When a senior film journalist makes her fiction debut with a book that features ten short stories inspired by the lives of the rich and famous who have been a part of the Hindi film industry, it generates a great amount of curiosity. In an interview, author Priyanka Sinha Jha, who has more than two decades of experience behind her as a film journalist, confirmed that the short stories in ‘Folk Tales From Bollywood: Adventures in Tinseltown’ have been “inspired by reality” but also stated that they are “completely fictional”.
The book starts off with ‘Arty Smarty’, a short story revolving around a filmmaker who specializes in making arthouse cinema but is compelled to make a commercial film that would serve as the launch pad for the son of a senior politician who harbours dreams of becoming a movie star. The short story, which spans across twenty pages, makes for a thoroughly engaging read and also gives hardcore film buffs the opportunity to compare the characters in the narrative to some professionals who work in the industry. These are people they might not know personally but are the ones they would have read about in film magazines or web portals.
While some readers would appreciate the topicality of ‘Baby Boon’, some will like the adequately dramatic ‘R.I.P’ entertaining. One of my personal favourite chapters from the book was ‘Thappad Ki Goonj’, a layered story about the grandson of a gentleman from Punjab who couldn’t realize his dream of becoming an actor, becoming a successful filmmaker and confronting the man who didn’t treat his grandfather well back in the day.
The almost 200-page-long book is thoroughly engaging and that is its biggest strength. The book should appeal to two sets of readers differently. The first set of readers would comprise of those who keep an eye on the developments in the film industry regularly and make it a point to read every film magazine they can lay their hands on and watch every Bollywood interview YouTube recommends them to check out. Such people would enjoy the process of reading stories that are based on Bollywood folklore. Though the stories are fictional, they would find them relatable.
The second set of readers encompasses those individuals who have some interest in Hindi cinema but do not make it a point to watch every film that releases in the theatres. These are people who don’t mind reading juicy stories about film stars while scrolling through their Facebook or Twitter feed. Such readers would find most of the stories featured in the book to be delightfully amusing.
Folk Tales From Bollywood: Adventures In Tinseltown’ is a book featuring a set of fictional short stories. It is not a book that is designed to enlighten you about the Hindi film industry, or Bollywood as it is more popularly known as. However, once you finish reading the book, you do generate a very nuanced understanding of a world that looks bright, happy and glamorous from the outside. You realize the lives of the people who are a part of tinseltown could sometimes be as dramatic as the films they make. You also get a glimpse of how vulnerable some of the most powerful can be and the kind of insecurities that govern this giant industry.