Title: Bollywood’s Top 20 Superstars of Indian Cinema
Author: Bhaichand Patel (Editor))
Publisher: Penguin Viking
Genre: Non Fiction / Film
If you ask me, my expectations with ‘Bollywood’s Top 20’ were to first find out who all made it to the Top 20, and then discover new facets of their personalities, growth as performers and their cinematic journeys. There are no issues with the essays per se but personally I felt that they were quite on the surface and do not succeed in presenting the superstars intimately.
Most of the stars who make it to the selected top 20 are expected. So you have the tragedy king Dilip Kumar to the evergreen Dev Anand to frighteningly popular Rajesh Khanna, there’s the angry young man Amitabh Bachchan, the quintessential lover boy Shahrukh Khan, the perfectionist Amir Khan alongwith the self-effacing K.L.Sehgal, charismatic Devika Rani, showman Raj Kapoor, Indian earthy beauty Madhuri Dixit and a few more. Frankly, for me – with all due respects to these actors – Shammi Kapoor, Kajol and Kareena Kapoor don’t quite make the cut. If we are talking about “the” Top 20 Superstars of all time, then, no. But as Mr Patel clarifies in the ‘Introduction’, these superstars have been picked up from different decades. In which case, the title should have suggested something to that effect.
The cover page is befitting and celebratory. It is reminiscent of the time when bollywood posters were hand painted and therefore stood out. The cover page captures the Bollywood kitsch in all its glory.
The ‘Introduction’ by the editor Bhaichand Patel establishes his credentials well, explains why these 20 have been picked up for this book and introduces the contributors.
This book is no classic and no must-have for a film buff, yet I enjoyed reading it. There seems to be a basic flow to each of the essays. The focus is on cinematic journeys and most of them stay away from gossip or scandals associated with the star or have been handled diplomatically. Every chapter ends with five favourite films of the actor / actress.
I liked reading about yesteryear actors and actresses like K.L. Sehgal, Devika Rani and Ashok Kumar. In a way, this book also captures the evolution of Indian cinema through these superstars. It is interesting to note that in the beginning there were studios which used to churn out films with the actors and actresses on their payroll. There was no such thing as freelancing. There are many such insights, which were fascinating for me as a reader and as a film buff.
The book also comes with a free CD of 50 memorable songs (picked by the editor).
Film enthusiasts will love spending their Sunday afternoon, reading about these popular superstars.
P.S. My mum was disappointed to read the piece on her favourite Hema Malini because according to her there was nothing new about the ‘dream girl’ which she did not know already; while my dad appreciated the little nuggets on his favourite stars like Dev Anand and Dilip Kumar. So, keep your expectations low and you will enjoy it J