Saturday, April 21, 2007

Bose on Bollywood

Two photographs of Rekha that have been used on the cover of Mihir Bose’s Bollywood: A History. One went on the Indian edition, the other on the UK edition. Identify which went where.

Incidentally Bose’s book is being promoted as “the first comprehensive history of India’s film industry that now rivals Hollywood”. This is a very large claim: Bollywood: A History is hurriedly (and often shabbily) thrown together. It's episodic, gossip-laden, repetitive, random in its choice of subjects and also very much a secondary-source work, full of references to and quotes from earlier books on Hindi-film actors and directors (for instance, almost the entire “Great Indian Curry Western” chapter is derived from Anupama Chopra’s delightful book on the making of Sholay). Of course, the secondary-source bit won’t make much difference to a reader who hasn’t read any literature on Bollywood before and is looking for anecdotes and pen-portraits.

The worst thing though is that it’s poorly edited and littered with typos, at least in the Indian edition. It’s common to find paragraphs such as the one where, in the space of just three sentences, we are twice informed that Raj Kapoor used “an actress from the south, Vyjayanthimala” as his lady in white in the 1960s. (Her name is spelt differently in the two sentences: Vyjayanthimala and Vyjanthimala.) On the very next page we learn that while Lata Mangeshkar was once in the Guinness Book for having sung 30,000 songs, her sister Asha Bhonsle later took over the record, with 7,500 (sic) songs recorded as of 1989.

And when a book that claims to be a comprehensive study of Bollywood uses the iconic image of Amitabh waiting to take on the bad guys in the warehouse in Deewaar and pronounces that it's a scene from Zanjeer...that’s a definite no-no.

(Here's a short interview I did with Mihir Bose a few years ago)


  1. My guess - the first pic goes for India and the 2nd one for UK edition. Which seems to be quite obvious why.

  2. I agree with you that the book seems to be hurriedly put together , I add, by someone who is not fully aware of the subject he is writing on. That or there is a serious disconnect.

    Why else would he refer to a mangalasutra as something tied to a womans wrist (Raj Kapoor -Nargis "wedding" in a temple)or refer to Kunal Kapoor (of Rang De Basanti) as Shashi Kapoor's son while later in the book when talking of Kunal Kapoor (this time Shashi Kapoor's son)refer to him as an ad film maker. These are just a couple of the many inconsistencies that riddle the book. Then there are typographical errors. Someone should also tell Mr. Bose that the use of the "spell check" does not amount to editing.

  3. Despite its obvious shortcomings, I enjoyed reading Mihir Bose's book because it was written in an engaging, witty style which journalists in India don't seem to have got a handle on yet. Yes, it is anecdotal and does focus heavily on the private lives of Bollywood's stars but that's what makes it interesting. However, I do agree that the sheer number of mistakes, both factual and typographical, undermine it considerably. Bose even writes that Rakesh Roshan made Karan Arjun for his son Hrithik. A howler indeed. He also seemed to know how sloppy this work was given that in the introduction he states that he accepts all responsibility for errors. A pity. It had the makings of a good book. Anka

  4. i think the first photograph is for the UK edition and the second one for the indian edition. can you tell me if my guess is right?
    -A fan and avid reader of your blog.

  5. Yikes!!
    Thanks for the warning on FB - and I'm glad it was just 175! I like the cover though. :)