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BW Businessworld

It’s Showtime, Folks

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No, this is not the Indian reprint of the Richard Dawkins tome on evolution by natural selection. The Greatest Show On Earth  is about the evolution and enigma of India's showbiz aka Bollywood. A collection of 37 pieces edited by Jerry Pinto, the book displays an impressive cast: Salman Rushdie, R.K. Narayan, Ismat Chughtai, Saadat Hasan Manto, and more. And the pieces by themselves do not disappoint, for the most part. The book has six parts and begins with an excellent and refreshing extract from Fearless Nadia: The True Story of Bollywood's Original Stunt Queen, which narrates how a bonesetter had been summoned for her first shoot by a producer, who had little idea of how it was going to turn out. The book offers several such interesting anecdotes. Here is one more: the creators of Sholay were dogged by self-doubt in the first few weeks of the movie's release and were contemplating even changing its ending. But they were dissuaded by the confidence of its writers Salim-Javed. And the rest is history.

There is no shortage of the quirky either — be it the rather bizarre interview of Kishore Kumar or the fascinating tale of Sitara Devi. The book provides enough bait for the academic as well — Mukul Kesavan's piece on the Islamicate roots of Hindi cinema being the one to go to for. Perhaps the best part of this enjoyable book is the one on music, with a piece by Naresh Fernandes on the thoroughly absorbing origins of the popular number, My Name Is Anthony Gonsalves.

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 07-11-2011)