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The Perils Of Being Moderately Famous is an aptly named memoir by the very witty and down-to-earth Soha Ali Khan. Must read!
Before I get to my review of this book, I want to mention that I have always admired Soha Ali Khan for her acting prowess, for her more or less offbeat choice of movies, and for the way she carries herself with poise and elegance. Through her interviews, she comes across as someone who is intelligent, aware, honest, humble, and witty.
And all these characteristics beautifully take the shape of words in her debut novel.
The Perils Of Being Moderately Famous is a refreshing, breezy and compelling read. It is a heart-warming collection of personal essays from the various walks of life of the author. I have often wondered about how it must be to be known as someone’s sister or someone’s daughter or someone’s sister-in-law, and this book answers all this and more.
The sincere, unassuming and clever style of narration is sure to win your heart. The author has recounted all the poignant moments of her life with utmost candidness, and has sprinkled the writing with dollops of humour as well as deep emotions.
She sets the tone of the book at the very onset when she declares that this book is not for those who want to know the secret behind Kareena’s complexion or what Saif really meant when he talked about the difference between nepotism and eugenics. And that very moment, you know you have picked the book for all the right reasons.
The author maintains her quirky sense of humour even in the mundane portions. She begins the novel by introducing both sides of her eminent family and while we get to know a little more about her venerated lineage, she punches in funny phrases every now and then which bring a smile on the face.
While the author manages to successfully generate a few laughs along the way, there are also moments in the book which are particularly heart-rending and stirring. Like the ones wherein she talks about her father and her relationship with him – the pain of losing a parent whom she loves and respects immensely is evident.
Soha has also highlighted, with candour and gumption, how life is different as a celebrity and not always in a nice way. As a commoner, what we see of the industry is all rosy and hunky-dory but beneath all the glamour and glitz lie struggles and challenges of various kinds.
The biggest reason why one will connect to this celebrity memoir is that the journey is very similar to many of us and hence, quite relatable. Soha’s experiences during her growing years in Delhi and then in London and her anecdotes which give us a detailed insight about her life with her friends, make for a fascinating read. Her maturity and keen understanding of life in general shines through her words of wisdom. It was also interesting to learn about the role of travelling in shaping her to be the person that she is today. Consider this paragraph in which she has flawlessly captured the essence of what travelling is all about.
“Travel is meant to take you out of the familiar and into the unknown , out of your comfort zone into murky waters, out of a cocoon into a new and exciting world – it is meant to be an education. You learn about new cultures, ways of living, eating, loving, ways different to yours; about yourself, your limits, physical and mental, and your openness to new ideas”
My favourite chapter in the book is the one in which the author takes us through the journey of her relationship with her husband. There is nothing mushy or saccharine about it, yet it tugs at your heart strings. Undoubtedly, there are “Aww” moments but these are interspersed with puns and jocularity.
Though it was essential for the author to establish her illustrious roots in a novel of this nature, I personally felt that the book could do away with some of the superfluous details for more effectiveness. Probably, chopping off about ten odd pages would have made it a tighter read as at some points, the information overload ends up disconnecting the reader from the essence of the book.
There are some never-seen-before pictures of Soha and her family all through the book which I loved. However, I felt the placement of some of the pictures were jarring. For example, in the chapter “A working actor”, all of a sudden in the middle even before a sentence completes, there are a few pages with only snapshots. I think these should have been better positioned.
In summary, The Perils Of Being Moderately Famous is worth a read. I would like to end this review with my most favourite lines from the book.
“The irony is that as an actor you are required to dig deep and unearth emotions, to empathize with the characters you play on screen. But how can you do that honestly if you are convinced the world revolves around you? If, like Mercator, you have not stepped out to experience the world in all its diversity and magnificence? That is why it is essential to take the plunge and dive deep. Move outside of your comfort zone. Test yourself. Learn to live and love completely. Remind yourself the tiny speck you are in this universe.”
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Top image via By Bollywood Hungama [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons and book cover via Amazon
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