Daily Archives: May 28, 2016

Shashi Kapoor: The Householder, the Star by Aseem Chhabra

Shashi Kapoor - The Householder The Star by Aseem Chhabra Title: Shashi Kapoor: The Householder, the Star
Author: Aseem Chhabra
Publisher: Rupa Books
ISBN: 978-8129139702
Genre: Biographies & Autobiographies
Pages: 216
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

I remember asking my mother when I was a ten-year old boy: “Mom! Who is your favourite actor?” and she answered unflinchingly “Shashi Kapoor”. I could almost sense a sly smile as she uttered his name. It was almost like she had betrayed my father by uttering that handsome actor’s face (of course I would know it later as to how insanely crazy she was when it came to him). I did not understand then about a young woman’s desire when it came to her favourite actor and let it pass. I was ten after all.

After almost two decades and two years, I got the opportunity to read the biography of that very actor by Aseem Chhabra titled, “Shashi Kapoor – The Householder, the Star” and it all fell into place. Why was my mother crazy about him? Why did his films matter so much to her? Why would she insist of even watching all Merchant-Ivory productions in which he acted and they weren’t even mainstream movies, which my family would gorge on?

At the same time, some of the family members for the life of them couldn’t understand that how could a man play a role in movies such as Deewar, Trishul etc and still continue to work in “art films” (they used to call them that) such as Junoon, Kalyug, etc. It is perhaps for this versatility of roles and acting skills, Shashi Kapoor was the go-to-guy. Maybe that is why because he was so busy during the shoot of Satyam Shivam Sundaram, that Raj Kapoor dubbed him “Taxi”. All said and done, it was these anecdotes and more you should read what Aseem has written about the star.

I mean more than anything I have always been a fan of Merchant-Ivory productions – I have almost watched all their films and then while I was watching their movies growing-up, I would be jubilant that here was a face I could recognize and how come this Indian actor spoke such great English – he of course was Shashi Kapoor and then slowly, but surely, I fell in love with my mother’s favourite actor.

To know that it was his production house that produced movies such as 36 Chowringhee Lane, Utsav (well I know most people think this movie makes no sense at all, but personally I love it), Kalyug and Junoon, I fell in love with the book even more. What I love about the book is Aseem’s attempt to make readers and film-goers world over not only meet Shashi Kapoor the actor, but also the man behind the actor and the movies. His life is spoken about throughout but very nonchalantly – almost as though it is there for you to see, but only if you try reading between the lines. At times, Aseem even gives it away on a platter to the reader.

“Shashi Kapoor – the Householder, the Star” is a book about the generous spirit of the man – as a human being, actor and producer. It was Shashi Kapoor who was the first so-called “crossover” actor and also among the first who took to stage the way he did and created an institution called Prithvi Theatre which still runs strong in Mumbai.

I love the book. I love its nuances – the way Aseem has researched it and the amount of time it took him to give shape and form to it. It is almost no one else could have written about the actor but Aseem. There is so much empathy when he speaks of Jennifer and the effect she had on Shashi’s life – both as a professional and his wife. I think as a person who loves Bollywood and everything about it (well almost everything about it), this book was not only a revealer of sorts but also refreshing – it is about a man that not much is spoken or written about (not at least now) and I loved the way it is structured and written. If you are a Bollywood aficionado and even if you aren’t, you must read this book only because Shashi Kapoor deserves to be known the way Aseem wants you to know him.

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate Title: Crenshaw
Author: Katherine Applegate
Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books
ISBN: 978-0007951185
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Pages: 256
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

If a book like “Crenshaw” doesn’t warm your heart, then I don’t know what will. I absolutely adored the book. I knew it would end soon (barely about 250 odd pages) and I so didn’t want it to. I had read “The One and Only Ivan” two years ago and couldn’t stop recommending it to people. I loved it. I cried, I laughed, I wept like a baby, and I needed to be consoled after the book ended. I was scared picking up “Crenshaw” thinking I would feel the same, but surprisingly I was perhaps stronger or the story sailed me through the parts when I came this close to burst into tears but did not.

“Crenshaw” is an imaginary cat. He is ten-year-old Jackson’s friend and times aren’t easy for Jackson and his family. The landlord is at the door. There is not much to eat in the fridge. His parents are trying very hard to keep their family afloat. And in all of this an imaginary friend comes along and changes his life forever, making him realize how to hold things and people dear to him.

The plot of Katherine Applegate’s books for children is threadbare. What infuses life into them is language, the fact that you can not only relate to them but that the feelings resonate, and you then realize that it is absolutely okay not to have answers to everything in life, because life doesn’t work that way anyway.

“Crenshaw” is a big-hearted book for people who have a long way to go. It is not only for children or teens but most certainly for adults as well. Our lessons after all do come from places where we least expect them to pop from. I love that about life and about books that teach us that.

The Wedding Photographer by Sakshama Puri Dhariwal

The Wedding Photographer by Sakshama Puri Dhariwal Title: The Wedding Photographer
Author: Sakshama Puri Dhariwal
Publisher: Penguin Books
ISBN: 978-0143426264
Genre: Indian Writing, Indian fiction
Pages: 256
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3.5 stars

Now I am a fan of good comic writing (because it is so rare and far and few in-between) and when I come across something really nice, then I cannot help but speak about it. Even if it is a little cheesy and quite predictable this was the case in most places in Sakshama Puri Dhariwal’s book “The Wedding Photographer”. Why did I like it then?

I liked it for various reasons. The prose is racy, cracking with wit and does not lose its steam at any point. It becomes predictable yes, it is also jarring sometimes (given the mélange of characters and the setting – a big fat Punjabi wedding – what do you then expect?) but all said and done it is funny, contemporary and relatable more than anything else.

The plot is simple: A journalist and a moonlighting wedding photographer Risha Kohli meets the young, handsome real estate dynamic tycoon Arjun Khanna on a seventeen-hour long flight and sparks fly. The obvious happens – Risha is the photographer for Arjun’s sister’s wedding and they meet some more over the course of the lavish three-day wedding. There is some misunderstanding, some witty banter, quirky characters that walk in and walk out (I love the Nani – she stays throughout the book and I absolutely love her candid whisky-drinking nature), the much-needed drama and all’s well that ends well.

Now the writing like I said is breezy and it definitely is one of those long airplane journey reads, but somehow to me, the predictability of the plot and the fact that it was written just so it could be made into a movie, overshadowed everything else. I mean the book is crying out loud to be picked up by Yash Chopra Films or Dharma Productions (or at least that’s what it seems to me). I like the humour. I like the wit. I like Risha and I absolutely want to meet someone like Arjun but that’s about it. You most certainly cannot reread it (I guess even the author knows it) but I sure do recommend it as a one-time fun read.