“I am always inspired by the ordinary and mundane things in life”
Professionally, 2018 has been a landmark year for this DNA and Vogue columnist who made her first foray into writing in 2006. Daughter of Bollywood legends Jaya and Amitabh Bachchan and mother of two, Shweta Bachchan Nanda’s career may well be a little over a decade old, but the year that was has bought her two-fold success – the birth of ‘MxS’, her own clothing label and also saw her make her big debut as a novelist.
Last October, with the launch of Paradise Towers, Shweta turned author. In her ‘quirky, intimate style of writing’, the book explores ‘the intertwined lives’ of the dwellers of a central Bombay high-rise. Complete with ‘a forbidden romance, an elopement, the undercurrents of tension in corridor interactions and an explosive Diwali celebration’, the narrative draws you into the ‘intoxicating, crazy world’ that is Paradise Towers.
Here’s getting to know Shweta Bachchan-Nanda – very much her own person and undoubtedly, a lot more than just her surname.
How did your career as a columnist begin?
Shweta Bachchan-Nanda: I grew up with my grandfather who was a poet and a writer. Writing and reading was always a very important part of our lives. I’ve been writing a diary ever since I was a little girl, and wrote stories that I never shared with anyone. Then one day I just said, I am going to take this plunge. I started writing a column for a newspaper in Mumbai.
And what prompted you to turn novelist and why?
SBN: Well, writing for DNA gave me a lot of confidence to put myself out there, always a daunting task for a shy girl. Paradise Towers, well at least the first few chapters of it came to me one morning. With four chapters down and on my laptop, I was shopping at Bahrisons one fine day when Anuj Bahri asked me when I was going to write my own book, and I turned around and said, well actually I have something, would you like to read it? That is how the book came into being.
“Writing is, in parts, cathartic and daunting. And always – at least for me – indicative of the phase I am in.”
How, in your view, is Paradise Towers different to your previous writings?
SBN: Paradise Towers is fiction and a lot of what I have written before is drawn from personal experiences.
Is the narrative of Paradise Towers inspired by real-life instances and/or people you’ve met?
SBN: Actually, Paradise Towers is an amalgamation of various people and their particular quirks or instances from their lives. There is no one defined person who has inspired the book.
Do you feel your writings define or are indicative in any way of a certain phase/phases in your life? In your view, is writing a cathartic process?
SBN: Writing is, in parts, cathartic and daunting. And absolutely, always – at least for me – indicative of the phase I am in.
“The world of glamour has so far not had any bearing on my characters.”
As a writer and author how important to you is it to be able to find humour?
SBN: Humour, to me, is the most attractive and compelling aspect of a human being or a situation. I am drawn to humour and it would be impossible for me to write something that doesn’t have humour in it.
Do you feel the world of glamour shapes your writing and the characters you pen?
SBN: The world of glamour has so far not had any bearing on my characters. No, I don’t think I look at that kind of world for inspiration.
Both your grandfathers, Harivansh Rai Bachchan and Taroon Kumar Bhaduri are acclaimed writers and living up to their legacy is a tough task – do you feel the pressure?
SBN: I get asked this a lot, and quite honestly, NO! Simply because I am not comparing my humble attempts at storytelling with their superlative and way superior prose.
Any new books in the offing?
SBN: There are several books in my head, I just need to get down to writing them… the toughest part actually. I’ve been dreaming up stories all my life so that is the easy part.
How did ‘MxS’, your clothing line in collaboration with designer Monisha Jaising, come about, and how is the brand different to others?
SBN: Monisha is a friend. We collaborated on an outfit for a friend’s birthday and I enjoyed the process tremendously. I went back and asked her to do a capsule; once we got pencil to paper it evolved into MxS. MxS is pegged as affordable luxury. We are inspired by streetwear and athleisure. It’s an attempt to fill the gap between Zara and Gucci and create something unique for women that is available at home!
“I am drawn to humour and it would be impossible for me to write something that doesn’t have humour in it.“
What is your style mantra?
SBN: Comfort is my style mantra.
As a designer who is the one person you’d like to dress?
SBN: My father.
Who to you are the most stylish persons?
SBN: My parents, without a doubt.
Both as a writer and as a designer, who is your muse and where do you find inspiration?
SBN: I don’t have a muse per se. But I am always inspired by the ordinary and mundane things in life.
As a writer who recently turned designer – for you, what has the transition from the written word to a visual medium been like?
SBN: Well, it’s two sides to the same coin, almost. Both use the same area of the brain. It’s expressing yourself and I am enjoying exercising my expression.
Columnist, author, fashion designer – in your view, which of your many avatars best defines you and which do you enjoy the most?
SBN: Columnist and Mother.
You hail from one Bollywood’s first families and are married into another – a career in cinema would appear to be an obvious choice for you. Why did you never join the film industry? Would you today consider joining the industry, on-screen or otherwise?
SBN: I was never inclined. I don’t think I will ever be inclined.
You are an avid traveller – what is an ideal getaway for you?
SBN: On a beach in the sun with my close friends and family!
What for you is perfect downtime?
SBN: On my couch with a mug of steaming hot green tea, and a book in my hand.
Your father and brother are both avid users of social media – are you as comfortable with the medium as Mr. Bachchan and Abhishek?
SBN: I am terrible with using social media, but I am learning.
Do you see either of your children taking on a career in any of the fields you or your family have pursued? Is there any pressure for them to live up to their family names?
SBN: Both Navya and Agastya have the freedom to choose whatever profession they would like. They are lucky if they decide on any of the family business as they have enough people with experience to guide them. Also, it is only once they choose a career path that we can decide if there is any pressure to live up to the family name.
What’s next for Shweta Bachchan-Nanda?
SBN: MxS drops a new collection every month so that has me very busy. Book two also needs to get written… so there’s that!