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The book that changed my life: India’s influencers tell all

India’s most glamorous and opinionated pick out the book that changed their lives

brunch Updated: Jan 28, 2017 20:38 IST
Team HT Brunch

Kalki Koechlin, Actor

I love The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. It was my favourite while growing up. I like the journey about imagination, and finding hope and happiness in a very damaged world. It’s inspired from his real life when he crashed a plane in the desert and miraculously survived. I think it’s the power of the imagination that kept him alive.

Tannishtha Chatterjee, Actor

The one book which has stayed with me for a long time: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. There are a lot of commonalities between contemporary India and England of that era: be it the rise of the working class or the way members of the lower castes are treated. Heathcliff can be the perfect representative of the Dalits. Also, we address our house helps as Bhaiya or Didi, but do we really ever mean that? Similarly, Heathcliff, an orphan raised by the Earnshaw family, is called a half-brother, but he never gets the respect of a family member. His angst comes from the way the society treats him...isn’t it something we’re witnessing today?

Gautam Gambhir, Cricketer

Without Fear: The Life and Trial of Bhagat Singh by Kuldip Nayar is the best book I have ever read. My choice was influenced by the fact that I’ve always had one hero, one idol – Shaheed Bhagat Singh. The book was presented to me by a cricket journalist who knew my fondness for Singh. I’m a sportsperson and lead an active lifestyle. So, I lack the patience to read for long durations. But this was different. I was desperate to read this book at one go, as it got me closer to the man I admired the most. For the first time, I realised that Bhagat Singh was not only a daring freedom fighter but also a highly intellectual man. If I am not mistaken, I must have read the book at least three to four times, which, by my standards, is a “gold-medal achievement”.

Bhoomi Pednekar, Actor

One of my favourite books of all time has got to be the Harry Potter series. I have grown up reading them. The books would always release around my birthday, and my friends and I would compete to finish them. I love the series because the characters and the writing are simply brilliant. JK Rowling created a world for me that I really wanted to be a part of. Harry Potter would always remain my favourite.

Sudhir Mishra, Filmmaker

When I was very young, Milan Kundera’s The Book of Laughter and Forgetting showed me the arbitrariness of power, the imminence of betrayal; that the passionate mostly get screwed; that you have to love without expecting any kind of return or reciprocation; that there are probabilities; you have to live it as if there is a certainty of a tomorrow. It is too brilliant a book.

Swara Bhaskar, Actor

There are many good books I’ve read, but the most memorable one has been a graphic novel by war journalist Joe Sacco called Palestine. It is a sardonic yet hard-hitting account of his travels in occupied Palestine. It took me 14 days to read it because I was crying with rage after almost every third page at the injustice of what has happened with the Palestinians. It makes you question the stereotypes and reminds you that in any situation balance, objectivity, neutrality and rationality are empty words without justice. This is a book that really shook me and reminded me that cartoons are not always flippant.

Ali Zafar, Singer and Actor

For me, it has to be Revolution In The Head by Ian MacDonald. The book certainly lives up to its title and it’s an interesting read. I don’t think any book has taken me closer to the music of the Beatles, be it their songwriting process, creative inputs or their brilliant innovations.

Raveena Tandon, Actor

I was at a point where there was a lot of turmoil in my life. At that time, I got my hands on Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda. It turned my life around and gave me faith to believe in myself and that everything happens for a reason. It doesn’t tell you how to live your life, but about your faith, shakti and what you have within yourself.

Monica Dogra, Singer and Actor

A friend gifted Just Kids by Patti Smith to me saying it would be like reading about myself. It’s an engaging book that about the ever so iconic American songwriter and poet Patti Smith and photographer Robert Mapplethorp, and their brush-ins with Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan. I finished it in less than a week and was enraptured by all that. I could read this book over and over again.

Sona Mohapatra, Singer

As a performing artist, I have been most inspired by Kiran Nagarkar’s Cuckold. At its heart, it is probably the most unequal love triangle – as the third entity is a God. The gallant Prince of Mewar is locked in wars with the Sultanates, and there are conspirators within his own family who wish to oust him. Yet nothing confounds him as much as his wife, Mira. The novel is as much an examination of concepts like power, pride, chivalry, machismo and honour, as it is about a man competing with someone else for a woman’s heart. It’s also a tale of how our traditions and institutions shape our future.

Raima Sen, Actor

The best book I’ve ever read is Marlon Brando’s autobiography Songs My Mother Taught Me. This book was an honest and revealing self-portrait by the critically acclaimed and fiercely independent actor. His anecdotes about work and play are entertaining and memorable, and he addresses the many social causes he has championed. Since I wanted to be an actor, it helped me a lot. Brando’s insights helped me understand the psyche of a brilliant actor and man. It revealed a lot of mysteries of his on-screen and off-screen life, along with his interests and passions.

Karthik Aryan, Actor

I’m a huge fan of crime fiction. I loved Charles Willeford’s Miami Blues. It’s one of the best investigative stories that I’ve read and the book left a lasting impression on my mind. The way the protagonist Hoke Moseley has been described and the way his character arc goes through several ups and downs is truly remarkable.

Maria Goretti, Television Personality and Chef

I love Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom because it’s about life, peppered with humour. It talks about death as not such a bad thing, if you live life well. Morrie tells you to not let life and its trappings get in the way of your dreams. He is Mitch’s teacher, and this is a metaphor for every lesson we learn in life and how we should be thankful for those lessons. Some take us forward, some break our hearts and some set us free, but in the long run, they help us find ourselves.

From HT Brunch, January 29, 2017

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