Category Archives: June 2018 Reads

In a Cult Of Their Own: Bollywood Beyond Box Office by Amborish Roychoudhury

In A Cult of Their Own

Title: In a Cult of Their Own: Bollywood Beyond Box Office
Author: Amborish Roychoudhury
Publisher: Rupa and Co.
ISBN: 9788129151353
Genre: Non-Fiction, Film Writing
Pages: 276
Source: Author
Rating: 3 Stars

This is a book about cult movies. What constitutes a cult movie, though? The one that people realized later was a superb movie. Or the one that people are still denouncing? One can’t tell really, given how movies are gauged in our country. Box-office collections still matter the most and Roychoudhury writes of movies when the moolah mattered the most (if anything it matters even more today but we have also “allowed” indie cinema to try and thrive – earlier known as “art house cinema”) , when there was no Netflix; when viewers weren’t aware of the art of cinema, so to say and yet these movies got the status of being “cult movies”.

Well, my reading experience of the book was breezy and yes, I also learned a lot about the movies chosen by the author. At the same time, I did not agree with so many films on the author’s list and that is bound to happen with any other reader as well.

The book is written in a very tongue-in-cheek style which worked for me. There were places I could not help but chuckle or guffaw, sometimes at the sheer ridiculousness of Indian cinema. And yet there is so much that Amborish has spoken about in this book – about the select movies and also about the ones that aren’t on the list. The sheer amount of research done is staggering. From small things to know to the ones that surprise you instantly.

My favourite pieces from the book: Kaagaz Ke Phool, Chashme Buddoor, Silsila, Katha, Chameli Ki Shaadi, Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar, No Smoking (a highly underrated movie in my opinion), and the most brilliant piece on The Ramsay Brothers. “In A Cult of Their Own” makes for a perfect monsoon read. It is a light, interesting, and sometimes funny read as well. The kind of book that will not disappoint for sure.

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Amrita Sher-Gil: Rebel with a Paintbrush by Anita Vachharajani. Illustrations by Kalyani Ganapathy

Rebel with a Paintbrush Title: Amrita Sher-Gil: Rebel with a Paintbrush
Author: Anita Vachharajani
Illustrated by: Kalyani Ganapathy
Publisher: HarperCollins India
ISBN: 978-9352774739
Genre: Biographies, Art Biographies
Pages: 184
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

I love Sher-Gil’s work. Almost everything she painted. Every work of art transformed itself in her hands. So there was this one biography of hers which I had read a long time ago, whose author I forget. But this is the one that will stay for a long time to come. I think it is mainly because of the illustrations.

“Rebel with a Paintbrush” very succinctly describes Sher-Gil – as a person, a wife, a lover, and an artist. More than anything, the book is all about her influences and her works of art. The journey of an artist is so well-described that I wished there was more of it.  More than anything else, I am in awe of how she conducted herself and lived life on her terms. Mind you, we are referring to a time when feminism had just taken flight.

This book is about her life, her influences, her education, the growing-up years and her determination and passion toward her art. It is also about the story behind the artist – about the rebel and the dreamer, her loves and longing and what shaped her both as an artist and woman.

Anita Vachharajani’s take on it may not seem new, but the writing is fresh and important. Also the beautiful reprints of Sher-Gil’s work along with the original illustrations by Kalyani Ganapathy make it more than worthwhile to pick this brief biography. I loved how Anita has looked at every aspect of Amrita’s life and ensured that nothing is missed. I can only imagine how she must’ve managed it but the result is quite a treat for someone who has an interest in art and wants to understand more about Amrita Sher-Gil – her life and work. Do read this book. Won’t take too much of your time and a perfect one for the monsoons.

Disoriental by Négar Djavadi. Translated from the French by Tina Kover

Disoriental by Négar Djavadi Title: Disoriental
Author: Négar Djavadi
Translated from the French by Tina Kover
Publisher: Europa Editions
ISBN: 978-1609454517
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 320
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

At the very onset, let me tell you that “Disoriental” is not an easy book to read. I think most literary fiction isn’t. You have to give the genre some time to grow on you and once it does, there is no looking back. Having said that, the reading experience differs with every book.

The thing with “Disoriental” is that (and to me, this was important while reading it) it is written in French (the adopted country of the author) and not in the author’s native language Farsi. This in itself says so much about the book and its progression.

The readers are in for a treat when it comes to this book. From a modern-day fertility clinic, we are transported to modern Iranian culture and in the bargain the history of a country. Might I add that there are magic realism elements as well that take your breath away, even if you have read Márquez or Rushdie. Kimiâ Sadr fled Iran with her mother and sisters to join her father in France, at the tender age of ten. She is now twenty-five, in a fertility clinic waiting for her turn and memories come rushing by.

I love how Djavadi has integrated the personal and the political. It is as if they are intertwined and to a very large extent maybe they are. The past, present, and future of the country of birth will somehow in so many ways, will always be linked to ours, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. The Sadrs are a flamboyant lot – from Kimiâ’s formidable great-grandfather to her father and uncles. Not to forget her mother from whom she was greatly inspired.

“Disoriental” besides being a book on identity, exile, and homelessness, is also a book on a family in the midst of political upheaval and regime change. Iran is described on point (not that I have been there but can figure, only going by movies I have watched and other books I have read) and there is mention of “THE EVENT” of March 13, 1994, which is spoken about throughout the book and revealed with a feeling of horror toward the end.

The thing also about “Disoriental” is that it feels as though it has come from a very personal space, almost autobiographical and maybe it is. Family looms large in the narrative and plays along beautifully alongside, combining the personal and the political. Also, not to forget the sexual. Kimiâ’s sexual identity is also explored which I thought was much needed.

“Disoriental” is about distances and perhaps also about the ones we do not sometimes want to traverse. It is about alienation and somehow feeling grounded wherever you are, in a very strange manner. The tone and voice of the narration keep changing in the book, which to me made it jumpy and out of the flow. Having said that, it was needed to give background about characters and the place they came from. There are multiple journeys in one book – they run parallelly to each other and the author uses deep, lyrical sentences that give it the much-needed elegance. At the same time, to understand that all of this is translated into English makes one be in awe of Tina Kover, given how dense the book is.

There is a lot of thread of memory – through objects, people, place and time (you will keep reading about THE EVENT a lot by the way), lending it the Proustian quality (I wasn’t surprised at all). All I can say is that “Disoriental” is a book that has so much to offer, and does it in a lot of ways and stupendously at that.

Motherhood by Sheila Heti

Motherhood by Sheila Heti Title: Motherhood
Author: Sheila Heti
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
ISBN: 978-1627790772
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 304
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

It took me a while to get into “Motherhood” by Sheila Heti. I was under the impression that this one would also be an easy read, just like, “How Should A Person Be?”, however, I was mistaken. “Motherhood” also because of the content and obviously the writing style (which is mostly meta in my opinion), makes it a little of a tough read. If you are prepared to battle through the first couple of pages, you are in for a treat.

“Motherhood” as the title suggests is obviously about motherhood but beyond that,​ it questions what a woman loses or gains when she becomes a mother. At first, it comes across as a strange book even, given there is no plot really and when you read the narrator’s life and her point of view, then everything falls into place.

Her experiences, her friends’ experiences, people who have children and people who don’t; they all play a major role in building her as a person and yet at the core of it is the question of motherhood – related​ to body, philosophy, society, ​and womanhood.

More than anything, the book is about a woman’s body and her choices, which are hers alone. The writing​, as usual,​l is solid, drifting and changing forms (which I enjoyed a lot by the way) that propels the book to another level.

“Motherhood” celebrates every aspect of being a woman and I am so glad it does. At the heart of it, Heti is also writing about femininity and vocation, mortality and empowerment and the history of it all. She breaks the mould of what is being a mother and what isn’t and gives room for ideas and opinions that are different to breathe and prosper. Sheila Heti is truly one of a kind writer according to me.

Adjustment Day by Chuck Palahniuk

Adjustment Day Title: Adjustment Day
Author: Chuck Palahniuk
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
ISBN: 978-0393652598
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 Stars

Let me very honest and tell you that I wasn’t all that excited when I heard of the new Palahniuk being released. I haven’t enjoyed his last couple of books and yet I was in a strange way looking forward to reading this one.

At the same time, Palahniuk is not every reader’s cup of tea. “Adjustment Day” is his first novel in four years and might I add here that I was more than floored reading it. It is a book that is about the times we live in, the times that are dark and gloomy and no one else to bring it to light, the way Palahniuk does. He wrings the absurdities of society, class and political structure like no one else, almost brandishing each farce and each conspiracy theory lurking in the American psyche, bit by bit.

So, what is Adjustment Day all about?

Adjustment Day is about the rabbit hole of our times – the deep, dark abyss that sucks everything right in, with no chance of redemption. Sounds bleak? That’s exactly what the book is with a dash of humour. At the same time, I think one Chuck Palahniuk novel has the potential to derive five more from it. The plot isn’t linear at all (if you have experienced his writing, then you know that by now) and with every turn of the page you are stunned by the satire, that is so on point.

The book is about people passing the word only to the ones whom they trust the most: Adjustment Day is coming. They are also reading a book for the reckoning. These people are also memorizing the directives. What is this book all about? What is Adjustment Day? In short, this is the plot of the book. But like I said, there is nothing easy about Palahniuk’s writing, till you are about twenty pages in and then it is a breeze.

Adjustment Day is also very relevant to the times we live in – the sound-bite politics, the social media hullabaloo, and the “everything is alright” propaganda we are fed with, basically the media and its culture. Every word is in place and nothing is what is not needed. I may not have enjoyed his earlier books, but this one, I most certainly loved. Palahniuk has done it again and hit it right out of the park!