Superdaughter, superwife, supermom

Aishwaryaa Dhanush talks about 'Standing on an Apple Box', her memoir due later this year, tracing the various roles in her life

Updated - November 17, 2021 01:05 am IST

Published - March 26, 2016 05:37 pm IST

Aishwaryaa Dhanush. Photo: R.Ravindran

Aishwaryaa Dhanush. Photo: R.Ravindran

You’re calling the book a memoir, but you’re saying it’s semi-autobiographical. Will it have the fiction or poetry I hear you’ve been writing?

Not at all. It will be like taking extracts from someone’s diary… something very personal. I want the book to stick to the first draft. I don’t want it to be worded beautifully just for the sake of it. I’m not here to prove my writing skills. It should sound real and personal, pretty much like capturing what I feel. It’s an experience I’m engaging with to share my memories and experiences that could give an insight into my family, how we live and how we’ve grown up.

Does it follow a chronological order?

There are chapters that start from my childhood, but there’s no particular order. Unfortunately, I’ve been bad at preserving things I’d written as a kid. So much of what you’ll read in the book was written in the past six months, from recollection.

Did you always like writing?

English was always my favourite subject. (laughs)

Exclusive excerpt

Daddy and daughter go to the disco
When Aishwaryaa, whose birthday falls on January 1, turned 18, she wanted nothing more than to see a discotheque. Only, her father said he'd take her... New Year’s Eve and all my wishes were coming true. My poor sister was bundled off to an aunt’s because she was underage, and after gathering the rest of the family and friends, we left for the hotel in eight cars. Yes, eight cars. I know of people who went for a honeymoon in a bus, with their entire extended family, so this was tame in comparison.

The hotel was not prepared for the invasion of the Rajinikanth family. News spread and people started fighting to get in. 20 bouncers were arranged. The police had to be called. It was turning into a pretty memorable birthday eve. The disco was electrifying – there was noise, colour, music and the revelry that New Year’s Eve usually brings, topped by the fact that a star was in their midst. I was overwhelmed.

We had been in the club for all of 10 minutes before it was midnight. Appa gave me a hug. “Happy Birthday Kanna… happy?” I was on cloud nine.

? But not for long. “Shall we leave?” I thought I had heard him wrong. The confusion must have shown on my face. “You wanted to see a discotheque; I have done my duty and shown you one. Let’s leave now.”

He gestured to Amma, who gathered us to leave. The crowd had also become almost unmanageable. We left immediately and went home to sleep like good children.

Must be the biggest anti-climax in any 18-year-old’s life. But looking back, it was the best 15-minute birthday I have ever had.

I now sympathise with my father. He had to straddle two worlds, the traditional one he was brought up in and the modern one his daughters were growing up in.

I may be prejudiced as his daughter, but I think he handled it like a true superstar!(This excerpt is printed with permission from Aishwaryaa Dhanush and HarperCollins Publishers India Ltd.)

What aspect about your childhood, do you think, will connect with readers?

Every mother and every daughter will be able to relate to it. Readers willbe amused to see just how normal our childhoods were. It will break a lot of myths around the life of a star kid. Like every parent, my parents too took a lot of effort to give us the best, and to keep things as normal as possible. Of course, it was tougher in our case, and I’m able to relate so much more to my mother now because I’m going through the same with my kids.

You divide the book into three stages: daughter, wife and mother. What role was the most difficult to write about?

That would certainly be that of a mother. As a mother, you’re responsible for two people whose ideologies you’re creating, whose habits follow your own. But these were also the most rewarding to write about.

And what is the juiciest for content?

Hmmm… I think every small stage has its own quirkiness. You begin to write a piece a certain way, and you discover so much more as you go along, leading you to surprising places.

Was there a particular chapter you felt you must write about, even though you know it could be very challenging?

I felt I must write about my fears. I think it’s selfish, but I know I must. You always feel that when you write about your fears or discuss them with friends, it really helps you overcome them. I guess this exercise will help me get over some of the issues that have been affecting me too. But I’ve still not written those chapters yet… I keep putting it off.

Are you a lazy writer?

I wouldn’t call myself a lazy writer, but I do keep pushing my writing for later. Blame that on the Indian mentality (laughs). There are whole weeks where I struggle to write a word, but then there are also those days where it just flows. In fact, I’d really cut down on my writing owing to commitments around my two films, 3 and Vai Raja Vai. So, when I found time to start writing again, I shared it with friends who insisted I get it published. It’s that confidence that led to this book.

You said your friends gave you the confidence to come out with a book like this. Are you generally a shy person?

I am the dictionary meaning of the word introvert. So, I recommend writing to others just like me. It’s the best mode of communication to yourself and to others. It really helped me. You get to reminisce and it’s also a bonus because there are so many people out there who want to know more about your childhood, growing up with a person like my father.

Do you give your dad and Dhanush chapters to read?

Not at all. (Laughs) Fortunately, they’re both very busy. My sister’s read a couple of chapters, but she’s busy with her newborn too. Actually I’m excited about them reading the book in its entirety. When I voice my thoughts on an incomplete project, there’s always various opinions and judgements that confuse me. I just want the book to be as original as possible.

I’m sure writing is easier than screenwriting.

Writing a screenplay is very tough. Screenwriting is all about keeping the audience in mind, worrying about the budget and how a scene suits the actor. Writing is limitless in comparison.

WATCH: We asked Aishwaryaa Dhanush some rapid fire questions. Here's what the director had to say

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