Book Review: Love and Longing in Hindi Cinema

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By Joginder Tuteja Bollywood Hungama News Network

Aamir Khan has emerged as the strongest force on the first decade of the current millennium. On the other hand, Katrina Kaif is one woman who is enjoying the best success ratio during last half a decade. Naturally when the two of them come together (in whatever capacity) it is expected to be an event in itself. They may yet have to sign a film together (the day doesn't look far away) but in the interim they have managed to get cameras busy with their appearance for Cineblitz's coffee table book 'Love and Longing in Hindi Cinema'. Not just have they come up with numerous shots which are inspired by Guru Dutt and Waheeda Rehman in the classic Pyaasa; they have also contributed towards a couple of write-ups in the book which focuses on Bollywood (termed as Hindi cinema in the title), has guest write-ups by the likes of Karan Johar and Vikram Bhatt and is basically centred on love, lust, passion, sensuality etc. etc.

Good idea? Yes (not many film based books have tried to pick upon a singular theme and churn it for readers)
Great marketing? Yes (whoever thought of bringing Aamir and Katrina together for the book deserves a pat on the back)
Greater packaging? Oh absolutely (this is one of the best designed coffee table books to have come out in 2009)
Excellent product? Not at all.

And this is where one feels a lot let down because the book is analogous to a much hyped product that didn't quite deliver what was expected out of it. It was akin to a good announcement (the book's theme) followed by roping in of top stars (Aamir and Katrina), releasing a great First Look (the Pyaasa pose) and a happening premiere (the product being introduced to the media). However, as a reader starts flipping through pages, one realises that the content out there isn't superb enough to compliment a great finishing and polishing that oozes out of the overall layout of this 200 odd pages book.

It's as simple as this - visually the book is an enticing affair with an overall design coupled with exciting pictures and some ease of reading, hence making 'Love and Longing in Hindi Cinema' a product that you would want to check out on it's very arrival. However, browse through the content and it turns out to be either too routine/predictable and at places catering to only that segment of readers who wish to be intellectually stimulated.

This is evidenced in a couple of chapters where the book becomes so talk heavy and researched that the taste of an average reader is compromised. One of the initial chapters (sex and sensuality in Hindi cinema vis-à-vis European cinema) could have made for an enticing subject line. However, scratch the surface and it turns out to be a whitepaper/thesis/essay. In fact this is where the overall design (by Divya Saxena - Great job done!!!) comes in handy because she ensures that the overall text doesn't get boring and at least visually there is something on the offing.

From visual representation, one isn't expecting semi nude pictures to ooze out of the pages due to the book's theme being centred on 'love' and 'longing' followed by 'lust'. However, as long as never seen before (or rarely seen) film or photo shoot stills are put to great use on practically every page, that's reasonable enough incentive for a reader.

The sad part though is that just being reasonable is not good enough to warrant a recommendation for 'Love and Longing in Hindi Cinema' because even other chapters around 'Kiss Sutra', 'Once Upon a Wedding Night', 'The Death of Romance' and many more, despite the tantalising appeal that is carried in the titles, don't have anything unexplored or untold to offer. Either the language and text starts appearing like a paper (as mentioned earlier) or done to death references to scenes/actresses like Madhuri Dixit in Dayavan, Sridevi in Mr. India, Dimple Kapadia in Saagar, Meena Kumari in Paakezah or Madhu Bala in Mughal E Azam are made which results in a strong sense of 'seen it done all'.

What does turn out to be exciting in some ways are dozens of quotes from decades of Cineblitz archives that bring back the nostalgia of Rekha, Rajesh Khanna, Dharmendra from the 70s, Dimple Kapadia, Madhuri Dixit and Amitabh Bachchan in the 80s and Manisha Koirala, Kajol and Shah Rukh Khan from the 90s. For the younger generation of reader, it makes for an interesting read when text around fantasies, desires, sexual liberation and free lifestyle of yesteryear actors is put on display, right from the horse's mouth.

Talking about mouths, the book wrongly mentions Emraan Hashmi of kissing in each of his films, including Kalyug. The fact is, he didn't in that film. Wait, there is more. Remember Amitabh Bachchan starrer Ganga Jamuna Saraswati? In another chapter, a scene from the film is described in great detail where Amitabh Bachchan is supposed to have saved Jaya Prada (who is ice cold due to extreme weather conditions) by making love to her and hence warm her up. However, there is an error here because the fact is that in the film it was Meenakshi Sehsadri and not Jaya Pradha who was the victim (or the lucky one, as you may wish to interpret) here. Surprising part is that not just is the reference to Jaya Prada repeated thrice in this episode, it is also done by a writer (check out the book to find his name) who is a National Award winner.

Well, given the fact that the book by itself isn't exciting enough in totality, a couple of aberrations like these are way too minor in comparison.

Price: Rs. 549/=