BEHIND THE SCENES
India Today|December 07, 2020
Sai Paranjpye’s memoir offers a delightfully chatty account of a creative career that has encompassed film, theatre, television… and even tea
Jai Arjun Singh

A PATCHWORK QUILT

A Collage of My Creative Life

by Sai Paranjpye

HARPERCOLLINS 452 pages

I am skilled in plagiarising—from life,” Sai Paranjpye writes in her candid memoir, A Patchwork Quilt. The immediate context is a millworker’s remark that Paranjpye incorporated into her screenplay for the 1990 film Disha, but reading this book one realises that such skilful “plagiarism” applies to much of her output over a long, versatile career.

During a phone interview, she elucidates by recalling a scene in her short film Angootha Chaap, about a village elderly who learns to read and write. He is sitting on a bullock cart with his grandson, slate in hand, and stumbles when he sees the Devanagari symbol for ‘M’. Is this the ‘Bh’ sound, he wonders—and just then a goat nearby bleats ‘Maa’ and he gets it. “That’s how I have worked too,” Paranjpye says, “finding inspiration in what is around me.”

A Patchwork Quilt, her English translation of her bestselling Marathi memoir Saya: Maza Kalapravas, depicts a life that has been colourful and, importantly, multi-cultural from the beginning, with many positive influences and experiences, and a well-rounded education in Indian and western culture—as a child, Paranjpye was encouraged to read everything from Walter Scott and Jane Austen to Doctor Dolittle and Sanskrit verses. She was raised by her unconventional, multi-faceted single mother Shakuntala and her maternal grandfather, or Appa, the mathematician R.P. Paranjpye. The book begins with a portrait of Shakuntala as writer, actress, social worker (who campaigned for family planning at a time when “birth control was never mentioned in polite society”) and later Member of Parliament. “My mother was the biggest influence on my creativity, and my sense of humour is a reflection of hers,” she says.

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