It's raining books on Bollywood and its glory in last few months. And when title goes as 'Bollywood Today', one looks forward to what's in store in this 170 page book which is authored by a reputed name like Kaveree Bamzai, Executive Editor of India Today and a journalist for almost two decades. There are good expectations of various facets of Bollywood being uncovered in this along with some interesting unspoken/unheard being revealed.
Sadly, the expectations are not met by a long distance and the book turns out to be quite an un-engaging read. Now that's surprising since with decades of experience behind her and all available resources and contacts, one though that Bamzai would throw in quite a few surprises. On the contrary, she does surprise readers with some average content that hardly makes for an intriguing read. Eventually, the book turns out to be nothing but an extended version of Bollywood Power List, as explored by Filmfare every year. How exactly? Well, read on to find more! 'Bollywood Today' has the context setting right at the beginning with the fact being stated that the book would take 1995 as the reference point - a year that saw three different genres of cinema making it's mark i.e. Aditya Chopra's Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Ram Gopal Varma's Rangeela and Mani Ratnam's Bombay. A noble thought since these three film makers did bring around a shift in the way films were made and the kind of stories that were told.
However, the promise of an engaging read is not quite met as after a mandatory flashback session (thankfully short in length) that takes the reader through Bollywood decade after decade, starting from 1935, it reaches it's pinnacle with 1986-1995 - a decade which saw milestones (as per Bamzai) like Chandni (1989), Parinda (1989) and Hum Aapke Hain Kaun (1994). Even as one looks forward to what next is in store from this point on, the book takes the 'Power List' route.
One after another there is a chapter apiece (5-10 pages at an average) on each of the Bollywood stars and Filmmakers that have made a difference to Bollywood in the decade gone by. 'So far so ok', one thinks, 'now let's hear some dope that tells what lies beneath'! Regretfully, there is none of that as you get to read the same old stories around how Amitabh Bachchan reinvented himself with Mohabbatein and Kaun Banega Crorepati after turning bankrupt and why is he termed as an ageless icon!
An essay on Shahrukh's journey from teleserial 'Fauji' to Chak De India could be drafted by a school kid who loves Bollywood cinema while his Raj/Rahul fascination over the years hardly makes for a news item anymore. His King Khan status has hardly been undisputed so reiteration of the same doesn't provide an additional punch to the existing scheme of things. Aamir Khan being called as 'The Method Man' is old news too while his love for getting into the character, as evidenced in his growing moustache for Mangal Pandey: The Rising and learning Awadhi dialect for Lagaan aren't quite the reasons that would make a person jump from one chapter to another.
More such predictable write ups follow on celebrities like Aamir Khan, Salman Khan, Aishwarya Rai, Kajol, Sanjay Dutt, Saif Ali Khan, Rani Mukerjee, Hrithik Roshan, Abhishek Bachchan, Preity Zinta, Aditya Chopra, Yash Chopra, Mani Ratnam, Ram Gopal Varma, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Mahesh Bhatt, Ashutosh Gowariker, Karan Johar, Vishal Bhardwaj, Farhan Akhtar and Nagesh Kukunoor. Zero surprises follow and as you reader you mainly go through the motions while turning pages.
Now this list too has its own (shocking) surprises in store with as many as three prominent names turning out to be glaring misses. Any guesses? Well, if one considers Akshay Kumar, Priyadarshan and Madhur Bhandarkar not to have contributed enough to Bollywood in the decade gone by then disappointment is bound to seep in. While 'Khiladi' Kumar has been enjoying an envious exponential rise in stocks year after year, Priyadarshan has hardly set a foot wrong with most of his films being earners at the box office. And when it comes to a multiple National Award winner filmmaker like Bhandarkar, how could there ever be doubts about his contribution to cinema? But no, there is zero mention about all the three gentlemen above!
Another disappointing factor about the book is the lack of quotes from prominent filmmakers. The entire book features probably 10 odd quotes which makes the book a desktop effort. Also, it's high time that many from within the industry stop calling Fanaa a bad film. The ever-so-fashionable statement is made here too while neglecting the fact that the film netted close to 50 crores just on Indian box office which clearly means that audience did think otherwise!
The book is not without it's share of goofs too:
- Eklavya - The Royal Guard is termed as a murder mystery. Well, those who have seen the film would hardly agree!
- Subhash Ghai's first film is termed as Hero. Errr..what happened to Vishwanath and Kalicharan?
- Now this one is truly hilarious - Since all films have English translated title, Chak De India has been termed as, hold your breath hard, 'Taste India'!
What makes this two hour journey of reading the book interesting though is the layout that is easy on eyes and comes with well spread out pictures that balances the content. Pictures are a mix of mostly movie stills with a few being behind the scenes affair and one doesn't mind turning over the glossy pages due to an attractive spread in store. Also, the write ups on film makers turns out to be a marginally better read than the stars; mainly so because they are the lesser spoken about bunch!
However, this doesn't quite compensate for the average content that one has to live with in the bargain.
Rating: * *