Fantasies of a Bollywood Love Thief

Just finished reading Fantasies of a Bollywood Love Thief. Nice book if you are an Omkara fan since Stephen Alter follows Vishal Bhardwaj from conception to release. Stephen Alter is a close observer and has a nice, clear style making the book is highly readable. While he mostly he avoids painful explaining (horseradish breads, to use the classic example) he does bank on defamiliarisation to be interesting. The following bit is a good example of this particular form of irritation.

" On the wall of my hotel room is a picture of Wajid Ali Shah, one of Lucknow's former nawabs, but there are reminders of Bollywood as well. The Lux Soap in the bathroom has a picture of Kareena on the wrapper and in the minibar is a bag of Lay's potato chips with an image of Saif holding a globe in his arms. Switching on the TV, I see ads with Ajay promoting Tata Indicom. A few minutes later Irrfan Khan -- the hero of Maqbool-- is pitching Hutch mobile phones. In the bizarre juxtaposition of advertising and cinema, Othello and Macbeth endorse competing telecom companies. But it is Saif, heir to the throne of Pataudi, a nawab-in-waiting, advertising potato chips with a Latin flavour, that makes it seem entirely surreal."

Anyway this is a good book for the train/plane/interminable auto rides.

 For some irrational reason I keep comparing Alter's mild eye to Suketu Mehta's far more confident perspective. I think Maximum City (which i liked a lot) is best read in random, lovely stretches. The following passage is my favourite. Here is Suketu Mehta's description of a bar dancer meeting one of her regulars outside of the bar for the first time, once she finally gives him the green light. They buy juice from the heroin dealer at Haji Ali. They rent a cage of tiny songbirds and get a taxi, telling its driver to take a walk:

            …and the girl rolls up all the windows of the taxi and opens the door of the cage and all the birds fly out and fill the small dark taxi with their energy and their music. She laughs with delight and asks her man to play a game with her: Catch the birds. They reach out with their hands to grab the birds, who are small and quick, and they have to wave their arms wildly about even to touch them. As the girl and her ardent suitor reach out to catch a bird, they sometimes, accidentally, can’t help touching each other…

                Half an hour or an hour later, the door of the taxi opens and half a dozen or a dozen dead birds are thrown out on the road. If there are any remaining alive, they fly out over the great dark sea, free at last.

When is the book on Madras and its film industry coming out? 


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