Book: Did You Know Volume 1
Author: Bobby Sing
Publisher: Notion Press
Do you recall the days when radio used to be the most important device in a middle class household?
There were people who kept bragging about their knowledge of anecdotes related to films, songs, lyricists and directors, all thanks to radio.
Interestingly, a good chunk of their bragging comprised of correct information and amazing trivia about different departments of film production. However, the younger generation moved on to TV and gradually became addicted to internet. This trend killed the concept of oral storytelling which was the prime reason of passing on of interesting stories from one generation to the other.
You must have met people who seemed to have known almost everything about a particular star or a film or a decade of films. Usually, these people were not from the literary background so that they could write a book based on the unheard stories or they were simply not interested in writing a book, which is still one of the best ways to keep a tradition alive.
So, when I got my hands on journalist-author Bobby Sing's book Did You Know, the first emotion that set foot in my heart was 'at least someone is telling those lesser known stories.'
The first volume of Did You Know claims that it's for all Bollywood obsessed movie buffs. The cover promises 51 interesting facts about Hindi Cinema, but are these facts really novel or just a rehash of the blind columns published in old film magazines? Let's find out.
Cinema obsessed people owe a lot to those who made free film viewing possible for them, for example the local video parlour guys. Had they not been there, you wouldn't even think of watching a film like Laal Dupatta Malmal Ka or Alaap.
Bobby Sing begins with thanking such people and rightly so because they were the ones who demarcated the line between a good film and a bad film in late '80s or early '90s. Brilliant film businessman aka cassette king Gulshan Kumar was also a product of such tendencies. Even Madhur Bhandarkar's story is of the similar nature.
The first emotion that comes to the reader's mind after flapping through Did You Know is 'whether it would be able to evoke that nostalgic feeling'? I grew up at a place where a shady video hall was the most equipped place to watch a film, and it remained so till late '90s until a proper cinema hall replaced it.
Films such as Taqatwar, Pratighat and Clerk used to showcase there after many years of their actual release. Later, when the new cinema theatre opened, Sholay was played there after almost 20 years of its actual release.
So, when I saw that the first chapter is dedicated to Satyajit Ray I was a bit disappointed as I was expecting more of Anil Kapoors and Jackie Shroffs in the beginning but it was a matter of just four pages. In any case, Ray will remain the tallest filmmaker India has ever produced and thus any writer would like to start his book with a tribute to the maestro.
But, the fun begins with chapter 2 which says that Gulzar conceived the idea of Angoor while he was working with Bimal Roy in Do Dooni Chaar, another adaptation of William Shakespeare's The Comedy Of Errors. The very next chapter says about the two versions, Hindi and English, of Guide and how different directors interpreted the real story in different manners. One of them was a known Hollywood name Ted Danielewski.
Did you know that Ek Chatur Naar (Padosan) was originally from a 1941 film Jhoola and was voiced by Ashok Kumar? Did you know that Rajesh Khanna was so impressed with the character of Phantom that he designed an entire sequence in his film Bundal Baaz around it, and who directed the film? None other than the ever joyful Shammi Kapoor.
There is a good chance of the reviewer getting carried away while dealing with such books but can you really overlook the high fun quotient induced inside your heart after reading that Dev Anand once featured in a 20th Century Fox production, The Evil Within. The film couldn't get the nod from the concerned authorities due to its parallel track dealing with opium selling and thus the Indian viewers were deprived of this English venture.
Probably Bobby was the first Hindi film which inspired the makers to come up with a romantic novel on the same lines. Today, filmmakers are releasing comics based on the adventure of Krrish and Dhoom, which are termed as excellent marketing techniques by industry experts, but Raj Kapoor used the same modus operandi in 1973, 41 years ago. That was the grandeur of RK's vision.
You remember Komagata Maru? It was the ship which was not allowed to enter in Canada due to harsh immigration laws. The ship had more than 375 people who were forced to return to India where the passengers were gunned down by the British police force. Recently, the Canada government has issued a stamp regretting their lack of vision in 1914. This incident became the backbone of 1974 film Jeevan Sangram. Don't tell me you knew that!
Sili Hawa Chu Gayi and Khamosh Sa Afsana are still the favourites with RJs and listeners, especially during the late night shows. But, have you seen the film? These are from Gulzar's film Libaas which was never released. Surprised? Then there are many more surprises waiting for you in Did You Know as these are the glimpses of just 15% of the book.
Yes, the book is written in a big brotherly tone and sometimes the superiority complex of the writer comes across but who minds if we get such wonderful trivia in return. In any case, the tradition of 'kissagoi' (storytelling) gives narrator the upper hand.
It's a book which will take you down the memory lane and make you believe that Indian cinema rather Hindi cinema wasn't as regressive as it was said to be. It is worth a place in your library.
Lastly, which was the first Hindi film that suggested castration for rapists? Don't know the answer! Read Did You Know then. (Follow the author at Twitter/@nawabjha)