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Posts Tagged ‘Bollywood’


If Truth Be Told: A Monk Memoir
Om Swami | Harper Element | Rs 499

Screen Shot 2015-02-22 at 12.56.54 PMAmit Sharma grew up in Patiala and flew to Australia to study and eventually work in the IT software industry. Then one day, he decided to renounce his family, wealth (including a Porsche) and friends in Sydney to embark on a spiritual journey because he says, he “wanted to devote his life to the search of Truth”. He returned to India, sought out Kashi, gurus, tantric yoga and wisdom. He says he attained “enlightenment” in a forest and that ‘tantra’ is not about tantric sex but realizing the self. Today, he runs an ashram in Uttaranchal and seeks followers.

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Item Girl
Richa Lakhera | Rupa| Rs 195

Screen Shot 2015-02-22 at 12.56.39 PMThe story hidden between the pages of this thriller – set in the underbelly of Bollywood studios – zeros on rape, blackmail and ‘ma-behen’ invectives to paint what the blurb at the back of the book announces as “the dark side of showbiz”. It’s a tedious read – the ramble, the hectoring, the sloth of thought and the language of tired clichés (the plants were rotting alive; feet sounding brittle and hard on scratchy shabby grass; her first film turned out to be a stellar hit). Rupa needs to tighten its editing skills and Lakhera her story telling abilities.

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For Tibet, With Love
Isabel Losada | Bloomsbury | Rs 299

Screen Shot 2015-02-22 at 12.56.25 PMIsabel Losada, a journalist from Battersea, England, travels to China, India and London to decipher how Tibet can win autonomy from Chinese rule. Along the way, she learns that world can’t be changed by staging world concerts or by calling the Chinese evil. Aptly subtitled as a “beginners guide for changing the world”, Losada in this book finally reaches out to Dalai Lama asking him what she and others who felt like her could do? He tells her to continue writing, learn from Gandhi’s ‘constructive determination’ and accept the ‘humanism’ of the Tibetan culture. Wise.

(The above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 15 February 2015)

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Kitnay Admi Thay?
Diptakirti Chaudhuri | Westland | Rs 275

Billed as “Completely useless Bollywood Trivia”, this book offers an interesting compendium of anecdotes and trivial facts sourced from books, film magazines and news media about India’s national obsession – Bollywood and its superstars. Presented as lists – e.g., 10 Songs That Became Movies; 10 Films Within Films or 10 Trains You Should Not Miss – the books includes answers to questions such as: Can you name the films or dialogues that made it to Amul’s billboard ads? Can you identify the two diseases that exist only in Bollywood films? Aishwarya Rai has acted as a sister to two superstars, who are they?

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That’s the Way We Met
Sudeep Nagarkar | Random House | Rs 125

Nagarkar’s present novel – a story about a man who seeks to reclaim his love by writing a book that he hopes his estranged girlfriend will one day read – is as banal as it is intriguing. Interestingly, this book is a sequel to his debut novel, Few Things Left Unsaid, which according to sale figures on flipkart, India’s book delivery portal, was a ‘bestseller’. It is likely that its readership resides in the small towns, where the young try to imagine how it is to live in metro cities like Delhi or Mumbai. But who knows? It could be the ‘masses of India’ as the author says in acknowledgements.

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March of the Aryans
Bhagwan S Gidwani | Penguin | Rs 599

“A civilization is kept alive only when it’s past values and traditions are recreated in men’s minds,” says Gidwani in the preface to the novel – an adaptation of his earlier book called Return of the Aryans. According to the author, the Aryans originated from India, traveled the world and returned home. He proposes that Aryans existed prior to the dawn of Harappan Civilization (3300-1300 BCE) in the age of Sanatana Dharma i.e., sometime between 8000-4000 BCE. That would place it in Stone Age, a period when man lived caves. But this does not seem to ruffle Gidwani, who also glibly admits that the book is “a work of fiction”.

(The above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 29 July)

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Mother, Maiden, Mistress
Bhawna Somaaya, Jigna Kothari & Supriya Madangarli | Harper Collins | Rs 299

Charting the role of women actors in Hindi cinema from 1950 to 2010 is no mean task. To define it, and bring out the nuances, is even tougher. The problem with the writers of this loftily titled book is that while they are able to reconstruct the timeline, they struggle with the multiple-questions that rise from within. The fault lies in the structure of the book and its flimsy narrative.  The chapters are divided by decades. And the roles essayed by women actors are viewed through the mythological looking glass. First person narrative is included in form of six insipid interviews. Rest is a role-call.

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The Diary of Amos Lee
Adeline Foo | Hatchette India | Rs 195

‘Growing up’ is serious business. And no one understands it better than writers who write books for children. It’s not easy to get under the skin of a teenager. But Adeline Foo does it with aplomb, helped in good measure by animated illustrations provided by Stephanie Wong. This is the third illustrated diary in the series that describes the ups and downs in a life of a primary school boy student, Amos Lee. In this book, Foo deals with the ambitions, the envy and the impact of modern technology, in particular, twitter and facebook has on the mind of a young hipster.

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Chittagong Summer of 1930
Manoshi Bhattacharya | Harper Collins | Rs 450

Nearly 12 years after the publication of Manini Chatterjee’s celebrated Do or Die: The Chittagong Uprising 1930-34 comes a book that charts a similar territory. The two books are, however, very different from each other in one respect. If Chaterjee’s book broke new ground by reconstructing the revolutionary motive and ethos that drove the movement and thereby forced a reassessment of history, Bhattacharya’s book romanticizes it. From the word go, Bhattacharya is driven by ‘bringing to life’ the people that rebelled against the British and were labeled as ‘traitors’. Curiously, Bhattacharya’s book makes no mention of Chatterjee’s seminal work. Not even in the bibliography.

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 20 May 2012)

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Two Fates: The Story of My Divorce
Judy Balan| Westland| 199 pp, Rs 150

Two Fates is a puerile romp that’s as breezy, infantile and forgettable as a Bollywood teenage flick. The writing as imaginative as the aspirations of the pushy writer, “Judy is a single mother who has no real achievements to her credit…Two Fates is her first book through which she hopes to become famous, sell movie rights and fight with Amir Khan.” And yes, she has website and claims to write ‘other stuff’ like reviews, interviews and stories, no not for boring newspapers or magazines, but (how cute!) for her five year old girl. What she would really like is for the world to get over Carrie Bradshaw and give her a column. Any takers?

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Indian Defence: Crises & Challenges
Dr NC Asthana & Dr Anjali Nirmal| Pointer Publishers| pp 356, Rs 2400

In this book on comparative strength and weaknesses of Indian, Pakistani and Chinese military might, an IPS officer tells us that the whole world is impotent in front of US might. The Chinese are ruthless and Pakistan is desperate. And we, we lack a national character and are easily waylaid by media and politicians who at a drop of a hat turn peaceniks. Asthana received the President’s Police Medal for Distinguished Service in 2011, has served as IG CRPF Kashmir and IGP CoBRA. He describes himself as the last polymath, hates sports, which he considers juvenile but practices kickboxing and enjoys doing bench presses. Together with his wife they have authored 16 books.

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The Perfect World
Priya Kumar| Embassy Books| 319 pp, Rs 275

The incredible changes that have taken place across the world can be disturbing, elating and confusing all at the same time. The uncertainty of where we may be heading as people, society and individuals can be unsettling. Inter-personal relations come under stress, as does our approach to the work we chose to do. Increasingly we are confronted with a neurosis that can be destructive and self-defeating. In India the tradition has been to seek out gurus to pull us out of life’s spiral. The west falls back on what it calls self-help books and ‘motivational speakers’. Priya the darling of Punjabi NRIs is one of them.

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War of the Worldviews
Deepak Chopra & Leaonard Mlodinow| Rider Books| 315 pp, Price not mentioned

Which worldview is right? Does science describe the universe or do ancient practices like meditation unravel mysteries that are beyond the worldview of science? Deepak Chopra the most famous student of Guru Maharishi Yogi and Leonard Mlodinov, professor at the Caltech take diverse positions on the evolution of the universe, quantum physics and neuroscience. This book has evoked intense reactions. There are those who see Chopra as a man who has repackaged Jiddu Krishnamurthy’s philosophy and mixed it with psedo science and pop psychology, and those who revere him as a new age guru. Mlodinov, a famous physicist and writer who has co-authored book with Stephen Hawkins – besides scripting the cult Star Trek: The Next Generation – allege some, has been duped by marketing agents into co-authoring this book.

(An edited version of the above reviews appeared in the Sunday edition of the Mail Today, New Delhi, dated 18 December 2011)

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