Title: The Popcorn Essayists: What Movies do to Writers
Editor: Jai Arjun Singh
Publisher: Tranquebar Press
PP: 227 Pages
Price: Rs. 395
Thirteen different genre writing and thinking writers all come together to contribute to this collection of essays – as the title suggests, about movies. If you are a film aficionado and also love reading about movies, then this book is sure meant for you. The Popcorn Essayists is a compilation of 13 essays centred around films, the way they are made and how they are perceived by the audience – in this case the writers.
The contributing writers include Manjula Padmanabhan, Manil Suri, Kamila Shamssie, Anjum Hasan, Amitava Kumar, Namita Gokhale, Jai Arjun Singh (the editor of this collection), Musharraf Ali Farooqi, Madhulika Liddle, Sidin Vadukut, Rajoshri Chakraborti, Sumana Roy and Jaishree Misra. The reason I have mentioned all names is for you to understand the variety that this book provides and the themes it touches – from Art House Cinema (as it was termed in the days gone by) to a day in the life of a writer as a Helen Cabaret Dancer to a writer’s experience about watching Satya, this book has it all.
What I loved about the book while reading it was that I immediately wanted to see all the movies recommended by the writers, even if I had seen some of them some time ago, I still wanted a re-viewing and only to understand the essays better. When a group of writers come together to contribute to any collection, it is so important to see that the ideas merge and the flow is consistent, and it is with this precision that the editor delivers on this book. The writing is crisp and sharp and to the point, without forcing any opinions down the readers’ throat. At some point though some essays do get technical, but I guess that could not have been avoided, considering the topic.
Movies are magic and we are all aware of that fact. The book attempts I think to introduce us to different genres of movies, like I said without sounding condescending or patronizing. It is about the nuances that are noticed while watching a loud Punjabi Masala Movie or at the same time about the experiences of another author while viewing the works of Finland’s Kaurismäki Brothers and their impact and contribution to world cinema.
All in all, The Popcorn Essayists is a book that must be read for the love of cinema or for the joy of reading and in the process, discovering some great cinema.