Book Review: The Legends of Bollywood is nostalgia unlimited

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The Legends of Bollywood is a treasury of nostalgia. Photo: Raaj Grover

This is a book steeped in nostalgia.

Writer Raaj Grover translates his maiden book, Yaadein..Zarra Zarra into English as A Pocketful of Memories: The Legends of Bollywood (The translation is by Suchitra Iyer, editor, Society magazine).

What comes across in this tome is the uncanny ability of Raaj Grover, officially best known as a PRO (Publicity or Press Relations officer) to film celebs, to instantly make friends—for a lifetime. I am always envious of such people and this special knack, which must be a heady mix of personal charisma and God’s gift. I have experienced this myself in the industry from select celebs I would rather not mention here. For one, this book is not about them. For another, nazar na lag jaaye (Touch wood! I would rather privately cherish those relationships)!

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Raaj (and I have had increasingly informal chats with the man since I came to know him a couple of months ago, after being Facebook friends for around a year) has also been a producer of two films, but what matters infinitely more are the mountains of relationships he has developed over decades with people within the film industry. Being close to Sunil Dutt and Nargis, he has also decided on the noble gesture of dedicating all the earnings from this book to the Nargis Dutt Foundation in India and USA. A bouquet of foreword writers, including from cinema, also affirm his popularity and personal standing.

The book is a walk down his memories with so many creative artistes on and behind the screen, from the Dutts to the late Balraj Sahni, who was like Raaj’s mentor in Mumbai, Dilip Kumar, Manoj Kumar, Dharmendra, Shashi Kapoor, Dimple Kapadia, Raakhee (with whose brother Shibranjan Mazumdar, Raaj had co-produced his debut film Taaqat way back in 1982), Johnny Walker and many other legends in this industry.

But for me, the finest chapter is the moving and fitting (for such a book) Epilogue, which talks about many things—from Raaj’s childhood days in Multan (now in Pakistan) to the making of a Nobel Prize-winning US scientist, Dr Hargobind Khurana by Raaj’s father and the geneisis of singer Suresh Wadkar. Here is where film celebs (but for Suresh) are not prominent, but we come to know unknown aspects of his life and the rare generosity of Raaj’s late father.

I cannot list my favorite chapters in this book, though the longish one on Nargis is presumably Raaj’s most liked one. The surprises and lesser-known facts kept coming, like Balraj Sahni’s family’s close connection with Rabindranath Tagore, or Nargis’ penchant for expletives uttered with affection. And some of the chapters are like mini-biographies, including those on Dharmendra and Sanjay Dutt. I also  liked one chapter a shade extra—‘The Legend of the Kapoors’.

The very personal touches are moving, humane and amusing, illustrating the sensitive nature of film people and their human need for true friendships amidst the glamour and frills of their profession. And above all, I did not mind the functional English and quite a few typos, for all the treasured anecdotes and astounding collection of personal photographs that Raaj provides.

After all, as they say in cinema, content is King!

 

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