month he launched his first book of poems titled Some Mad Poems Some Sad Poems Some Bad Poems and A Short Story in Verse. It is a collection of wonderful poems that he has written over time. The poems, sometimes satirical, sometimes allegorical reflect the times we live in. The book has two parts, the first being a collection of general poems and the second being a short story narrated in verse.

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I was, of course, delighted to have the opportunity to interview him ahead of the book launch. My joy knew no bounds when he went as far as to email a copy of the manuscript (a document that now holds pride of place on my bookshelf) to read, before we sat down for the chat. I have always been a great admirer of his work and the admiration has only increased ever since I met him personally.

So, read on to know what he had to say during our conversation that has got me fangirling:

Ashima Jain: Who is Jayant Kripalani today? Is he an actor? Or director? Or writer? Or poet? Or a beach-bum? Or is he someone who enjoys juggling all these different hats together, on his head?

Jayant Kripalani: If I had an answer to even one of those questions I might be a more settled human being today. I am not even sure I know if I am all of those things or whether I have the talent to wear all those rather lovely hats. In my rather checkered career I have also lived in the corporate milieu for a bit where I came across the work of a gentleman (a rather famous psychologist) whose name I can’t pronounce – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. (I am sure he won’t be able to pronounce my name either.)

In his studies he showed that what makes an experience genuinely satisfying is a state of consciousness called ‘flow’. In this consciousness one ‘experiences deep enjoyment, creativity and a total involvement with life’.

I think that is something I knew without being able to articulate it as well as he did. So, whether I’m acting or bumming, I do both with complete abandonment and enjoyment. In the ‘flow’ as it were.

Ashima: I gather this ‘flow’ was what brought you to writing and, like your acting career, this too has been an enjoyable journey for you. Your last book, Cantilevered Tales, has done extremely well. Your third book is all set to be released – A collection of poems that has no title but a description of what lies between its pages. What is the Mad, Sad and Bad of Jayant Kripalani’s poetry, and what inspired it?

Jayant: “Your third book is all set to be released” – you say. It has been released and here I owe you an apology. I should have sat down with you much earlier to answer these questions, but travel, prior commitments, and a minor bout with a malignant little tumourous bastard delayed everything a bit. So, apologies for the delay.

What inspires my poetry? I couldn’t say. An incident here; a stray thought triggered off by a rude politician there; a bridge falling; an encounter with a disgruntled cop – any little thing that drives pen to paper. If it writes itself in verse – blank or rhymed – it calls itself a poem. And of course, sometimes it’s Mad, or Sad or just plain Bad. Once I’ve written it, I don’t touch it. I call it ‘hit and run’ verse, because I don’t like spending too much time on it.

Ashima: You have strong views on politics and religion which you share on social media. The same is seen in these poems as well. Do you believe there is hope for change? For improvement?

Jayant: People have often complained that I am an incurable romantic. Where they get these strange ideas from, I don’t know. I guess I am an eternal optimist and dopes like me never lose hope.

I don’t hope for change though. I watch it happen. There is never a static or dull moment in this world. Swirling changes happen all the time. We are in a constant state of ‘samudra manthan’ and I just love the churn.

Ashima: What prompted you to write a short story in verse? Tell us more about Shakuntla and what lies behind her door.

Jayant: If you read between the lines, you’ll discover that Shakuntala is Calcutta. My love affair with Calcutta has been a long one. I did desert Calcutta for 30+ years but the love and warmth I got from the city never wavered and when I decided to come back, it enveloped me in its arms and I fear I might never be able to leave again.

Ashima: There seems to be no set formula to your writing. You have experimented with almost everything under the sun in this book – the range of topics, the sentiment, the humour, and even the language. What makes it all work as well as it does?

Jayant: Go with the flow. Live in the moment. Live THE moment. You can’t go wrong.

Ashima: You have always entertained your audience and readers, be it with your acting or writing. What’s next that your fans should await from you?

Jayant: Death. A fun one I hope. One surrounded by laughter, music, and drama. Of course drama. But a comedy. If anyone sheds a tear at my funeral I’ll come back and haunt them.

Ashima: It can’t be the end of the line. Not when you’ve only just added another exciting new hat to the collection. Surely you have more stories of your everlasting romance with Calcutta?

Jayant: The fact that I think about death seems to worry you? It doesn’t worry me. When I was very young (and believe it or not, I was young once) I read somewhere that if you see danger or death approaching, rush towards it. By and large, both are rather polite and step aside when they see you coming. It’s one helluva rush!

I think the thought that I might die at any moment is what keeps me alive. Alive in the truest sense of the word.

Take this whole cancer business. It’s a laugh a minute. I tried getting depressed about it and failed. So I wrote a poem in hospital. Unfortunately, the book was already in print when I wrote it, so here it is:
Colon v Colon
Two dots that don’t stand on ceremony
As each exercises its hegemony
Sometimes it precedes a long list of items,
Or before a quotation that heightens
An expansion, or an explanation
Of a mathematical equation,
Or in a numerical statement of time
Separates hours and minutes – that isn’t a crime.
A minor little asset to our grammar
One that is needed but lacks any glamour.
If the lower dot is replaced by a comma
It doesn’t cause too much of a trauma
And without offending either you or me
Becomes a colon that is largely semi
The other colon is a bit of a beast
Five feet or more at the very least
The very last part of the GI tract
That traps all the water and all the crap
Before they’re evicted from the base of the bum
From the hole that we politely, call a rectum.
And if you’re having a problem with humour
You’ll have more of one when it grows a tumour
Which if it decides to be malignant
Will make you feel more than just indignant.
Life can become a terrible drag
As you carry around a colostomy bag,
It’s hugely offensive for both you and me
That this colon too, has become a semi.

Note – Look at the bright side. I Do Not have a colostomy bag. See what I mean?

Ashima: I think I do 🙂 . Thank you so much. It was wonderful talking with you. I wish you good health, and much success with your new book. All the best for wherever the ‘flow’ decides to take you next.

Mad Sad Bad Front&Back Cover
Some Mad Poems Some Sad Poems Some Bad Poems and A Short Story in Verse is published by Readomania and is available at all leading bookstores, as well as on Amazon.

Caricature by R.K.Laxman as done for Ji Mantriji courtesy: Jayant Kripalani
Picture Source: aquamarineflavours.wordpress.com
Book cover courtesy: Readomania
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