If one could call the current times one of the dark eras for Bollywood, he/she may not be very wrong. With calls for each movie to be boycotted for petty reasons or rather no reason at all, the times are good enough for one to read a book on the life of a Bollywood star. With this intent, I picked the book “Show Business” by Shashi Tharoor. I was though excited but a bit skeptical about how engaging and relatable will this fiction be, as Tharoor is a well-versed politician, and even though he is no less than a celebrity, yet to know the breath and skin of a Bollywood hero may be difficult for him. But alas! Tharoor has so elaboratively explained the thought process, film scenes, and relations of a hero (personal as well as professional) in such detail that one may mistake him to be a Bollywood hero himself.
The book discusses the life of an artist, Ashok Banjara, who starts his journey in Bollywood as a newcomer and ends up becoming a rage for all in the country. Ashok starts as an underconfident actor who struggles to dance, is evidently scared of his director, and is literally in awe and disbelief that he is dancing next to one of the most famous heroines of his time. As Ashok progresses, and a few of his movies become blockbusters, he becomes a hero whom the public loves. His role of being the poor yet very loving and confident boy who fights against evil and rich men makes him the Messiah of not just the people in the reel world but also is considered one in the real world.
It is in one movie shoot that Ashok encounters a life-threatening situation and is lying in the hospital bed. While Ashok lies unconscious on his hospital bed, it is then that each person associated with him comes and talks to him personally. The character trajectory of Ashok is thus expressed through the views of his wife, father, brother, and his contemporaries, who come individually to the ICU and talk to him.
The book though fiction shows how lonely and different is the life of a star in real life. They have no real friends. While common people are eager to get a look at the star, he personally has hardly any true friends. It also shows how glamour can take a toll on your personal relationships. It literally describes the verse “All that glitters is not gold” in a novel. The book also discusses the plots of movies Ashok has done. And while this book is written in 1992 and discusses the era of the 1980s, the plots of the movies are still the same today. That’s how predictable many Bollywood movies are!
I am some sort of local tough, defender of the neighbourhood and general all-purpose good guy, who will, of course, go on to demolish the villains and marry the rich heroine.Ashok Banjara, in one of his movies.
One will find Ashok’s character to have an uncanny resemblance with many of the Bollywood actors. And that is what is exciting, scary, and unfortunate. The book though is also filled with numerous funny conversations as well as obnoxious lyrics of songs. Once you read the book, you will not wonder anymore how come Tharoor’s stand-up comedy act was better than so many professional comedians. Take a bow, Dr. Shashi Tharoor. How can you write about each topic so vividly?