My third book Take 25 (2001) is self-published, not because I did not find a publisher but because I thought I could do it on my own. I launched my own label called Sambhav and believed that distribution would be easy, it was a nightmare and in the process I lost the joy of just being an author. It is undoubtedly my most good looking book with a stunning picture of Rekha on the cover and is a tribute to the 80s decade, a lowly phase for Hindi films but a landmark in film journalism. This was an era of feature writing where actors shared their hearts with us and we lovingly spread their colorful quotes over double spreads of art paper combined with glamorous pictures. The book captures a leisurely era when life was innocent and people trusted each other, when relationships were baggage free and all of us searched for happiness in small things.
Interestingly all my books were unplanned. The Story So Far was an initiative of the group I worked with at that time and Cinema Images & Issues (2004) are a collection of film essays – some explored as academic study, while some retained as stubborn memories that refuse to fade. The concerns for the issues, I admit, came in much later after I had sufficient exposure and the confidence to disagree and debate on what I watched on screen and read on the subject. The manuscript was proof read and ready to publish and call it destiny that I met Mr Mehra of Rupa Publishers at Meghana Gulzar’sbook release on her father. He was looking for one more title to complete his year list and that title was mine. The book was on stands exactly a month after I mailed him a ready to process PDF and the rest is history.
I had no idea that attending a dance ballet by Hema Malini as Draupadi and commenting on it in my editorial would result in my sixth book Hema Malini – Authorised Biography (2006). She read my editorial and invited me home to discuss the concept of a book she had been dreaming about for a long time. I had never done a commissioned book so took a while to give my answer. This was my second biography after Amitabh Bachchan and this time it was in prose. Initially, Hema Malini was keen that the book must only feature her as a dancer but I insisted on including the woman and the actor in the story telling and she understood and accepted my perspective.
I have enjoyed the process of writing this book, of spending long hours, day and night, discussing her dance and films and getting to know her as a person and an artiste and it is an experience I will always cherish.
Film Review: Raees
Date: 25 January 2017
Producer: Excel Entertainment
Director: Rahul Dholakia
Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Mahirra Khan, Nawazudin Siddiqu, Ronnit Roy
Rating: 3.5 stars
Set in early 1980’s Gujarat, India Raees is yet another story of a criminal and his meteoric rise to become the single most powerful man in the state. We have seen the same plot exploited time and again in Hollywood and Indian films glorifying the underworld hero.
Based on the life of Abdul Latif Raees Alam is a courageous, ambitious boy described by his mentor as Gujarati ka baniya dimaag aur miyaan bhai ka daring and Raees Alam takes the compliment seriously. In a time of serious curfew in the city, Raees and his friend hide bottles wrapped in newspaper in their school bag and make deliveries for their boss and when they grow up, they are ready to throw him a challenge.
The shift in equation alters many relationships and ushers new conflict and anxieties for Raees and his supporters but he is a brave heart and ready for the rocky path. Director Rahul Dholakia is strongly influenced by Mani Ratnam’s award winning Nayagan and it is apparent in his shot taking and moral standing of the film.
In Nayagan a young Kamal Haaasan while loading the gold on the boat for his mentor asks, ‘Are we doing the right thing’ to which his mentor responds, ‘All I know is that anything that feeds many hungry mouths cannot be wrong!’
In Raees young Alam asks the same question to his Ammi and her answer is ‘No work is small and there is no religion bigger than your work’.
What works in favor of the film is the period setting, the costumes, the ambiance, the characterizations, and the dialogues. What does not is the length of the film and that it does not have anything new to say.
The first half is racy and promising and you expect twists and turns in the second half but it goes the predictable way.
Pakistani actress Mahirra Khan is a letdown, Shah Rukh Khan has special chemistry with all his heroines but this time the romantic moments leave you cold and untouched. Nawazuddin Siddiqui plays a cop yet again but lends a flavor to his character. He is so fluent in his lines that it almost seems as if he has written the character of Majumdar himself.
Raees is old wine filled in new bottle for Shah Rukh Khan fans and the bonus is that that he has never looked so good or performed better.
Film Review: Kaabil
Date: 25 January 2017
Producer: Film Kraft
Director: Sanjay Gupta
Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Yaami Gautam, Ronnit Roy
Rating: 4 stars
Rohan Bhatnagar is a favorite of many in the colony he lives; they admire his confidence to live life against adversities. He makes his own breakfast and travels to the studio where he works as a mimic artiste. A common friend sends him and Supriya, a pianist, on a blind date. Both are very certain that they don’t want to get married but they continue to meet for shopping and dinners and eventually get married.
The film is vibrant and racy till the tragedy occurs and post interval the plot concentrates on vendetta. Intelligently scripted and sensitively shot the unusual love story is a reflection of a thoughtless society, corrupt police and a faulted legislative system. It is both, a story of abuse and a story of triumph.
Director Sanjay Gupta popular for his dark, crime thrillers like Kaante, Shootout at Wadala and recently Jazbaa packages yet another thriller this time a bright and positive one combined with with a social cause. Hrithik Roshan has in his17 long year career played an emperor/ Jodha Akbar a don/ Dhoom 2 a fugitive/ Fiza and a superman/ Krrish 3. Three of his films portrayed him battling with disability. Koi Mil Gaya was about the mentally challenged, Guzaarish about the physically challenged and Kaabil is about the visually impaired!!
What works in favor of the film is the tight screenplay, dazzling dialogues and Rajesh Roshan’s haunting music. What does not work is the predictable second half and the excessive violence. The supporting cast comprising police inspector Chaubey and his assistant make an impact. So do Rohit and Ronit Roy as villains, Yaami Gautam is charming but the film ultimately belongs to only Hrithik Roshan.
Watch him guard his every step before he climbs and walks, watch him count, measure the levels before he gets on the floor. Your heart misses a beat as he wades through city traffic and a crowded mall. It is not how he faces crisis but how he absorbs the persona of Rohan Bhatnagar, the ease with which he folds his stick, sips his coffee turns, reacts to sound, senses peril and yes makes love to his wife, is a performance of details.
Watch Kaabil for the actor of details, Hrithik Roshan and for the over powering message that no matter what the opposition one must not lose courage.
It was an ordinary day and I was checking my mails when I came across Publisher Rohit Gupta of Pustak Mahal asking me for a quick easy read cinema book. Fragmented Frames (2007) is a collection of essays delving on the genesis and growth of cinema, capturing the magic and the madness of show business. It travels you through varied subjects and phases of the dream world and was proudly released by Gulzar saab in Mumbai.
A common friend brought me the audio book of Krishnaayan and I heard it for just five minutes and decided that I will do the translation of the book. The author was visiting Mumbai the following week, we met, agreed and I began working on the manuscript but it was not easy because I have not studied Gujarati and the exercise was very tiring. I could have given up but there was a divine force guiding me that did not allow me to discontinue.
Krishna- The God who lived as Man is a transcreation of Kajal Vaidya Oza’s Krishnaayan in Gujarati. It is my only book outside of cinema and there are too many miracles associated with it to be passed off as coincidences. Lord Krishna is the eighth child of his parents; I am the eighth of my parents. It is my eighth book and it is published in the year 2008 and these are sufficient reasons to justify why the book occupies a special place in my heart and will continue to do so forever.
The 90s decade besides the computer, electronic media and the internet saw the rise of web portals. I was heading a creative time appointed to create a portal exclusively on Amitabh Bachchan and was compiling credits and trivia of all his films. At that time I had imagined I would bring out a regular size book on the actor and call it Bachchan Filmography. A chance meeting with Neville Tulli of Osians was the beginning of a magnificent book Bachchanalia (2009) published a decade after my first The Legend on the actor in 1999. Bachchanalia is a celebration of an actor’s extraordinary body of work spanning 4 decades and 100 plus films.
It was the first time a book event was held at NCPA Theatre combined with a poster gallery and there were people sitting on the steps just to listen to the baritone.
One day, I was dinning with my friends and for some reason all of us started communicating in Amitabh Bachchan dialogues. It occurred to me that his body of work is so extensive that it is an alternate culture of the country. Just an exercise I opened the Oxford Dictionary and tried to associate every word with a prop in his film and realized that I could make a book out of it. The effort of traveling the 26 alphabets was terrifying but I decided I’ll be patient. My tenth book and third book on Bachchan Amitabh Lexicon (2011) is a compilation of selective words from the alphabets of the English language associated with different scenes from the actor’s body of work – scenes where he made you cry, laugh and all shook up. Like he says in his film Namak Halaal “Lo karlo baat…aaree English to aisi aave hain ke I can leave angrez behind…I can talk English, I can walk English, and I can laugh English…”
Mother Maiden Mistress (2012) co-authored with Jigna Kothari and Supriya Madangarli is celebration of women in Hindi cinema from 1950 -2010. How this book came about is a story by itself. I contacted Jigna and Supriya as researchers but enjoyed talking to them so much that we decided that we will all jointly write a book and it was a good decision because the topic was exhaustive and daunting and there were many times during the process when we wanted to give up the idea but kept encouraging each other.
It has been a long hundred years since Dadasaheb Phalke portrayed a man as his heroine in Raja Harishchandra (1913) and women have a come a long way since then both on and off screen. Mother Maiden Mistress documents the journey of women characters in films post partition to new millennium where the definition of the mother, the maiden and the mistress have changed beyond imagination.