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An Author’s Afternoon

Paris is the City of Love, but also full of darkness and strife: Koel Purie Rinchet

The author of ‘Clearly Invisible in Paris’ on becoming a Parisian, starring in ‘The Archies’ and more

Udita Chakraborty | Published 11.08.23, 01:29 PM
Koel Puri Rinchet was the latest guest at an Author’s Afternoon organised by Prabha Khaitan Foundation at Taj Bengal

Koel Puri Rinchet was the latest guest at an Author’s Afternoon organised by Prabha Khaitan Foundation at Taj Bengal

Photos: Soumyajit Dey

Koel Purie Rinchet is many things — a TV producer, actor, presenter and, most recently, an author. But for her, the identity that is the most complex and hard-sought is that of being a Parisian. Born and brought up in Delhi, Koel found herself starting life anew in Paris after her marriage. While she worked hard to find her way in the city, she also came across stories and experiences that form the substance of her debut book, Clearly Invisible in Paris.

At the latest session of An Author’s Afternoon, organised by Prabha Khaitan Foundation at Taj Bengal, in association with Shree Cement Limited, with My Kolkata as digital partner, Koel discussed her book and more with Karishma Mehta, Ehsaas Woman of Mumbai.

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‘I was a born storyteller’

Karishma Mehta (left) in conversation with Koel

Karishma Mehta (left) in conversation with Koel

Being the middle child, Koel always felt the need to weave stories and embellish them to be heard. Describing herself as an “attention seeker”, she said that her love affair with writing began long back and that the process has always been cathartic. “I don’t know when I actively started writing because I didn’t maintain a diary. But I’ve been writing since as far as I can remember, even publicly. Writing gives me full autonomy. I’m the sole creator and controller of every single syllable that I write,” said the author.

But unlike most writers, her creative process does not involve her secluding herself from the rest of the world. Rather, she writes by stealing away time from her busy schedule and sometimes by giving way to procrastination. “I think my process is that of at least three to four hours of procrastinating if I have just started. Even if I open my computer, I’ll procrastinate before I can even get one word in. But that phase of procrastination becomes shorter with practice and discipline. With this book, once I started, it just was a question of blocking everything out. Many times I’d be in the flow and it’d be time to do some other chore. Then I’d have to wait till the house was quiet again to be able to work through the night. Some of us are nocturnal creatures and lately, I’m embracing it,” she elaborated.

A book of contradictions

According to Koel, Paris has an ability to alienate people

According to Koel, Paris has an ability to alienate people

Clearly Invisible in Paris revolves around the lives of four women who form lifelong friendships despite being from very different backgrounds. None of these characters are purely good or evil, but rather a concoction of contradictions that make them human.

So, what led to Koel writing the book? “My book emerged from the interactions that I had with people and the experiences that I had in Paris. These festered inside and finally led to me writing something. I met diverse women but the feeling that was shared across the board was how lonely these women felt. How, even though these women were successful, they felt isolated and at the periphery of society. That was the common thread, and once I picked up on that, the story just kept coming,” she explained.

Despite having written a book inspired by the city and its people, Koel still finds herself unable to accustom herself to the Parisian way of life. A city of contradictions, Parisians are not known for being the most welcoming. “The pace of life in Paris is extremely fast. You schedule everything to make it easier to live. I find it to be the city of polarities. It's the City of Love, but it’s the coldest city in the world because of how standoffish people can be. It’s also the City of Light, but there’s a lot of darkness and strife in Paris. I have felt invisible in Paris, even though I have a huge social life and consider myself to be fun. I’ve lived in Delhi and even in Tokyo, but Paris is unique like that. It works on alienating you,” remarked Koel.

‘Zoya Akhtar is the best director in the country’

Koel signing copies of ‘Clearly Invisible in Paris’

Koel signing copies of ‘Clearly Invisible in Paris’

Koel has slowly been able to warm up to Paris, partly because of how beautiful it is. The museum, cafe, and theatre cultures have succeeded in intensifying her torrid romance with the city. Even though India remains a part of her, she does not plan on coming back. For her, home is where her craft is. “I certainly can’t move back to India now because I would’ve to be in Delhi. I’d better not bring up a young girl in Delhi in the pollution and the lack of security. India will always be home because it's a feeling. I even want to work in India. But whenever I have the privilege of not living in India, I’d choose not to. But what is home? Home is just a feeling. Where do I feel most at home? I feel most at home on a film set,” confessed the author.

Koel will next be seen in Zoya Akhtar’s period piece, The Archies, as Alice Cooper, mother of Betty Cooper. “Zoya is the best director in the country. Gully Boy just sealed that for her. In The Archies, she has created a make-believe Anglo-Indian community, up in the hills called Riverdale. The parents are mostly Anglophiles and the kids are rooted in their Indian-ness. Zoya has succeeded in creating a delicious world of the 1960s. Anyone who watches it would want to be a part of it,” she said.

Talking about how it was working with the likes of Suhana Khan, Agastya Nanda and Khushi Kapoor, among others, Koel pointed out that they were not ashamed of their ambition. In fact, they were aware that they would have to work doubly hard to prove themselves because they belong to families that have been long-established in the industry.

“They're not walking around with blinkers on, but are aware of the fact that they will have to prove themselves because of the mere fact that everyone’s going to be watching. According to me, they’ve done a fabulous job,” signed off Koel.

Guests speak

Karishma Mehta

Karishma Mehta

“It was an absolute pleasure talking to Koel. Her book is extremely evocative and descriptive. As a debut novelist, I think she has done a fantastic job. As far as An Author’s Afternoon is concerned, I think I had more fun than ‘fun’ Koel. This is my third or fourth time in Kolkata because of Prabha Khaitan Foundation. Kolkata has a different aura, perhaps because of its atmosphere of intellect and academics. Something about the city talks to me.”

— Karishma Mehta, Ehsaas Woman of Mumbai

Shefali Rawat Agarwal

Shefali Rawat Agarwal

“I’m not much of a book reader. But given how vivacious Koel was, it made me look forward to reading the book, especially because she is currently living in Paris. Also, I liked that she emphasised how being an Indian is always an integral part of someone’s life and identity no matter where they are.”

— Shefali Rawat Agarwal, Ehsaas Woman of Kolkata

Meeta Sethia

Meeta Sethia

“Today we got to see a different aspect of Koel’s personality, the fact that she’s both an Indian and Parisian came across very nicely. The book seems intriguing and when people read the book, each one will discover something new about themselves.”

— Meeta Sethia, psychologist

Upasna Mitra

Upasna Mitra

“I think the event was enriching and it appealed to the youth. This is the first Author’s Afternoon that I attended, and it was really fun!”

— Upasna Mitra, student, Loreto College

Arnab Chatterjee

Arnab Chatterjee

“Koel Purie's debut novel is full of interesting and diverse characters. It was a pleasure to get a glimpse into that world at An Author’s Afternoon at Taj Bengal, and I’m now looking forward to reading the book.”

— Arnab Chatterjee, general manager, Taj Bengal

Last updated on 21.08.23, 11:47 AM
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