Tag Archives: Bollywood

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.

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And Then One Day : A Memoir by Naseeruddin Shah

And Then One Day by Naseeruddin Shah Title: And Then One Day: A Memoir
Author: Naseeruddin Shah
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton
ISBN: 9780670087648
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Pages: 328
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3.5/5

There are times you take stock of life. You evaluate what is there and what is not there. Perhaps one day we will all go through this. It is but eventual I think. While reading Naseeruddin Shah’s memoir, “And Then One Day”, this was my foremost thought. The book of course is written I guess keeping that in mind and at the same time, the tone of Mr. Shah is unique to him – sometimes brash, others haughty, sometimes also hypocritical, at other times contradictory and mostly funny and true. This is probably one of the reasons why I could not stop turning the pages.

“And Then One Day” to me is a mix of both, the man and the actor, after all one cannot separate one from the other, or maybe one can, which I am not aware of. The book chronicles the life of Naseeruddin Shah – from his childhood till his marriage to Ratna Pathak Shah. I think it is the candor with which it is written is what attracts the reader to the book and perhaps the credentials he holds as an actor.

The magnificence of the personality shines on every page. There is the struggle of becoming an actor to unabashedly admitting to roles done because he needed money. I must admit that sometimes I thought the tone was condescending and patronizing even, but the writing was so good that one can ignore that.

While I was reading the book for the first time (yes, I have read it twice), I thought it was ghost-written. However, it is not. The writing is clear, crisp and almost makes you picture incidents as you turn the pages. There are also a lot of times when Mr. Shah indulges in some self-deprecating humour which is also quite brilliantly written.

It is not easy to talk about one’s life. I am sure it is very cathartic and sometimes also brings back memories that you do not want to encounter. At the same time, there is a lot of clarity in the thought process of the writer about this book. Yes, there are times when there is a lot of back and forth between the past and present, but then I also think that this is the only way to write a memoir.

Mr. Shah excels at this book and it does not seem that he does not know how to write, like I mentioned earlier. The book is practical, it is real and it also comes from the heart so many times – especially when he is speaking of his daughter and his relationship with her. “And then One Day” is a book which talks about acting, the actor, the man, the human being and it does so with no holds barred.

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Mumbai Confidential by Saurav Mohapatra and Vivek Shinde

Mumbai Confidential by Saurav Mohapatra and Vivek Shinde Title: Mumbai Confidential
Author: Saurav Mohapatra and Vivek Shinde
Publisher: Inked, Penguin
ISBN: 9780143333357
Genre: Graphic Novel
Pages: 144
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

What better way to depict the dark and gory underworld and cop politics of Mumbai, than through a graphic novel? The underbelly is fantastically done with shades of brown, black and grey. Sometimes it also may happen that some graphic novels fail to convey what they want to, but that is not the case with “Mumbai Confidential” by Saurav Mohapatra and Vivek Shinde.

The book is set in Mumbai (but of course). It is the story of a cop, rather an ex-cop, Arjun Kadam who had it all going for him, till it all fell apart – both personally and professionally. He is no longer the man he used to be. He is addicted to heroin. He somehow has no will to live. There is the ACP who used to be his mentor and still considers him to be his protégé. Another cop is after his life. To top it all, there is a hit and run and Kadam survives, but a young urchin loses her life and Kadam will do all it takes to bring her justice.

There is everything in this graphic novel. It is fast-paced, riveting and has Bollywood with doses of underworld and suspense. However, the personal tragedy that occurs with Kadam should have been brought out well in my opinion. It was too rushed. The illustrations are terrific. They bind you and make you spend time on every page than just flip them soon enough.

The blocks and the blurbs are uniquely done. There is an effort put here to tell a story, to see it through from start to finish in a well-coordinated manner. The graphics depict the city’s dark side brilliantly. Vivek Shinde’s art and Mohapatra’s storytelling goes hand in hand quite well, providing the reader with a rollercoaster of a ride, laced with delusion, despair and some hope.

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In the Company of a Poet: Gulzar in Conversation with Nasreen Munni Kabir

In the Company of a Poet - Gulzar in Conversation with Nasreen Munni Kabir Title: In the Company of a Poet – Gulzar in Conversation with Nasreen Munni Kabir
Author: Nasreen Munni Kabir
Publisher: Rainlight Rupa
ISBN: 9788129120830
Genre: Non-Fiction, Bollywood, Poetry
Pages: 208
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

There is perhaps only one Bollywood lyricist I adore and that has to be Gulzar. Not only as a lyricist but also as a poet, a director, a writer and everything rolled into one. There is something about what Gulzar Sahib does, that makes it all alright. Everything is relatable to life and what it has to give or take. Just about everything. So when there is nothing that he writes or anything that is written on him or with him, one just cannot resist but read it. Nasreen Munni Kabir has done Gulzar fans a huge favour by collaborating with him and producing a book of her conversations with him.

“In the Company of a Poet” is all about Gulzar – the man, the child of his parents, the brother, the father, the grandfather and the poet. It is everything that you wanted to know about the genius (I am taking the liberty to call him that, because to me he is exactly that), and nothing better than intimate conversations, through Skype and through meetings. Nasreen Munni Kabir has given us a treat in the form of these conversations.

I started reading the book on a rainy day and it was perhaps the only time for it. It took me a long time to finish it because I was in-between reads, however when I went back to it, I could not stop reading it. “In the Company of a Poet” is enthralling in the sense that it gives perspective after perspective and one doesn’t tire of them as a reader – Gulzar Saab’s view of things, people, the film industry, poetry and the world is just superlative. There is a sense of humour in what he says. There is nostalgia (even on this aspect, he has a wonderful way of looking at it). There is a sense of how things were and how they are. At the same time, he also is of the belief that one must learn the new and embrace it – as in his case, he learnt how to use Skype.

Gulzar Saab’s love for poetry is so evident, that one just wants to read more of it – his and other poets’ works as well. He speaks of how he got into movies, his experiences with Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Bimal Roy and R.D. Burman and many more legends. He talks of how he has to play tennis every morning without fail and about his relationship with his daughter and grandson. For me reading this book, was not just knowing about Gulzarji but also about the people connected to him and that felt just too good. He speaks of partition and his nightmares and that brought tears to my eyes. There are a lot of poems as well in the book, which only lend another voice.

“In the Company of a Poet” is an insightful read. Nasreen Munni Kabir’s questions and observations are well-thought of and planned. Her research is meticulous and she gives more than enough room to the poet and writer to speak and talk about his experiences. She is intuitive and has chalked down every bit of the conversation to detail. For every lover of Gulzar and his works, this is a must read.

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Conversations with Waheeda Rehman by Nasreen Munni Kabir

Conversations-with-Waheeda-Rehman Title: Conversations with Waheeda Rehman
Author: Nasreen Munni Kabir
Publisher: Penguin Viking
ISBN: 9780670086924
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 256
Source: Editor
Rating: 5/5

So when you read about a legend, you just continue turning the pages. It does not matter. Their life has so much to offer and give insights about every aspect of life, that you cannot stop reading. The same happened to me while I was reading, “Conversations with Waheeda Rehman” by Nasreen Munni Kabir. I finished it in less than a day and then I could not stop thinking about it.

“Conversations with Waheeda Rehman” is a book which is just what the title says. It is a set of conversations with the legendary actor – her life, her times, her movies (select and not all are mentioned), her friendships, her family and the way she views life and how it was so easy for her one fine day to give up Bollywood and start living her life and creating a family and world of her own.

Waheeda Rehman has always been one of my favourite actors and continues to be, so I was only too eager to read this book and I could not stop gushing. From the experience of her first movie as the lead to the way she stuck to her decisions when it came to showing skin for the camera or not doing certain scenes, because she did not see the logic in them, she has stuck to her belief and faith throughout her career.

Nasreen Munni Kabir has managed to bring out the best in these conversations that spanned over two years in Waheeda Rehman’s Bandra house. The conversations are clear, polite and candid. Ms. Rehman does not shy from talking about things – she says what she has to and that is that. Munni Kabir is a great inducer of conversation. She throws open a question and lets Ms. Rehman say what she has to. I love that style and subtlety of questions, and of course one cannot forget Waheeda Rehman’s grace and style. I felt as though she was sitting right next to me, and I could hear all of it in her voice.

“Conversations with Waheeda Rehman” is a testimony and a very frank account of a celebrity who probably never behaved like one. She was always the odd one out – who proved time and again through her movies such as Pyaasa, Guide, Kaghaz ke Phool and many more as to what it really takes to be present forever – a great sense of cinema and acting. If you are an ardent lover of good cinema, then you should not miss reading this one.

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