Book Review: Bachchanalia - The Films & Memorabilia of Amitabh Bachchan

By Joginder Tuteja, Bollywood Hungama News Network

More than a month after its launch, 'Bachchanalia' has finally arrived on stands. Thankfully, it has been worth a wait, as one finds out after flipping though this 300 page book which could well serve as a Bible for all Amitabh Bachchan starrers. Not that it takes an almost four hour read to figure this out. Spending 15 minutes on this book is good enough to appreciate what could be expected from this brilliant compilation that is easily the best that one has laid hands on when it comes to a book about Hindi cinema.

What works most in the favor of this book is its presentation. And for this, one has to credit Osian's Center for Archiving, Research and Development (CARD), which in association with Bhawana Somayaa is responsible for co-authoring the book. While Bhawana Somaaya has ensured that the text in the book makes for an interesting read, CARD is responsible for all the publicity material and memorabilia (e.g. Posters, Showcards, Lobby Cards, Trophy, Photographic Still, Song-Synopsis Booklet) which makes 'Bachchanalia' a complete reading experience.

The book follows a truly inventive structure, what with a page (or a half) dedicated to each and every film that Amitabh Bachchan has done in his career. So what one sees is a poster of each of his films, some of them belonging to the rarest of the rare variety like Pyaar Ki Kahani, Raaste Ka Patthar, Bandhe Haath, Gehri Chaal and many more. This is not all as there are also innumerous unseen stills from his movies that make one turn pages with a tearing hurry.

Other than the sheer visual appeal which is good enough to make one go for the book, what brings in further entertainment are the film's synopsis, a quote (either from Amitabh Bachchan or a member from the cast and crew of the film) along with trivia which is highlighted as 'Between The Shots'. In fact it's this trivia which is the most addictive of all since most of them indeed belong to 'Did You Know' variety. Icing on the cake is the write-up at the top and bottom of every page which lists down the movies (from both Bollywood and Hollywood) that made an impact in the year when a particular Bachchan film was released. Though these films may not necessarily hold any connection with a Bachchan film, for the readers who wish to keep a date with history, it acts as a good study material to explore.

True to it's title, 'Bachchanalia - The Films & Memorabilia of Amitabh Bachchan' sticks to narrating facts about the films that Amitabh Bachchan has done over a period of time and never once deviates into unnecessary tangents. What this means for a reader is that gossips and other irrelevant anecdotes about his personal life are not included in the writing, hence ensuring that the book remains clean, uncontroversial and still engaging for an average reader. While writing a book about an actor who has been THE face of Indian cinema for long now, any writer would be tempted to include spicier details to make the final product more 'reader-friendly' but Bhawana Somaaya makes a smart choice and stays within the domain of the book's concept, hence justifying the USP of 'Bachchanalia', which is 'Amitabh Bachchan and his movies'. Period.

A voluminous book which would easily weigh a few kilos and bears an international stamp to it, courtesy its design, layout, presentation and content, 'Bachchanalia' packs in a lot in those few words that add to the brief content on every page. Some of the most interesting ones are presented here:

* Muqaddar Ka Sikandar - Prakash Mehra had envisaged the film as a modern day take on 'Devdas'

* Silsila - Smita Patil and Parveen Babi were the leading ladies of the film before being replaced by Jaya Bhaduri and Rekha

* Major Saab - Ajay Devgan had directed parts of the film when the original director, Tinu Anand, was off sick

* Bombay To Goa - Shooting 'Dekha Na Haaye Re...' was a nightmare since Amitabh required numerous retakes

* Ek Nazar - Nadira was one of the first to detect something brewing between Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bhaduri at the film's sets

* Raaste Kaa Patthar - Amitabh was quite proud of his performance in this film which unfortunately didn't work

* Abhimaan - The film was earlier titled Raag Ragini and Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bhaduri had invested their own money in the project

* Chupke Chupke - Hrishikesh Mukherjee wanted newcomers for the parts played by Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bhaduri

* Don - 'Khaike Paan Banaraswaala' was earlier recorded for a Manoj Kumar film

* Shakti - Makers of the film were almost convinced to replace Smita Patil with Rekha mid-way during the film's shooting

* Adalat - Amitabh Bachchan and Neetu Singh did a 'Kung-fu' dance number in the film

There are minor factual errors in the book like Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag being shown as a 2008 release (whereas the fact is that it had released in 2007), Yaar Meri Zindagi being said to be stuck (when the fact is that this Amitabh Bachchan - Shatrughan Sinha starrer, after being stuck for decades, was finally released in 2008) or reference to Fashion stating that the film was 'based' on the true story of Delhi based model Geentanjali Nagpal (when the fact is that this incident just formed a small episode in the film).

However, in the bigger scheme of things when the book brings in an ocean of information with it (with a film by film account of each and every special appearance done by him along with it's poster), one can easily let such aberrations pass. Otherwise where else would one find movies like Jabaan, Charandas, Walayati Babu, Paan Khaye Saiiyan Hamar and, hold your breath, Film Hi Film (each of them starring Amitabh Bachchan in some role or other) being mentioned about in a single publication?

'Bachchanalia' is indeed special, and exclusive. A lethal combo that makes it a MUST for every cine follower who has claimed to be a follower (even if not a fan) of Amitabh Bachchan cinema. It's this very beauty of the book which makes it an irresistible read because it is not written from the point of view of a fan or a reader who could well be a fan. Instead, the book is a reference guide for each and every film that Amitabh Bachchan has done in a near four decade long career as an actor. The information which is presented is not just enlightening, it is also engaging and entertaining, and something that works in totality to make 'Bachchanalia' a book that should find a place on the shelves of every Bollywood aficionado.

Price: Rs. 3500

Rating: ****1/2

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