#LockDownTales by Tahira Kashyap Khurrana
Tahira Kashyap Khurrana’s #LockDownTales, in which the writer-filmmaker pens lockdown-centric short stories and then narrates them on her social media platforms on a regular basis, have become popular. In between, Tahira is keeping it sane by cooking, baking (despite some unfortunate cookie-making experiences) and being her actor-husband Ayushmann Khurrana’s bouncing board. A t2 chat with the ever sunshine-y Tahira.
It musn’t be easy with two kids and a husband who, otherwise, would always be out shooting. But in the middle of all the wife and mom duties, you are managing to be pretty productive during this lockdown, aren’t you?
I can be privileged and say that people like us have the time to devote to recreational activities. But there are many who don’t and for them it’s just being able to survive every day. A part of me is always praying for them and for this to be over soon. The other half tells me that whatever the circumstances, I must try and add value, wherever I am. I started cooking with my kids (Virajveer and Varushka). I made a terrible first batch of cookies and they turned out so black and hard that my kids started playing hopscotch with those cookies! (Laughs) But then I made a cake, which turned out good. I also started painting.
One creative outlet leads to another. So in between baking and painting, there were a lot of stories simmering inside me, a lot of characters started building themselves in my mind… all of which had a unifying theme, which was the lockdown. I started writing them and then I was like, ‘Why don’t I start narrating these stories and call them #LockDownTales? My stories are inspired from real life but I have woven in imaginary sequences and characters. I dedicate these tales to all of us are who living in these unprecedented times. I feel that as long as humanity is alive, stories will always brim, even if it’s in a lockdown situation. So, it’s my ode to that.
I am enjoying writing and recording my narrations while positioning my phone on a tissue box (laughs). There’s only a particular time of the day I can shoot when the sunlight comes in, because I don’t have those fancy shoot lights and I don’t even have a tripod.
Your #LockDownTales have really become popular…
I never thought they would catch on like this, you know? Storywriting and telling require a lot of patience and in this world of instant gratification, most people don’t look at videos that are beyond a minute. I thought I may get just a few ‘likes’, but when people started commenting, and on a regular basis, understanding and being sensitive to what I was saying and also pitching in with feedback, it meant the world to me.
For a story called Namak Kum Hain, which is about a son cooking alone at home during the lockdown with instructions from his mom on his iPad, people wrote back to me saying how much they identified with it, especially those stuck at home alone in the lockdown. I feel so good when people tell me they are able to relate to my stories and to the feelings they bring about in them. It’s my biggest gratification when people see the honesty with which I have written and it evokes some emotion within them.
The Orange Tree is a very emotional story and also longer than the rest and I thought it would get the least ‘likes’. But it got the maximum comments… people have cried after listening to that story.
Is there an intent to document these tales when we get back to a normal life, or perhaps even carry the series further?
I have no idea, ya. It’s something that I just started on a whim. It’s a zero-budget thing and I had thought I would end it after five-six tales. But the encouragement to write more has been too huge to give it up. There have been a few offers but I don’t want to do anything that takes away the heart from it. I don’t want to corrupt it in any sense. As of now, I have no plans but you never know where life takes you (smiles).
You’ve made two shorts and are about to direct your first feature film. What kind of creative satisfaction does storytelling give you?
The minute I put pen to paper is when the process of deriving satisfaction and gratification starts. I get very excited when the stories start coming out of me. There is immense joy when I tell stories. When I made my two shorts, Toffee and Pinni, I realised there’s even more happiness to witness what I have written coming to life on screen. A story is a story, whatever the length of it is or the platform it’s on. I don’t know when the film will start (laughs) but hopefully soon.
How are you keeping it going during this phase? I know you are a big follower of Buddhism, which also helped you in your battle with cancer…
Even right now. It’s something that centres me. This is a situation that requires one to stretch oneself and motivate oneself on a daily basis. I feel that having a strong philosophy like I do keeps the hope, energy and positivity alive. The practice that I follow is that each one of us has the capability to add value, no matter what the situation is. The reason why I have been able to write stories, joyfully churn out a terrible batch of cookies and enjoy painting with my kids is because the intention always has been to add value.
I also feel that all of us should look at having days with fluid timetables that aren’t too harsh on us but also not let the days pass by just doing nothing. The idea shouldn’t be, ‘Hum tab kaam karna shuru karenge jab lockdown khulega’. There are a lot of abilities that one can discover and hone when faced with unprecedented situations. Let’s seize this opportunity, however unfortunate it may seem now.
What happens when two creative people are locked down together? Are you and Ayushmann collaborating on anything or do your creative journeys have to be independent of each other?
I think every artiste is a little selfish (laughs) and also very protective of their territory. Since both Ayushmann and I understand each other’s work, there is that creative space that we give each other. I have a time and space to myself ki iss jagah pe ab koi nahin aayega kyunki mujhe ab likhna hain. And there’s a time when he’s writing his poems or recording something and everyone lets him be. We haven’t collaborated on anything as such but we have been each others’ bouncing boards for the longest time. Even during this time, we keep taking each others’ feedback.
Also, there’s a book on the way…
Yay! It’s called The 12 Commandments of Being a Woman and it’s a fresh take on the idiosyncrasies of being a woman. Women have a lot of stories to tell and they aren’t always sad or morbid or gussewaali or jhande gaadne waali! (Laughs) We also have funny stories to tell. I feel this book will be fun… hopefully.