Bombay Meri Jaan

Shahriar Feroze
Thursday, December 7th, 2017


 

Sanu Banerji recalls Bollywood’s exotic era. Gets nostalgic, pens his silver-screen memoir born out of sheer passion, nostalgia and tenacity going beyond his limits……

 

Hindi movies, at least a decade ago wasn’t particularly a subject this reviewer would have chosen to read or write about. Frankly speaking – hadn’t a friend and colleague would not given the book for reviewing, this writer would never have go after it.

 

However, having read the preamble it was indeed a revelation that no book about the Hindi movie industry was ever written in Bengali. Assumedly, the title of the book was taken from the famous hit of the 50’s Yeh Hai Bombay Meri Jaan of Mohammad Rafi and Geeta Dutt.

 

From my intro the book may appear as an attempt to reflect back to the Hindi movies, actors, producers and singers of that era – but actually it’s more. Perhaps, the most striking aspect of it is its story-like simple narrative packed with information. Even if a reader is not familiar to Hindi movies, he or she wouldn’t get bored reading Bombay Meri Jaan since it’s not only about the Bollywood silver-screens of the past and who had once entrained them. It’s also the tale of an industry which had gone from strength to strength, ultimately overtaking the United States as the world’s largest film producer in the 70s.

 

The writer’s reflections also encompass the socio-political-cultural realities of that period. Moreover, though much of the reflections focus on the movies of two successive decades, but Bannerji also breaks that boundary and pens the rise and realities about the actors of the 70s, 80s and 90s. More specifically, the writer has pin pointedly concentrated on the golden age of Hindi movies to the classic Bollywood of the 70s and 80s – spanning a timeframe no less than 4 decades.

 

From the writer’s close observations and personal comments on certain movie producers, actors and movies – at times it felt like, Bannerji hadn’t merely loved watching these movies – he had lived them. On top of it, he had met and befriended a number of the legendary Bollywood actors and producers. These recollections definitely must have helped him to explore the private and hidden sides of some of Bollywood’s unforgettable iconic figures. For instance, the writer’s estimation and regards for the celebrated Indian film director Shakti Samanta , also the founder of Shakti films , was revealing. Widely known as Dadamoni or Ashok kumar has been portrayed with respect and fond remembrance; the all-time-legend Dilip Kumar has been described almost as a separate film institution and era himself. And needs be mentioned almost no era of the Bollywood aka the Hindi movie industry is complete without the name Kapur.

 

For this reviewer, the angry-young-man depiction of Amitav Bachhan and his steep rise to stardom during India’s emergency years was the most fascinating part. I completely agree with Banerji’s assessment of him, Amitav in many ways is the silver-screen representation of a hyper and tensed India of the 60’s and 70’s. He was a trend-setter in the midst of all traditions in the movie industry.

 

Sanu Banerji’s book is also as much about Hindi actresses as well as actors. Nargis, Mina Kumari, Madhubala, Wahida Rahman to Sharmila Thakur they all found their deserved place in it.

 

Nevertheless, it is the timing of Bombay Meri Jaan’s publication that tickles my curiosity. It came to be published some fifty or more years later – which clearly speaks of a movie-freak’s long cherished dream and incredible tenacity. Banerji has once more proved the old proverb true – where there is a will, there is a way.

 

However, many thoughts can be analysed and written but a book review’s purpose is not only to summarise and judge the book’s content, but also to recommend the book, if the book is worth reading. Concurrently, the topic Sanu Banerji has chosen is so vast that it cannot be completed in a single volume.

 

Despite certain limitations the book is an enjoyable read and very informative. A must read for the Hindi movie aficionados. That said, this reviewer disagrees with the short blurb that brands Sanu Banerji’s book as ‘the history of Bollywood’s golden age’. The reader will also come across, plenty of information of West Bengal movies, actors and producers too.

 

Lastly, I wish Bombay Meri Jaan was written in English for a larger audience beyond West Bengal and Bangladesh. Perhaps, the writer exclusively targeted the Bengali audience. Also a proper index page with appropriate titles would have enriched the book’s charm.

 

Priced at RS 200 the book comes with a separate photo section. Bombay Meri Jaan is published by Bhasabinyash publishers.

 

The reviewer is the Assistant Editor of the Daily observer

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