Bombay Duck Is A Fish is an impressive first by scrip-writer Kanika Dhillon. Her protagonist, Neki Brar, a small towngirl from Amritsar moves to Mumbai to make it as a filmmaker in Bollywood. Shefinds a flat and her first job in Mumbai easily enough but trials follow soonafter. Life on a film set is chaotic and Neki discovers a knack for showing upat the wrong place at the wrong time. Gradually, the naive girl metamorphosesinto a shrewd Assistant Director and starts climbing the ladder of success. Littledoes she suspect that she will find herself, not many months later, standing onthe terrace of her building, a bottle of wine and her diary in hand, thinkingabout how best to jump off.
As Creative Head at Red Chillies Entertainment, the author is no stranger tobright arc lights, or to the dark shadows created in their wake. She tells anintelligent, engaging tale laced with dark humour by painting vivid picturesabout real life mayhem on a film set, which by implication, is a fleeting illusionat best. Just like all things Bollywood. Nothing is what it seems, quite likethe self-explanatory title; that’s the whole point that the author appears tobe making. But a variety of stereo-types speckle the pages: shallow actors,godfathers, affairs galore and petty politicking. Despairing professionalscontemplating suicide and ghostly figures in white, smiling mysteriously completethe picture!
The book is a must read for Bollywood hopefuls who will be given a rareglimpse into the supposed glamour associated with film-making without having tolive the grind. Unabashedly and unapologetically dedicated to Shah Rukh Khan, theauthor’s employer, Bombay Duck Is A Fishis a book about reality, struggle, ethics and hope. It is also a book aboutunfulfilled dreams, failures and weaknesses. Mostly it is the first draft of ascript waiting to grow up into a film. A sense of déjà vu constantly trail thereader throughout the book. Possibly because some of the characters, incidents,situations and scenarios may already have been translated into celluloid.
What really works for the book is Kanika’s simple style of writing and theobvious satire. The unexpected twist in the end, however, comes as a bit oflet-down. Especially since the author has acknowledged in an interview that sheis, “a die-hard happily ever after person, who believes in magic, miracles,heroes and superheroes. If you think too rationally, you will never be able totake the leap of faith.” Why, then, the leap off the ledge, Ms Dhillon?