Book: Once Upon A Star
Author: Gajra Kottary
Publisher: Harper Collins India
Price: Rs 350
Bollywood has been a land of fascination for everyone and there is nothing we haven't been told about it. Scandals, affairs, gossip - you name it, they have it. Gajra Kottary's book Once Upon A Star is a story about the same land, behind the curtains, up close and personal.
The book revolves around Raj and Simran who is almost the first couple of Bollywood. Simran, the former superstar who married Raj and skyrocketed his career, is the perfect wife, perfect bahu, perfect mother; but her life is falling apart because Raj has fallen in love with the current Bollywood queen Sia and has made no bones about it. The marriage breaks and crushes Simran but she goes on to make a successful career out of her sorrow, reclaims her footing in the glam world and finds love again.
Like a multi-starrer Bollywood flick, there is no dearth of characters in the book and it only ends up putting the readers at unease. Most of these characters are also not fleshed out in a way that would reach out to the readers. In addition, there are too many unnecessary connections and conversations happening around.
The main protagonist Simran is a fairy-tale character for a lot of women. She finds herself going through a broken marriage and puts everyone who's wronged her in their place. Sia is headstrong, successful and the quintessential TV serial female lead who goes through a lot to emerge triumphant in the end. The other strong female Ashima, Simran's sister-in-law, is also one to put her foot down and take what she wants. Simran's mother and Sia's mother are both strong characters and depict motherhood at its best. Raj is a male chauvinist pig who does things as it suits him. Raj and Simran's children are spoilt brats.
The representation of the paparazzi and its relationship with B-town is spot on. The fact that Bollywood is a highly male dominated industry also comes out really well in the book.
Bollywood requires suspension of disbelief as does this book but one may get a little put off by the moralizing tone of the book and its shallow nature. The writing is also average and the plot a wee bit too predictable. Too often, the book seems to emulate a TV serial with its episodic nature - something or the other keeps happening every few pages and every event has a shock value in it.
If not for the good/bad woman trope, Kottary's book might have been an inspiration to all the women who aspire to be filmmakers. Lives in Bollywood are muddled up, there is gossip, there are scandals but a fairy-tale view with good women is not the solution.