Booking Bollywood: A new literary genre in making

New Delhi, July 6 Bollywood is coming alive in fine print. A spate of innovative books is not only documenting Indian moviedom for posterity but also throwing meaningful light on the evolution of mainstream cinema.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011 | 11:07:20 AM IST (+05:30 GMT)
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New Delhi, July 6 (IANS) Bollywood is coming alive in fine print. A spate of innovative books is not only documenting Indian moviedom for posterity but also throwing meaningful light on the evolution of mainstream cinema.

'I think for the first time there is a whole range of books now that reflects the incredible range of Bollywood itself,' Udayan Mitra, publishing director at Penguin India, told IANS.

'Readership of film books has grown. The top three trends seem to be visual books, star biographies and memoirs.'

Bollywood became a literary inspiration in the early 1990s with books like 'Starry Nights' by Shobaa De and 'Show Business' by Shashi Tharoor. On offer now are popular movie screenplays, pictorials and racy novels.

Lipika Bhushan, chief marketing manager at Harper Collins, told IANS: 'Our books under 'Film Series' sell more than general books. Our title 'R.D. Burman: The Man And Music' is in its third reprint, having sold more then 5,000 copies. We have published three non-fiction volumes on individual blockbusters.'

The series so far has covered three landmark movies - 'Deewar', 'Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron' and 'Disco Dancer'. While 'Amar Akbar Anthony' releases in December, a coffee table book on silent cinema and a volume on Navketan Films are in the pipeline.

Penguin has published three major film titles this year - a biography of K.L. Saigal by Pran Nevile, 'Flashback', the autobiography of Bob Christo, and 'First Day, First Show' by Anupama Chopra.

Two more books, 'The Greatest Show on Earth' edited by Jerry Pinto, and 'Sounding Off', an autobiography of Oscar-winning sound designer Resul Pookutty, are slated for release this year.

Writer Jai Arjun Singh's take on the making of Kundan Shah's 'Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron' is a story of how the movie came to be despite the odds. Made on a budget of less than Rs.7 lakh, it went from a quiet showing at the box office to become the country's first successful black comedy.

'Jaane Bhi...' is a part of my childhood. But as a writer and journalist, I could appreciate it better because it was an interesting film struggling on a low budget. Some called my book seriously funny,' Singh told IANS.

'I think a separate Bollywood literary genre is starting to happen. Publishers are taking the initiative to organise literary projects on Bollywood,' Singh said.

Amitabh Bachchan-starrer 'Deewar' lends itself to complex readings in University of California professor Vinay Lal's book. Lal examines the movie in the context of history of Hindi cinema, the migrations from hinterland to the city and the climate of the early 1970s.

'The movie is a socio-political mirror of its time - which is the cornerstone of good literature. You go to the rich boy-poor girl movie to escape the grinding poverty of everyday life. 'Deewar' is structured in the ethos of Indian civilisation - by which I mean it presents certain archetypes which is passively present in Indian culture without anyone recognising it,' Lal told IANS on telephone.

The book, 'Disco Dancer: A Comedy in Five Parts', by screenplay writer Anuvab Pal, tries to probe what made the world go into raptures over the Mithun Chakravarty-starrer.

In Mumbai of the 1970s, when the Hindi film industry churned out 'hero versus the system' stories, 'Disco Dancer' changed the concept, Pal said.

'In hindsight, it seems very funny. The central conflict is the hero's mother dying after being electrocuted by a guitar and the hero developing a guitar phobia (fear of red guitars),' writer Anuvab Pal told IANS.

Bollywood commentator and columnist Anupama Chopra describes her anthology of film writings, 'First Day, First Show', as a 'ringside view' of the industry.

'I thought putting the articles together would create an interesting snapshot of modern Bollywood. I wanted to study how far the industry has come in the last 20 years,' Chopra told IANS.

As writer Vikram Chandra says, 'Mumbai, the land of underworld and Bollywood dreams, is a fertile source of drama for the writer'.

(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at

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