"My teachers used to call me the grandma of the class because I was very fond of telling stories," says filmmaker-writer-producer Tahira Kashyap Khurrana
Her stories bring a tear to the eye or they put a smile on the face. From a tale about a boy who is learning to cook his mum’s favourite dish, while she is giving instructions from the comfort of her sofa, albeit virtually through an iPad, to the story about an ambitious young girl whose work comes to a screeching halt because of the lockdown, leading her to realise how much she misses her family, Tahira Kashyap Khurrana’s short stories evoke heart-warming emotions. The filmmaker-writer-producer has kept her followers engaged with these narratives through her initiative ‘Lockdown Tales with Tahira’ on her official Instagram page.
While many celebrities have been keeping their fans entertained and hooked onto their social media pages in their own way, Tahira chose to do it with her original tales. “I have always been writing and telling stories ever since I was a child. I remember, even my teachers used to call me the grandma of the class, because I was very fond of telling stories to everyone,” reveals Tahira. She adds, “When the lockdown was announced, it came as an opportunity for all of us to introspect. I started painting, baking and involved myself in all kinds of creative activities and that’s when these stories started brimming in my head. It wasn’t like I was hitting a mauke pe chauka (waiting to make the most of this chance), these stories came from a place of honesty and sincerity, so I wanted to share them with everyone.” Tahira took a while before she showcased her writing and filmmaking skills to the world. Although she was actively involved in theatre since her school days and used to work on stories, she says her corporate job had clipped her wings. “It took long for me to realise that my heart lies in writing. I think I was always filled with self-doubt,” shares the storyteller.
Coming of age
Married to actor Ayushmann Khurrana, Tahira has had to deal with the tag of being ‘an actor’s wife’. She admits, she’s come a long way, but certain changes in her life have helped her achieve the balance and calmness that she is experiencing today. “It was an internal struggle, which I acknowledge now. I was anxious about the world, about how people would perceive me... Buddhism changed it for me,” reveals Tahira, who practises Nichiren Buddism. She adds, “I have always been a spiritual person, but that doesn’t mean I was a balanced person or had wisdom, compassion or courage to make the right decisions in life. Nichiren Buddhism put things in perspective. I don’t worry much about what people will think. Of course, I am anxious when I make something or share my work publicly. My heart does flutter, but that doesn’t deter me from going ahead. I am not insecure anymore. Honestly, I feel people now see me as an individual.”
Tahira is also gradually finding her foothold as a filmmaker. She has made two short films — Toffee and Pinni — and has directed the video of her brother-in-law Aparshakti Khurana’s debut single, Kudiye Ni. The writer says she is looking forward to making more films. “I don’t worry about anything. But the only thought that is worrying me is, ‘When am I going to make my first feature film’. Anybody who is making short films is heading in the direction of making a feature film, and I am most excited about doing that.”
While she is nurturing her dreams of making a fullfledged feature, Tahira is also busy completing her book, The 12 Commandments of Being a Woman. In an earlier press note from Juggernaut Books, Tahira said the book is ‘A quirky take towards the experiences of being and becoming a woman, at least in my head’. The book was scheduled to release later this year, but the lockdown has been a blessing in disguise for the author. “It looks like it will be released soon. I have ample time and I have been writing a lot. The book looks at the different stages of being a woman. Usually, we stereotype women and their problems. While these are serious issues, we do not look at a woman’s struggle through a different, quirky perspective. I have tried to explore these aspects,” she discloses.
Tahira has thus kept herself occupied, fulfilling her aspirations and dreams, and between all of this, she does reflect on how cancer changed her life. The writer was diagnosed with ‘Stage 0’ breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy procedure last year. “I applied the principle of Buddhism when I was going through my health ordeal. I was already practising the faith when cancer happened, which is why my perspective was that, this is an obstacle that has come in my way for me to expand my life, and become a better version of myself. The same thing is happening now. We are all under the lockdown, but how we cope with it depends on how we will see it. The conditions will be the same, but the outlook with which you approach your problem matters. If you are full of gratitude and have a mission to accomplish, you’ll find troubles to be smaller,” she signs off on a positive note.
Shooting from the hip
What is the first thing you do as soon as you wake up?
I chant nam myoho renge kyo, it’s a Buddhist chant.
What has been the most therapeutic activity that has kept you sane during the lockdown?
Tell us about your last holiday.
I was on a family holiday in the Bahamas.
A memory from your last travel destination?
I wore a bikini in the Bahamas and I was very happy.
What is the first thing you want to do after the lockdown?
I want to meet and freely hug people in real, not virtually.
What are your lockdown essentials?
Dark chocolate, laptop for writing, my TV for Netflix, and handmade soaps.
Which books are you reading now?
I am reading a book on filmmaking, and I am reading The New Human Revolution by Daisaku Ikeda.
A piece of advice you would give to your younger self?
Just be, don’t overthink, and don’t harbour ill-feelings towards yourself. Practise love and appreciate yourself.
Your Twitter bio says, ‘I am a value-addition’, what does it mean?
I am a value-addition to everyone’s life… I have added value to my family’s life and to Ayushmann’s life.