In 2007, we saw Anupama Chopra’s SRK book released, which told of Khan’s bio and career trajectory, while also giving readers an intro to the Bombay film industry.
Later in the same year, Stephen Alter’s Confessions of a Bollywood Love Thief made its appearance. (Try reading a book with that title on the subway and note the looks on the faces of fellow commuters pondering the meaning.)
Alter’s book takes readers behind the scenes of the making of Vishal Bhardwaj’s Omkara, while splicing in history and background information about the Hindi film industry (visits to Dev Anand, Shekar Kapur, Shyam Benegal, etc.).
He takes us from the birth of the concept for the film, to the music composition, the casting, the location scouting and set-building, to the shooting, choreography and, the screening. Along the way we – the filmi fans – will find many interesting details: there was great doubt until the first scene was shot as to whether Saif would go ahead and cut his hair short, Ajay Devgan is quite hands-on when it comes to camera set-ups and cut-away shots, that was real dung Konkona Sen Sharma was making cakes out of during the scene with Kareena and Vivek, and on and on.
I wish there were more books like this, to feed our appetites for the behind-the-scenes info without falling into baseless gossip. My only complaint is that the non-Omkara chapters (while all interesting) don’t mesh that well with the flow of the story. For anyone new, or not that new, to the B’wood juggernaut, those chapters are still welcome, but perhaps they would have been better suited to a separate book.
What Alter does have, in spades, is great access. (His cousin, Tom Alter, an FTI Pune grad, has acted in over 200 Hindi movies.) Through his eyes, we get to watch the Beedi item number being filmed for the Shakespearean hit, the crew setting up and working their magic so we’ll find it all credible on screen, and the actors doing a line reading at the Sun-N-Sand.
Interestingly, like Chopra’s book, this one was published by an American house (Harcourt).