Thursday, February 9, 2017

Book Review: Khullam Khulla: Rishi Kapoor Uncensored

Title: Khullam Khulla: Rishi Kapoor Uncensored 
Author: Rishi Kapoor & Meena Iyer
Publisher: Harper Collins India
Pages: 284  
Price: Rs 599
Genre:Autobiography / Films
Rating: 6/10
Format: e-book 

About the book [from the publisher's website]
Only, Rishi Kapoor was and is so much more. Few actors in Hindi cinema have had this sort of a career arc: from the gawky adolescent pining for his schoolteacher (Mera Naam Joker, 1970) to the naughty ninety-year-old (Kapoor & Sons, 2016), Rishi Kapoor has regaled audiences for close to fifty years. He won a National Award for his debut, became an overnight sensation with his first film as a leading man (Bobby, 1973), and carved a niche for himself with a string of romantic musical blockbusters in an era known for its angst-ridden films. He was the youth icon that is still the toast of the satellite TV circuit. The songs he lip-synced are the bread and butter of all radio stations even today. Then there was the second coming after a brief hiatus in the 1990s – as one of the finest actors in mainstream Hindi cinema with powerhouse performances in films like Do Dooni Chaar, D-Day, Agneepath and others. Characteristically candid, Rishi Kapoor brings Punjabi brio to the writing of Khullam Khulla. This is as up close and personal a biography as any fan could have hoped for. He writes about growing up in the shadow of a legendary father, skipping school to act in Mera Naam Joker, the workings of the musical hits of the
era, an encounter with Dawood Ibrahim, his heroines (their working relationship, the gossip and the frisson that was sometimes real), his approach to his craft, his tryst with clinical depression, and more. A foreword by Ranbir Kapoor and a stirring afterword by Neetu Singh bookend the warmest, most dil se biography an Indian star has ever penned.


Bollywood biographies attract a lot of eyeballs and interest, especially if you are a Bollywood buff. Rishi Kapoor may not have been part of any path-breaking cinema but by virtue of being part of Bollywood’s supposed first family, his biography was anticipated to be interesting.  

As the book promises, Rishi Kapoor is candid about his life. He talks about growing up as Raj Kapoor’s son and how they were always allowed to drop in on their studio, how he dropped out of school to be part of the movie business, his debut, his years as the rich lover boy on the celluloid; he accepts that he never experimented, never prepared for any role, never went out of his way to work with anybody. He just kept on doing what he was offered. 

He writes “For decades, I had breezed through a steady line-up of romantic roles. It came so naturally to me that except for choosing a new jersey, there was little pre-shoot work to do.”

He is also unafraid of ruffling some feathers in the way he points out his grievances with colleagues like Amitabh Bachchan or Rajesh Khanna, or with friends like Rakesh Roshan and Jeetendra. 

The biggest charm of this book is its candor and openness, as if he is unafraid of being judged. Otherwise about his life or filmography, there isn’t any insight. 

The book also lacks a structure; though he writes about his father and grandfather, his brothers and sisters, his children, his wife, his movies; yet the stuff somehow does not seem organized in a logical way.

He has also written about his family. There is no new revelation apart from the fact that may be his daughter also nursed a desire to be an actress but let her ambitions bite the dust because her father was protective (?). Most fathers are protective. But to not let your daughter pursue her dreams is selfish. 

As a boyfriend, he was difficult and extremely possessive. Neetu Kapoor keeps on saying that she dreamt of having a family and not of stardom. But he admits that he never went out of his way to encourage her to pursue acting. As a father, he always remained an unapproachable guy like his dad used to be. He never questioned the kind of relationship a father and son must share. He did not bring his personal approach to the relationship.

The biggest revelation is to accept as Raj Kapoor’s son of the former’s affair with Nargis and Vyajantimala. And another thing note-worthy in the entire book is what Naseeruddin Shah told him once -
‘Why don’t actors, male and female, understand that hands have been given to us by God as a biological part of the human body? Why do they have to do all kinds of weird things with their hands when they don’t know what to do in a scene?’ 

It is not an exciting read, it is not unreadable either (I finished it in a day!). It is just an open account of Rishi Kapoor’s life. Do you get to know him as a person? Yes, you do. I don’t know if the expected outcome was positive but to me, he came across as snobbish, even selfish a lot many times. 

Image credit

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Book Review: Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh

Title: Train to Pakistan
Author:Khushwant Singh
Publisher: Ravi Dayal Publisher
Pages: 207
Price: Rs 195
Genre: Fiction / Historical fiction / India
Rating: 7/10
Format: Paperback

About the book [from the cover flap]

Train to Pakistan was first published in 1956 and is now widely accepted as being one of the classics of modern Indian fiction. The novel has steadily grown over the years.

The novel has implications which reach far beyond the little village on the frontier between India and Pakistan, where its action takes place. It is the summer of 1947. The frontier has become a scene of rioting and bloodshed. But in the village, where Sikhs and Muslims have always lived peaceably together, Partition does not yet mean much. Life is regulated by the trains which rattle across the nearby river bridge. Then a local money-lender is murdered. Suspicion falls upon Juggut Singh – the village gangster who, when not in jail, is carrying on a clandestine affair with a Muslim girl. A Western educated Communist agent is also involved. A train comes over the bridge at an unusual time and the villagers discover that it is full of dead Sikhs. Some days later the same thing happens again. The village becomes a battlefield of conflicting loyalties, and neither Magistrate nor police can stem the rising tide of violence. It is left to Juggut Singh to redeem himself by saving many Muslim lives in a stirring climax.

Train to Pakistan, with its fine descriptions of village and river, and its study of characters under stress, is an exciting novel, both intellectually and emotionally. Khushwant Singh makes his readers share the individual problems of loyalty and responsibility facing the principal figures in his story, and to understand the human implications of a momentous historical event.


Khushwant Singh’s Train to Pakistan is a famous book like Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children (which I have not been able to finish, by the way, despite three attempts) or Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy (which I found underwhelming). I don’t know what it is about these widely acclaimed books, most of the time they are weighed down by the baggage of their fame and end up underwhelming. So, I was apprehensive. 

I have read two more books on Partitions – Ice-Candy Man by Bapsi Sidhwa and Partitions by Amit Majumdar. And I have liked both of them. That time in history evokes immense curiosity among people from this subcontinent. It is hard to believe, today, that something of such magnitude happened right here, in our country, not too long ago. We keep seeking such stories from our shared history to make sense of such an event that left millions of people killed, orphaned, raped or displaced. How could people like us do this to their fellow countrymen, even close friends?

Train to Pakistan attempts to explain perhaps that incredulity in us. How could this happen? Mano Majara is a fictitious village populated with Muslims and Sikhs predominantly (with only one Hindu family), who live in harmony. In a short book of 200 pages, much space has been dedicated to the life in this village, and not too much on individual characters. When the country is going through the turmoil of partitions and its after-effects; this quaint little village remains unaffected, even surprised at the turn of events. It is difficult for them to fathom how people from the same village could turn hostile towards each other when they should have fought for their friends, so what if they belonged to a different community.

But that is only till real tragedy hits them. The arrival of a train full of corpses acts as a catalyst, and people could not remain unaffected for too long and turned murderous with little instigation because they are only human. 

The village is the central character in this book, all other characters play secondary roles. Though I am a reader who usually seeks identifiable characters, I still liked this book. Khushwant Singh’s writing is no doubt the best thing about it. If you would ask me, if this book is one of those must-reads; I would say – No! But if you appreciate good writing and if that thrills you as a reader; then sure.

Here are a few lines often quoted from the book:

“India is constipated with a lot of humbug. Take religion. For the Hindu, it means little besides caste and cow-protection. For the Muslim, circumcision and kosher meat. For the Sikh, long hair and hatred of the Muslim. For the Christian, Hinduism with a sola topee. For the Parsi, fire-worship and feeding vultures. Ethics, which should be the kernel of a religious code, has been carefully removed.”

Read more quotes from the book here.

Image credit

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Goals for 2017

Whenever I drop in here, I am filled with nostalgia (as also happens with my other blog). It’s a pity that I haven’t written about any books in a long while. But this year I want to change that.

  1. I want to read at least 35 books this year and review all of them. So, I’m targeting about 3 books in a month. 
  2. I want to review at least 24 children’s books; also since over the last 5 years, I have read some amazing children’s books.
New Year is always an exciting time for me. I love making plans, creating new goals for the year. I love the anticipation, the positivity, the hope that a New Year brings. It is just an opportunity to start over. Forget the past. Look ahead!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Book Review: The Bear in the Cave by Michael Rosen and Adrian Reynolds

Title: The Bear in the Cave 
Writer: Michael Rosen
Illustrator: Adrian Reynolds
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 32
Genre: Children's literature / Fiction
Rating: 10/10
Format: Paperback (includes Audio CD)
Suitable for: 2 years+

About the Book (from the website):

A very happy bear hears the sounds of the city from his quiet home by the sea and decides to find out what city life is like. Buying the ticket and travelling on the train is all very exciting. And so is the city! But after a while the bear finds the city a little too noisy and a little too busy - and people are beginning to laugh at him. He feels very sad and alone, until four children find him and show him the way home, with much fun along the way. 


I chanced upon this book while hunting for some good story books for my son. I was not aware about its celebrated author, Michael Rosen, of ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ fame. But this book took me by surprise. It clicked with my 3 year old from the first day, and then we read it every day for about a month. He is still not tired of this book.

First of all the illustrations are gorgeous. I am totally in love with them. Secondly, the story is engaging and dynamic. It is interesting to follow the bear through the city in his adventure. Through the bear’s eyes, the young kids look at different aspects of city life.

Another very attractive aspect of this book is the use of onomatopoeia (yes, I just discovered this word, which means ‘a word that phonetically imitates, resembles or suggests the source of the sound that it describes’). In simple words, the author has used similar-sounding, rhyming words. We all know how kids love such tongue-twisters. 

Sample these lines:

“And I play with the waves all day.
Splishety splash
Splishety splash
Splishety splashety splish.”

Or these:

“The sound of the city in my ears.
Vroomy vroom
Vroomy vroom
Vroomy vroomity vroom.”

Moreover, this book is a great bedtime book despite all the commotion and laughter-inducing repetitive / rhyming words because it slows down towards the end. After much splashing about in the waves, the kids and the bear go to sleep inside the cave, surrounded by the tranquility of the sea at night.

It is a must-read. You are going to love reading this to your kids as much as the kids are going to enjoy listening to the adventures of the bear.  

An Inside view of the book:

Monday, March 30, 2015

Tips for buying children's books

Here are a few tips for people who are starting to build up their children’s books’ collection:

1. Learn about children’s books and authors by reading on the internet. There are a lot of websites and blogs dedicated for children’s books.

2. Don’t buy everything you read about. Make notes. Find more about the books. Evaluate on the basis of your child’s interests and level of understanding.

3. How to look inside the book, when you are purchasing it online? Most books on Amazon offer sample pages (2-3 pages) to give a peek into the book. You could search specific books on YouTube also. Many people upload videos of books and book readings where you can see the inside pages and find out more about the book. Another way is to do Google Images search of any book.

4. The easiest way to check best prices on various websites is any price comparison website like India Bookstore.

5. Online shopping websites like Amazon and Flipkart are undoubtedly best places to buy your books for their competitive pricing. Infibeam is another website where you would often find books not available on any other site but the prices may be a little higher. I have personally used all these websites.

6. There are also some places from where you can buy second hand books because let’s face it, international titles are expensive. I have used Passaro Pre-owned Imported Children’s Books (Chennai) for buying second hand books. 
They have good storybooks in the range of Rs 100-150. Apart from these, there are several Facebook Groups on Used Children’s books. Many metro cities also have booksellers selling ‘Books-by-weight’ which means they will have Rs X per Kg of Books.

7. Indian children’s books publishers like Tulika, Tara Books, Karadi Tales and Pratham Books have a wide range of books in very affordable prices.

8. In last 4 years I have learnt that one needs to be patient in buying books for kids. I have bought books for as much as 800 rupees. Honestly speaking, for regular people, this is not a sound practice. Be in the lookout for discounts in the range of 60% and above.

9. You can also select a price range. For example, I select books upto Rs 200 and then go about choosing books. Kids just need some good story books to read.

Image source: Google

You may also want to see: 

Why you should Read Aloud to your Child
How to start Reading to your Child
5 Children's Fiction Titles We Love

Monday, March 23, 2015

How to Start Reading to Your Child

1. Start Early
Remember: the sooner, the better, the easier. It is easy to form habits in very young children because you make the rules. Once they grow up, and start seeking independence; it gets more challenging. You can start even when they are in womb. Trust me, many people do it.

2. Read Yourself
My question is do you read? Personally, I read a lot while my husband reads zilch, but he still reads to our son. So, if you are trying to inculcate that habit in your child, chances are you are a reader yourself or at least you understand the value of doing so. So, be the role model for your child. Let him see you read. If nothing else, read children's books. You won’t believe how much you can learn from them, plus they are gorgeous.

3. Set the Mood
It is important to create an environment that encourages reading. Good books and opportunities to read are two important parts of setting the mood. If you want a habit to grow, you need to curb some of the other things like screen time (in the form of TV and tablets). Too much of screen time is not good for kids. Here is an excellent article on the subject.

4. Good Books (appropriate size and content)
If the kids are very young, say 0-1.5 years old, get them bright board books with minimum words. Books on Animals, Trucks, Construction vehicles or everyday objects usually work very well for that age group. Choose a size that they can handle easily like mini board books. Also, avoid paperbacks for very young kids. Board books are available in various sizes - from mini to lap size.

In this day and age, there is no dearth of good literature for young kids. There are several foreign and Indian authors and publishers for children’s books. The subjects are also exhaustive. You can also pick books on subjects that they are curious about or just plain entertaining stories. Besides, if you are confused, many people are writing about children’s books across the internet. You just have to look.

5. Movie to Books
There are books which have been turned into movies like the Gruffalo, the Gruffalo’sChild and the Room on the Broom. We read the books first and then watched the movies but you can do the other way round. There are books for ‘Finding Nemo’ or ‘The Jungle Book’ too, besides many others.

6. Bedtime Routines
It is easier to make reading part of their bedtime routine because when they settle for night, kids usually want to listen to stories. Moreover, they are eager to do anything as long as they don’t have to sleep right away. I think one can start with familiar characters or subjects from animated movies which the child identifies, and then move on to others gradually.

7. Never make it a chore
Don’t make it another 'thing-to-do' in the list. It will put them off, especially if they are older. When my son was 1-1.5 year old, we did not have a fixed time to read. Like other kids, he would keep fiddling with stuff around the house; and I would just sit and read his books aloud. At that age, they want to do things you are doing. So, he would come and sit, and take the book from me. And now we read 5 books every day on an average.  

8. Give it importance
Many people don't think too highly of reading to kids. It is not just story-time, believe me. I already wrote why you should Read Aloud to your kids in my previous post. Take it seriously. 

You may also want to see: 

Why you should Read Aloud to your Child
5 Children's Fiction Titles We Love

Image source: Google