My family and other animals

By : Malavika Sangghvi
Last Updated: Fri, Jul 27, 2012 18:40 hrs

Last night I happened to catch an old episode of the Karan Johar Koffee with Karan (Season Two) show featuring Raj Kapoor’s three sons, Randhir Rishi, and Rajiv Kapoor and his daughter-in-law Neetu and daughter Rima Jain.

Now, of course the people in the studio were preternaturally comfortable in front of cameras. Not only are the Kapoors the Barrymores of Indian cinema they carry the genes of a man who was called filmdom’s ‘ultimate showman’. It was said of them that they would emerge from the same car at a premiere but hug each other like long lost brothers for the cameras.

So a certain amount of confidence has been hardwired into their psyche. But flamboyance is a relatively easy thing to carry off when you’re in a TV interview one on one. To come across as spontaneous, good-natured, irreverent and fun while being interviewed en famille is an exercise only the very brave would undertake.

Families — however close and loving are minefields of hidden sensitivities, unspoken emotions unexamined memories. Members finish each other’s sentences, know the punch lines of each other’s jokes and are only too aware of each other’s Achilles’ heels.

So even while enjoying the earthy wit and good-natured bantering among members of the Kapoor clan, I was watching for body language, group power dynamics and the silences between the words. Would any one display pique at being teased, a hint of bruised ego or discomfort at any of the questions?

To my amazement — nada. Whether it was Daboo Kapoor’s spontaneous and refreshing responses on the “rapid fire” round or Chintu being sportsmanlike about revealing his grumpy nature or Rajiv Kapoor being up front about the Kapoor fondness for food and drink — the family carried off their performance with admirable elan. Not one false note, not one missed beat not one awkward moment.

In an industry in which people are famously thin skinned and prone to sulks and bruised feelings, the Kapoor’s came across as a family that has worked out its chinks and knows how to bask in each other’s company.

Of course that their interlocutor was none other than Karan Johar himself, a great believer in family values, who has done more for advocating the big fat happy (Punjabi) family phenomena than any one else alive today, this ought to have come as no surprise.

Karan — a product of a loving and well-adjusted film family, must have created an environment that brought out the best in the Kapoors and his extraordinary emotional intelligence would have been on alert for undertows and minefields. But whatever the circumstance the Kapoors (especially their sister Rima who was the only one in the group unexposed to the show world) acquitted themselves with flair.

How many other prominent Indian families could carry off a similar situation? Or be able to face a cameramen en masse and come out smiling? When will the Thakerays the Ambanis the Gandhis the Karunnanidhis and others realise that their biggest and most urgent need is to resolve their own issues and discover their familial strengths? Not only for the world to witness but for their own happiness.

From someone who has the advantage of coming from a big fat happy clan — it’s the only wisdom I offer this Saturday.

While we search increasingly for virtual communities to belong to, learning to love the one you’ve been born into is one of life’s biggest lessons and joys.

Malavika Sangghvi is a Mumbai-based writer  

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