Love films? Why not give these 8 books about movies a chance and dive into the good, the glamourous, and the down right scandalous world of the film industry?
It would not be wrong to say that literature and cinema are two sides of the same coin. The tradition of adapting books to screen goes back a long way. Right from the era of the black and white talkies to the OTT originals today, books have always been the source of inspiration for the world of cinema. But this relationship is not one-sided. There are also many writers who have been inspired by the silver screen and by what goes behind it.
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If you too share this interest, here is a list of ten books about movies that are inspired by the Hindi and the Tamil film industry and give their readers a peak into what goes on behind the curtains. With works ranging from literary novels to pulp fiction; from memoirs to a book for young readers, we hope you will find something to your liking from this list.
Title: Dream Factory
Author: Sujatha || Translator: Madhavan Narayanan
Publisher: Harper Collins
Blurb: Recently translated into English by Madhavan Narayanan, Dream Factory is set in the Tamil film industry or Kollywood of the early 1980s. It follows the ups and downs in the lives of four different characters – Arun Vijay, a successful star; Premlatha, a heroine who wants to squeeze as much as she can from her career before the industry chucks her out as she gets older; Arumairajan, a young waiter who is ready to give up everything for becoming a successful lyricist and Manonmani, a small-time actress who has to face all sorts of indignities to get a good part. Through these four very different characters who belong to the same world and whose lives, however fleetingly, intersect each other at some point in the book, Sujatha shows his readers the truth of the tinsel-town from the perspective of the successful as well as the strugglers. A very fast paced book, Dream Factory is an immensely readable and deserves its place in our list of books about movies.
Price: Rs. 285 || Pages: 360
Author: Ismat Chughtai || Translator: Tahira Naqvi
Publisher: Speaking Tiger
Blurb: Ismat Chughtai was closely associated with the Hindi film industry and knew its darker side very intimately. In Masooma, a book about the movie industry, she narrates the story of a young massoma (literally, the innocent one) who is trapped in the clutches of those who turn her into Nilofer and exploit her under the guise of helping her find her feet in the industry. Translated from the Urdu by Tahira Naqvi, the original was published in 1962, but stays relatable even today, reminding that #metoo is not a temporary hashtag but should bring systemic change.
Price: Rs. 265 || Pages: 152
Blurb: Stars from Another Sky is subtitled ‘The Bombay Film World of the 1940s’ and is a collection of sketches and anecdotes written by Manto, who was also close to the film industry of that era. The collection gives its readers a peek into the personalities and incidents associated with the stars of yesteryears such as Ashok Kumar, Nargis, Sitara Devi, Noor Jahan, among others. Given that this was written at a time when the ‘stars’ were not under the constant scrutiny and public gaze like they are today, the book holds some pearls of insider information about people from the industry who are long gone, but who still live on through their works.
Price: Rs. 250 || Pages: 182
Title: Scene 75
Author: Rahi Masoom Raza || Translator: Poonam Saxena
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Blurb: Rahi Masoom Raza was another literary stalwart who worked closely with the Hindi film industry and knew in inside-out. His Scene 75 is set in the cinema world of 1970s and follows the story of a young Ali Amzad, who travels from Benaras to Bombay in the hopes of becoming a successful screenwriter. He comes across a number of characters in his journey, all from different walks of society and all equally colourful. This book about the movie world doesn’t follow a straighforward structure and the stories of the various characters stem from and relate to each other. Considered a work ahead of its time in its scope, its writing and its technique, Scene 75 has been translated from the Hindi by Poonam Saxena.
Price: Rs. 200 || Pages: 224
Title: A Very Strange Man
Author: Ismat Chughtai || Translator: Tahira Naqvi
Publisher: Speaking Tiger
Blurb: Also translated by Tahira Naqvi, A Very Strange Man is a novel that is believed to mirror the life and the tragic death of Gurudutt. This book about movies tells the story of the actor-director-producer Dharam Dev, who falls in love with a young dancer whom he brings from Madras and gives place in his films. His wife, a successful playback singer, slowly drowns herself in alcohol and the end for Dharam Dev comes in the form of a heart-break and suicide. The triangle in the film does feel like a veiled reference to the actual trio and the cover of the book seems to point the same way.
Price: Rs. 329 || Pages: 240
Blurb: Tharoor’s Show Business is a novel in six ‘takes’, which tells us the story of Bollywood through the eyes of Ashok Banjara, a superstar. He is in a critical condition in a hospital, and looks back to his life and the various escapades of his life as an actor. Full of masala and gossip like a typical Hindi film, Show Business is a quick read that can be enjoyed by the fans of cinema who like to know what happens in the life of the superstars.
Price: Rs. 281 || Pages: 320
Author: Ashokmitran || Translator: N Kalyan Raman
Publisher: Penguin India
Blurb: Translated by N Kalyan Raman from the Tamil, Manasarovar is set in the cinema world of 1960s. It narrates the story of Satyan Kumar who is a successful actor in Mumbai and then shifts to Madras. He becomes friends with Gopalan, a writer. The novel, one of the best books about movies, goes beyond being a look at the film industry and talks of the pain and identity crises that people go through, irrespective of their position in the society. It is believed that Ashokamitran’s friendship with Dilip Kumar gave birth to the idea of this novel and that Satyan Kumar is based on the legendary actor himself.
Price: Rs. 194 || Pages: 184
Title: Bollywood Nights
Author: Shobhaa Dé
Blurb: A list on books about movies cannot be complete without this page-turner. Written in the typical Dé style, Bollywood Nights is a racy, pulpy look at the underbelly of the Hindi film industry which is not a place for the simple or the innocent. Aasha Rani is thrusted into this world by her mother and goes through every humiliation possible before making it big in Bollywood. And yet, being a big name is not a guarantee of success, and Aasha learns it the hard way. A typical masala novel, this has sex, affairs, heartbreaks, scandals, and everything else you can expect.
Price: Rs. 599 || Pages: 352
Title: That Thing About Bollywood
Author: Supriya Kelkar
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Blurb: That Thing About Bollywood is a book rather different than all the others on this list on books about movies. First of all, it is a book for young readers and secondly, this is not an exploration of the lives of the people who inhabit that world. It takes the typical Bollywood trope of the ‘larger-than-life’ and its habit of breaking into a song and dance at the slightest of provocations and weaves them into the story of a young Indian-American girl Sonali who loves all things Bollywood, whose parents might be on the verge of a separation. When everything around her becomes brighter, when everyone gets a bollywood-like makeover and when they start dancing and singing at everything without realising that this is not how it happens in the real world, Sonali is worried. How will she cope up with this situation and return everything to normal forms the crux of this story. Kelkar weaves issues related to identity and growing up deftly in the book.
Price: Rs. 654 || Pages: 368