In a conversation with HELLO!, bestselling author Alka Joshi discusses the final installment of her JaipurTrilogy series, The Perfumist of Paris, and shares her excitement about Frieda Pinto signing on to adapt her book to the screen. She also offers a sneak peek into her upcoming novel, which draws inspiration from the life of renowned painter Amrita Sher-gil. Here’s an excerpt from our chat...
HELLO!:The Henna Artist is being made into a Netflix series with Freida Pinto anchoring it! When will we get to see this OTT version?
Alka Joshi: “After Reese Witherspoon endorsed The Henna Artist, I was approached by multiple producers. The incomparable Freida Pinto, who will play Lakshmi, was part of the winning team, which includes Michael Edelstein Productions and Miramax TV. They are working with Netflix to develop the project as a streaming series. While I chose not to be involved in the day-today workings of the production, I’m excited to see the story and the characters being brought to life.”
H!: Tell us a little about your personal life.
AJ: “My husband and I live in northern California. It’s a great place to create, to cycle, to walk our dogs. Brad is the inspiration for Dr Jay Kumar, who makes an appearance in each book. My husband is not a doctor, but he’s an enlightened man who believes in every woman’s right to make decisions in all aspects of her life. My father, who lives in Los Angeles, is 93 years old and sharp as a tack. He’s lent so much to my understanding of pre- and post-independence India.”
H!: What are your interests besides writing?
AJ: “Reading novels, watching murder mysteries and just walking and talking with my friends along the ocean.”
H!: What can we look forward to from you next?
AJ: “I’m writing a novel loosely based on the life of India’s world-renowned painter, Amrita Sher-Gil. She fascinates me, and because she thrived during the inter-war period, the novel takes place in 1937. I don’t want the world to forget her rich body of work or her nonconformist life. With each novel, my goal is to highlight India’s contributions to the world. In The Henna Artist, it was the herbal remedies and their contribution to medicine. In The Secret Keeper of Jaipur, it was Indian artisans and their intricate handicrafts. The Perfumist of Paris focused on India’s contribution of age-old attars to the world of fragrances.”
My research on perfumes—which I knew nothing about before starting on this adventure —started in NYC, Paris, Grasse and Lisbon, where I interviewed master perfumers, visited fragrance labs and toured compounding plants
H!: Despite finding a new love and life in Paris, why was Radha so reluctant to let her kids embrace her husband’s religion?
AJ: “Radha is an independent thinker. This is evident both through her rebellion against Lakshmi, who sought to instruct her in the norms of polite society, and in her elopement with Pierre, at a time when Lakshmi would have encouraged her to pursue higher education. Having never lived outside her village, Jaipur and Shimla, Radha was looking for an adventure. And she wants the same for her children. She enrolls them in an international school to allow them to experience a larger world, and make up their own minds about what they’d like to adopt and what they would cast aside.”
H!:The Perfumist of Paris is the final book in this series. How does it feel to see the trilogy come to a close?
AJ: “I feel fortunate to have been with these characters for the last 15 years. I love them, warts and all, and they will always live inside me. And since I know never to say never, perhaps they’ll come back in another book!”
H!: You have constructed the world of perfumes with such clarity. What kind of research did this involve?
AJ: For each novel, my research is extensive. It involves visiting the setting of the story, interviewing people who lived through the era, as well as experts in the field, reading relevant materials and watching movies based on the period. My research on perfumes, which I knew nothing about before I began this book, started in NYC, Paris, Grasse and Lisbon, where I interviewed master perfumers, visited fragrance labs and toured compounding plants. I read extensively about the plants, flowers and spices from India that are still used in fragrances today.
This story has been adapted for the website from a story that was originally published in Hello! India’s September 2023 issue. Get your hands on the latest issue right here!