There is virtually one star-biography popping out every week. And there are several more in the pipeline.
However the current biography boom seems to offer no real financial benefits.A well-placed publisher who doesn’t wish to be named says, in not so many words, that the Big Bollywood Biography Boom is bogus and will soon go bust.
“Publishing houses are tripping over one another to commission biographies on everyone from Lata Mangeshkar to Asha Bhosle , Rishi Kapoor to Shakti Kapoor. It is ridiculous to believe that there is a substantial enough readership for these sagas.In fact none of the high-profile biographies released so far have made any money, ” says the source.
Huge amounts of money are being doled out by publishers. Penguin India has commissioned a biography in Hindi and English of Lata Mangeshkar penned by a self-styled admirer and author from Uttar Pradesh who claims to have 400 hours of recorded conversation with the Nightingale.Lataji, however, is unimpressed and intends to stop the unauthorized biography unless the content is shared with her.
The chances of the biographic boom riding out the daunting monies passing hands from publisher to author seem bleak.
Veteran journalist Rauf Ahmed’s Shammi Kapoor biography , Shammi Kapoor The Game Changer(Om Books) is one of the more rigorously researched biographies in the market which has not sold too well, although it has extensive insight into the Rebel Star’s life and comprehensive conversations with him and hitherto unrevealed facts about Shammi’s personal life including an account of his passion for Madhubala(which even I was unaware of).
Shammi Kapoor’s younger brother gets a biographical treatment from eminent US-based journalist Aseem Chhabra in Shashi Kapoor The Householder, Star(Rupa) which focuses almost entirely on Shashi’s body of work with scant space given to the man’s personal life. Shashi’s undying devotion to his wife Jennifer Kapoor and her untimely death’s tragic resonance on his emotional and physical health, should have been treated at length. But if you are looking for interesting details on Shashi’s vast repertoire of Indian and international films and on his astonishing transition from over-committed Bollywood actor to producer of quality cinema, Aseem Chhabra is pretty much the one-stop Shashi Kapoorfact-finder.
Interestingly Chhabra comes face-to-face with Shashi Kapoor only once in the course of the biography ,and that too for a fleeting glance at a hotel. He is still on a far more stable wicket than author Yassar Usman whose Rekha: The Untold Story(Juggernaut) purports to unveil the Rekha mystique without meeting her even once. What we get are salacious gossipy episodes from Rekha’s life strung together with junk-food expertise. There is little insight into the what motivated Rekha to toss aside her vernacular beginnings to transform into an unapproachable diva. If God lies in the details then this is a work of astute atheism.
There are other Bolly-biographies in the market including a very interesting account ofShatrughan Sinha’s life entitled Anything But Khamosh(Om) by the star’s long-term friend journalist Bharati S.Pradhan. But clearly the urge to pin down star-lives among book covers is going to be short-lived.
Unless someone does a really insightful biography of Rajnikanth .