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Background to the fore

Humanising Bollywood’s, and Bombay’s, extras. Vaibhav J Purandare writes.

books Updated: Jan 19, 2012 20:47 IST
Vaibhav J Purandare, Vaibhav.purandare@hindustanti

The Extras

Kiran Nagarkar

HarperCollins India

Rs 599 pp 488

Kiran Nagarkar thinks his new book, The Extras, is treacherous. That description is accurate, for Nagarkar uses every variety of humour — verbal, farcical, dark — to tell a riveting story. But he goes beyond humour to raise questions which may not have any answers.

The Extras is a sequel to Ravan and Eddie. The two characters, born on different floors of the CWD chawls in Bombay but whose worlds are so disparate that they might as well be living on different planets, are back. The setting is the Bombay of the 60s-70s with its prohibition laws, BEST buses with numbers such as A1 and D3.

The young Ravan and Eddie want to be superstars in Bollywood. They do not realise that they are wonderful singers and dancers. Both do twin jobs to support their families — Ravan is a taxi driver and a member of a band. Eddie works as a bouncer-cum-bartender at an Auntie’s joint and is part of a band called the Bandra Bombshells. Ravan’s love interest, Pieta, won’t even look at him. Eddie, whose love for Belle is reciprocated, doesn’t know how to deal with opposition of their families.

Nagarkar acknowledges his debt to composers of the golden era of Hindi film music. “We did not have 1, 2 or 5, we had at least 15 to 20 absolutely class acts, very often of pure genius,” he says.

Women characters are strongly sketched, the promiscuous Sita being the most fascinating. My favourite, though, is Belle, the Anglo-Indian girl who, unlike her parents, does not want to go to Britain. But for all its depiction of Bollywood and baring the soul of Bombay, is The Extras a story about a city more universal? “It can be a universal story only if it is completely realised in the location in which it takes place,” says Nagarkar.

First Published: Jan 19, 2012 20:47 IST