Bollywood Hungama
Last Updated 21.08.2018 | 11:14 PM IST
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Book Review: Hero

‘Hero’, a two book series, is a research paper presented in the form of a book. Otherwise how else can one explain this effort by Ashok Raj who fills in more than 800 pages in total with Dilip Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan taking over more as much as 50% of the printed words. It’s text, text and sheer text that results in this voluminous outing which is presented in two volumes – ‘The Silent Era To Dilip Kumar’ and ‘Amitabh Bachchan To The Khans And Beyond’.

To the credit of the author, he stays true to the subject. He concentrates on the ‘heroes’ who have made Bollywood cinema the way it has been for last 80-90 years. Right from the silent era to the cinema of today where Himesh Reshammiya is attempting to become a leading man, he covers them all and doesn’t miss any notable name. It is research to the n-th limit which is put on display in this series. However, the fact is that an effort like this is best put in place for a film institute, a cinema library or academicians, not on book stands for perusal of ‘aam junta‘. And that’s because the book is 200% literary inclined, is completely deprived of any entertainment value whatsoever and comes in such heavy duty vocabulary and sentence formation that it is more of a put off than exciting.

Really, for an average viewer, it is simplicity that works but that’s not really the case in ‘Hero’. In fact so many of the sentences not just make for an utterly complex read but also make the reader wonder if the author was actually eyeing any commercial success through this book or had merely written it to satiate his thirst for perfection and put forth his literary prowess.

As stated earlier, the book is primarily a literary read and pretty much acts as an encyclopaedia of Bollywood that has emerged over the decades gone by. In this context, Ashok Raj has pretty much divided it all into the Dilip Kumar and the Amitabh Bachchan phase, hence resulting in two volumes. In the process of doing so, he has not just gone through practically each and every film that they have done but also come up with a synopsis (which is anything but brief) as well as what was the input and outcome of these movies. He just doesn’t leave it there. He in fact starts exploring the acting styles that the two brought and delves deeper into the art of acting, different schools being followed and the direction they provided to quite a few contemporaries and followers. Of course none of it is an easy to comprehend write-up, hence forcing a reader to take a closer look at the printed word.

There are many more complications (for a regular viewer, not a historian or a hardcore movie buff) in the offering. Ashok Raj brings in sections/chapters like ‘The Eisenteinian Emotive Mechanism’, ‘The Essential Bulit-in Asynchronization’, ‘The Neo Realistic Context’, ‘The Anti-Hero Awaiting Redemption and Atonement’, ‘The Simultaneous Liberation of the Image’ and many more which prove all over again that it is a paper being presented to be studied and analysed rather than a book to be read and enjoyed.

In fact so deep down Ashok Raj gets into the entire research that he goes on to present tables depicting the kind of films that Dilip Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan have done throughout their career, their classifications, their ‘dominant character’ and the ‘genesis of character’ etc. etc. Now all of this is a little too much for even a die hard movie fan. It is one thing for a film to be seen and enjoyed and other to be looked at in context of an entire social-political-cultural-economical milieu that ‘Hero’ series goes on and on about.

So is this series just about Dilip Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan? Not really. Ashok has in fact painstakingly gone through the entire history of Hindi film making and brought to fore popular as well as unknown heroes who have made their presence felt at one point of time or another. However, there are some glaring mistakes made as well which are hard to ignore. Like he mentions Yash Chopra as the director of Mohabbatein when the man behind the camera was actually Aditya Chopra. He claims to talk in detail about ‘released’ films like Right Yaa Wrong, Zamaanat, Aashayein, Love You Hamesha, Divorce: Not Between Husband and Wife when the fact is that these films starring Sunny Deol, Amitabh Bachchan, John Abraham, Akshaye Khanna and Jackie Shroff respectively are yet to hit the screens.

Moreover, there are also quite a few arguable comments being made. He calls Cash as one of the highlight films of Suneil Shetty when even the man in question would hardly agree. Laaga Chunari Mein Daag is referred to as a ‘powerful depiction of women’s plight in today’s harsh competitive world’ when the fact is that the film was a huge let down mainly due to it’s regressive theme. Moreover, he also tags Chandni Chowk To China as Akshay Kumar‘s foray into serious cinema. Need one say more!?

Price: Volume I (Rs. 595/=), Volume 2 (Rs. 595/=)

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