Frontlist | Best Bollywood books
on Mar 23, 2021
If you asked someone what their favourite movie is, you would get a graded list plus a justification of their choices. But if you asked them to name their favourite book about movies, you would almost always get a blank. Unfortunately, we have not had books on movies that have captured the imagination the way our movies themselves have.
With more than 1,600 movies produced across various languages in 2019 (over 800 in Bollywood) and 14 million Indians going to the movies daily, India has not produced high-quality literature to match those figures. Now, considering that Indians spend more time reading physical books (over 10 hours per week) than citizens of any other country do, and produce the world’s highest number of movies, it’s a pity that the best biography of Bollywood is yet to be written. Mihir Bose’s Bollywood: A History (2006) is a decent attempt, though. We need a social and cultural history of Bollywood on the lines of A City Of Nets: A Portrait of Hollywood in the 1940s by Otto Friedrich.
The earliest books I read on Bollywood movies were Anupama Chopra’s Sholay: Making Of A Classic and Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge which give you an entertaining, behind-the-scenes view of the making of these classics. My favourites that every Bollywood fan should read for its insights are Bollywood Beyond Box Office by Amborish Roychoudhury and 10 Bioscope by Diptakirti Chaudhuri.
While there are biographies of almost all the major stars (mostly male dominated), I liked Lisa Ray’s deeply personal memoir Close To The Bone in which Ray, one of India’s first supermodels at the age of 16, details her entry into Bollywood, her brush with the Oscars, her battle with cancer, and her heartbreaks before she found love and embraced motherhood through surrogacy.
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Amongst the superstars, Dilip Kumar’s biography The Substance and the Shadow is probably the best. Naseeruddin Shah’s memoir And Then One Day is a remarkable book about his personal and professional life up till the age of 32. The most recent Manto and I by Nandita Das is as much about the making of the movie and Nandita’s journey of years of research, as about the protagonist Saadat Hasan Manto.
Shamya Dasgupta’s Don’t Disturb The Dead: The Story of the Ramsay Brothers is a fascinating insight into the family name that remains synonymous with horror movies in India. My Adventures With Satyajit Ray: The Making Of Shatranj Ke Khiladi is based on producer Suresh Jindal’s memories of working with Ray on his first non-Bengali feature. It includes the letters that flew back and forth between director and producer, production stills, and numerous anecdotes about Ray’s filmmaking process. Bollywood’s film posters have a long and illustrious history, and it is brilliantly celebrated in Jerry Pinto’s coffee table book Bollywood Posters, which forefronts the industry’s unsung heroes — graphic designers and artists of posters.
Bollywood often overshadows other regional cinema. Beyond Bollywood: The Cinemas of South India edited by M.K. Raghavendra, film critic and scholar, is an academic book comprising four essays on the major south Indian cinemas: Kannada, analysed by Raghavendra; Tamil by N. Kalyan Raman, a Chennai-based writer and translator; Telugu by author Elavarthi Sathya Prakash who is faculty at the University of Hyderabad; and Malayalam by writer Meena T Pillai, faculty at the University of Kerala. What I wish to read is a book that captures the history of the entire movie industry in India against the backdrop of the social and cultural history of the country. This is a gift awaiting every cinephile! The author is a technologist based in Silicon Valley, who is gently mad about books
Source: India Express