Sunday, 5 February 2017

Salaam Bollywood

“Insecurity is an overwhelming emotion in any creative profession. In the film industry, it is more so. Film stars are peddlers of emotion and, therefore, there are more emotional wrecks in the film world than in any other place. 
There is shame and scandal, exhibitionism and eccentricity, but there is also energy, a fatal attraction about the world of cinema that is obsessive. Once you've been a part of it you feel incomplete without it.”

The lines were these; refreshingly insightful and holding tight to my flinching concentration. Looking back, I still cannot fathom what made me put my hands on a book lying so aimlessly on a random library desk in college. Searching desperately through the endless neatly stacked books, the frustration was getting onto my nerves. Since time memorial, I had been contemplating to get my hands on another set of books which was not available to me there. And then suddenly, my gaze fell on it.
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Salaam Bollywood by the veteran film journalist Bhawana Somaaya, has proved out to be more than just a 250 page book for me. I can declare with much pride that those 250 pages can be equated to two decades of enriching, life changing journey in the film world I embarked on when I first read the foreword written by Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan. Somaaya, within a matter of days has brought to my knowledge the little and the big ‘dramas’ of the Hindi film world which had always left me puzzled, pumping up my curiosity pressure.

Fortunate enough I have been, to have read the same book which the author herself had gifted the veteran journalist and also my college’s honourable director, Dr. M.V. Kamath. It is her homage to the film world wherein her awkwardness as a newbie film journalist to her immaturity as an editor has been accounted. It also narrates her encounters, sweet as well as bitter, with film actors of all types which taught her innumerable lessons about the way of living in a glamorous world, if not one.

The time when Rishi Kapoor sternly told Neetu Singh,” Once you are a Kapoor, you are not stepping in the studios.” ; the time when Shabana Azmi was ready in a random saree and a ponytail to get promptly hitched to the highly acknowledged lyricist and writer, Javed Akhtar, one fine evening; the time when little Bebo howled endlessly on the sets of one of Bachchan’s films when a fight sequence was being filmed after his fateful accident in the early 1980s; the time when a shy and young Aamir Khan stood nervously outside Dimple theatre where his debut film was being screened; the time when Smita Patil slipped into coma in the arms of Raj Babbar; the time when Dharmendra was teared between his two homes after his marriage to Dream Girl, Hema Malini; the time when Smita, all of 31 and Raj Kapoor’s death got me teary-eyed. I cried as though I was witnessing everything in front of me...and countless other anecdotes.

From the depressing times when Sarika and Kamal Hassan’s relationship was under constant scrutiny to the happy times when Sarika announced her pregnancy to Hassan in Ooty; from the tiring times when Smita would frequently fall ill to the jubilant times when she first fed her baby in spite of feeling feverish; from the celebratory times when Dimple Kapadia returned on the sets to complete the last schedule of Bobby as the superstar Rajesh Khanna’s wife to the worrisome times when she used to leave him every second or third day: the late 70s, 80s and 90s was one roller coaster ride.

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Towards the end, the author also raises many fundamental questions such as why doesn’t the Cine Artists Association (CAA) hold frequent get-togethers and recreation clubs for older artists of bygone era? Why they are not appreciated for their contribution when they are alive rather than remember them only when they become history? Why the CAA couldn’t send a representative to India’s first ever heroine Devika Rani’s funeral in Bangalore? There are glorious moments but then, if you try catching a closer look, lay the flaws as well.

The book was a time machine for me, transporting me into eras I always wanted to see. 

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