Rating : 6/10
History is in hindsight and it becomes relevant and enjoyable when its just beyond the reach of nostalgia. That is when myths and fantasies take over what you remember.
There have been various examples of writers writing about Bollywood Fraternity without meeting them in person (like A.R. Rahman by Kamini Mathai, Helen by Jerry Pinto). The one that I enjoyed the most was Vinod Mehta’s Mina Kumari.
Yasser has been successful in parts. For a youngish Indian like me who wasn’t there when the ‘superstar’ was shining and only remember RK through the songs immortalised on Chitrahar and Doordarshan, the story of the irrational stardom and a sequential fall is more than fascinating.
But the inherent problems of a biography not having an access to the person himself, is that there is this emptiness about it. The authors cited above, have all gone over the top to explain and accept this dilemma at the start of their stories, but that doesn’t push the truth away.
Let’s look at the positives of this book.
- The Cult will need fodder : Rajesh Khanna is already a myth and as time passes by and a generation which didn’t read his interviews or saw his photographs daily, will be gone. The cult of a different kind of fan will emerge and they will need his stories.
2. Bollywood history being preserved : Yasser has brought out a lot of interviews from his research, which as he mentions started after RKs death. It also introduces the various characters from RKs life, like the women in his life. But none like Devyani Chaubal, which makes us see Shobha De and Film Journalism in a newer perspective.
Devyani Chaubal, has to be looked at by every Bollywood lover seriously ! She might command a biography or at least a collection of her articles in a separate book. There are some interesting articles on her and other’s :
3. The story is worth telling : This is a great story, lot of interesting facts which if woven properly are always better than fiction. A man’s obsession with his fame and failure.
Now let’s talk about what’s not so correct :
- Fore-Back-Middleword by Salim Khan : The man whom no one heard speak for the longest of times, now doesn’t stop speaking. And though Yasser takes good advantage of the man’s input, it’s overdone. There’s so much of “Salim Khan told me” in the book that I feel he should have been credited as the co-author. Again there is nothing wrong with that, but there’s repetition in his remarks and his foreword itself has a lot of what he wanted to say. As, he is the only ‘known’ personality that Yasser got access to, this is understandable.
- Lack of depth and access : I have stated that above that the access of the author is limited and he hasn’t been able to get to the inner circle. The people been interviewed are repeated and you can by the end of it, count them on fingers. Penguin should have tried to push more from interviews from actors, directors who worked with RK. The pictures printed also lack depth. There are much better pics available on internet.
3. The climax is an afterthought ? : That RKs personality was such because of his dual parental lineage is a little lame. That there is a doctor to validate such occurrences also looks so made up. That last chapter could have been left wherever it was. The analysis doesn’t really make up for the lack of depth.
This Rajesh Khanna story does evoke emotions of all kinds. So, do read this book and then watch this BBC documentary : Bombay Superstar.
Other Links :
p.s. There are two other books (in English) about Rajesh Khanna that I could search. I suspect there will be many more as time progresses.