Monday, January 15, 2007

The Essential Guide to Bollywood

The Essential Guide to Bollywood

By Subhash K. Jha
158 pages

Unfortunately, "The Essential Guide to Bollywood" isn't really all that essential to have. I continue my endless quest to find a book on Bollywood that takes a different path than all the myriad of books on the subject - a book that covers the unusual films, the cheesy films and the cult films and one that is geared more towards gossip and personalities than a reiteration of the "classic" Bollywood. This book is simply a compilation of 200 one-two paragraph reviews of what the author considers to be the best films from Bollywood (as well as a few "Parallel Cinema" selections). He catagorizes the films by genre - drama, comedy, war, family, thrillers, romance, historical, action - which seems in itself to be a bit counter productive as so many Bollywood films cross and demolish any sense of genre. The vast majority of his selections fall into "drama" - 88 pages worth while action gets shortchanged with only 4 pages. This disparity indicates the authors frame of mind. Where is "Don" and "Disco Dancer"!

The writing itself is fine and one can't argue too much with the films he includes (at least the ones I have seen - though some of his more recent film choices may seem a stretch such as "Na Tum Jano Na Hum" and "Yuva"), but with such a small amount of content provided for each film there is no room for any real insight or context given. Most damaging though is that the writing rarely makes you want to run out and buy the film - it doesn't make you not want to see the film - but there is a real lack of excitement about the films in all but a few cases. Nevertheless, the book does cover a number of films that were unknown to me and just for the fact they they make it to his list will make me want to seek some of them out. And the low price tag is certainly a plus.


Keith said...

Every time I pick up a book about Bollywood, all I can do is go, "Oh great, another essay about Mother India."

Brian said...

Exactly. I had a friend who is well known in the Asian fan site community who actually started a book on Bollywood and had a deal - it would have been great as his snarky writing style is exactly what is needed - but after piling thru loads of films he was pretty much giving up on finding enough films he liked enough to write about!