The author’s knowledge and deep understanding of Hindi cinema reflects in her writings
In her book on Shahrukh Khan – King of Bollywood: Shah Rukh Khan and the Seductive World of Indian Cinema – film critic and journalist Anupama Chopra gives a background of the industry and the business of Bollywood over the years at regular intervals. This helps in understanding the backdrop against which the star is emerging, his decisions and risks, and eventual rise as a superstar. Chopra’s knowledge and a deep understanding of Hindi cinema reflect in her collection of writings bound together in her latest book, First Day First Show – definitely an account ‘from the Bollywood trenches’, as the tagline goes.
What makes the book stand apart is the total lack of bitchiness and animosity, perhaps because the author is also the wife of a successful filmmaker (Vidhu Vinod Chopra). Imagine, she must be in on the juiciest gossip (though she may deny it) and yet, she has to carefully draw a line between her professional and personal lives. Over several years of writing essays for India Today which are part of this book, she has strictly maintained a business-like tone, revealing only what is required.
But having no gossip does not mean the book is a boring read. It is funny in moments without trying to be. There is enough trivia to be extracted here – like when Kareena Kapoor felt she was the ‘most hated person’ around, or the fact that Yash Chopra had signed on Saif Ali Khan for Parampara only when the actor’s then-wife Amrita Singh stood guarantor for his behaviour!
There’s much more about Aamir Khan, Shahrukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai, Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan, Govinda, Ajay-Kajol, Karan Johar, Karisma Kapoor, Rani Mukherjee, Mithun Chakraborty, Naseeruddin Shah, Neena Gupta, and even Hollywood star Angeline Jolie. It should be interesting, especially for the younger generation who might not have read Chopra’s pieces in the weekly (I have read a few).
What’s commendable about Ms Chopra is that she’s an outsider who became an insider, and yet strove to have an outsider’s perspective in every piece. However, with two filmmakers at home (husband Vidhu and sister Tanuja Chandra) and two writers as well (brother Vikram Chandra and mother Kamna), one wonders how Anupama is not tempted to write a script or two out of her learning, and make some interesting films!
First Day… also has an extract from two other books by the author – Sholay: The Making of a Classic and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, and some of her more recent film reviews as well. SRK’s foreword to First Day… peps you up to read on, with funny and interesting bits by the superstar not to be missed. (Reading it makes me, for one, want his recently announced autobiography to be published soon!) SRK mentions Chopra’s writings as being “naturally objective”, honest, simplistic and never over elaborate – calling it an “acceptance of truths”. Thankfully, that is exactly what the book is all about.
First Day First Show by Anupama Chopra | Penguin Books | Rs 499