January 4, 2008

Bollywood ka Baadshaah

I aw and picked up this book from the public library yesterday evening.

King of Bollywood : Shahrukh Khan nd the Seductive World of Indian Cinema by Anupama Chopra

I remember the name Anupama Chopra as the author of Bollywood related articles (and movie reviews) in NYT. Apparently she's also written two earlier books on two super-duper hits of Bollywood - DDLJ and Sholay.

I picked the book up thinking it may be worth a read...though now I am having second thoughts. Whenever a desi writer writes anything about India for a firang audience, one is subjected to generalities, half-truths, and simplifications* - like these sentences which I found in the book description at amazon.com:

Shahrukh Khan broke into this $1.5 billion business despite the fact that it has always been controlled by a handful of legendary film families and sometimes funded by black market money. As a Muslim in a Hindu majority nation, exulting in classic Indian cultural values, Shah Rukh Khan has come to embody the aspirations and contradictions of a complicated culture tumbling headlong into American style capitalism.

What humbug! Not quite lies...but hogwash and BS all the same. A bunch of claptrap. Poppycocky twaddle, I say. Baloney. Hooey and bunkum of the highest degree. A flapdoodle, hokum, and utter balderdash, I say! arthaath...bhankas! (Ok.. I cannot get these words out of my head today after reading and blogging about it last night.)

* Amit Varma had a few good posts on this subject recently - see Of Pithy Generalities and Tired Perceptions and The Conviction of Banality and Xerox Machines and Democracy?

In getting the amazon.com link to the book, I see that there has been another recent book on the phenomenon called SRK - Shahrukh Khan - Still Reading Khan by Mushtaq Shiekh. (The same guy also has a recent book - The Making of Om Shanti Om a Farah Khan Film - is this guy the publicist for Mssrs. SRK/FarahKhan/Johar and co.?

By the way, I do not recall any such books on AB. (Yes...I'm a big fan of AB - esp. his 70s movies. And not to add fuel to the fire of the alleged SRK-AB rivalry - mostly a figment of the media's imagination - but I'd go so far as saying that while SRK is a phenomenon, AB is a legend! If SRK is the Baadshah (King) of Bollywood, AB is the Shahenshah (Emperor). :))

One plausible explanation for the lack of books on AB (an assumption, may not valid!) may be that not many people had the disposable income to read and buy books in India in the '70s & '80s and so authors and publishers were not motivated (for commercial reasons) to put time and effort into such a venture. Arguably the publishing and book market has gone up by leaps and bounds in the last 10 years and a book on SRK has a good chance of becoming a commercial success - merely from SRK's millions of fans buying it. Hence, these books and NYT articles by Anupama Chopra and others.

Another related reason could be that unlike SRK, who has a big following with the upper middle class in India, who has the disposable income for books (amongst other things) , AB's following came mainly through the lower middle class and lower classes of society, though admittedly the upper classes also definitely enjoyed his movies.

Readers who know something about Bollywood over the years have any thoughts? Do comment.

Ok..i'll stop now..maybe I am now making the same kind of naive bakwaas pretentious generalizations that I decried above! I am certainly BSing as I do not even know if there really are no books about AB!

Like Harry Frankfurt writes in On Bullshit:

"Bullshit is unavoidable whenever circumstances require someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about. Thus the production of bullshit is stimulated whenever a person's obligations or opportunities to speak about some topic exceed his knowledge of the facts that are relevant to that topic. This discrepancy is common in public life, where people are frequently impelled - whether by their own propensities or by the demands of others - to speak extensively about matters of which they are to some degree ignorant."

Aah...thank FSMs.. he put "of their own propensities" in there -- for no one really demanded of me to spend my time writing and posting at this blog. :)

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