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Cinema’s magical powers and influence on our collective consciousness are undeniable. Bollywood industry insider Anupama Chopra talks about some gems in her new book A Place in My Heart.
When it comes to Bollywood, there’s one name that stands out from the rest of the crowd. Unarguably, Anupama Chopra is India’s leading film critic, and for a good reason.
Her reviews are nuanced, elegant, honest, and affectionate. She commands your attention coolly with a distinct duality of monklike wisdom and cherubic vivaciousness.
Anupama Chopra’s latest book, A Place in My Heart is a must-have in your home library. I’m glad I got the paperback copy as it’s a treasure-trove of her movie recommendations that range from familiar to obscure. From Mughal-E-Azam to Tungrus and the Chicken From Hell!
But the book is not a mere listicle. If you’re familiar with Anupama Chopra’s reviews and interviews, you’d know that she has a way of springing surprises on you with the unexpected.
A Place in My Heart follows similar methodical randomness as she recounts and researches the stories behind the paella of movies, people, and events. As the book blurb truly puts it – “It is a smorgasbord of cinematic delights, written, as Marie Kondo would say, to ‘spark joy.’ Above all, it is a testament to Chopra’s enduring love for all things cinema.”
You’ll discover fascinating trivia like:
~ How it took Salim-Javed merely fifteen days to sketch the outline of the magnum opus Sholay
~ Preity Zinta’s intuitive superpowers (#Ting)
~ How Anupama Chopra didn’t like Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham initially, but it has grown on her so much that she loves it today
~ Jackie Shroff was cast in Tamil’s first noir film, Aaranya Kaandam, because no actor in the Tamil film industry was willing to do the risqué role.
~ Or how Arundhati Roy encouraged Phoolan Devi to sue the filmmakers of Bandit Queen, and wrote an essay The Great Indian Rape Trick, where she calls out Shekhar Kapoor and his likes, “There’s a sort of loutish arrogance at work here. A dunce’s courage. Unafraid of what it doesn’t know.” Nonetheless, Anupama Chopra recommends Bandit Queen because it tells a tough story with quiet poetry. It depicts the hellish reality of a low-caste rural Indian woman who led the Behmai massacre in 1981, murdering men from higher castes for their atrocities. She writes, “Phoolan, with a red band across her forehead and defiant eyes, becomes the ultimate avenging angel.”
~ Anupama Chopra also picks her favourite female characters such as Rosie from Guide, who’s the daughter of a devadasi played inimitably by the gracious Waheeda Rehman. “She’s courageous yet vulnerable, ambitious yet afraid, and she’s tough enough to walk out on Marco.”
~ Or Kamini from Karz, played with chutzpah by Simi Garewal, because, “She is that rare thing—an older woman in a Hindi film who is also a sexual being. Of course, the film mocks her feelings for Monty, but Kamini is presented as a riveting character. She is determined to live the good life and is willing to do whatever it takes to get it. She has personality and more depth than the film’s actual heroine, Tina (played by Tina Munim, now Ambani), a cute, but silly, shrieking teenager who steals Monty’s heart. Why a famous popstar would fall for a schoolgirl, incidentally, is never addressed (it’s icky and illegal).”
It’s gratifying to see Anupama Chopra, a natural, established leader in her space, dedicate an entire chapter to another trailblazer in her field. Priyanka Chopra Jones, who she defines as a ‘single piece’ (read irreplaceable).
Anupama discusses how the Hindi film industry has shape-shifted over the years. From the yesteryears when the heroine, her mother, and hairdresser, were the only women in a crew of over a hundred people, to contemporary women actors doubling as producers such as Anushka Sharma or Taapsee Pannu—or helming lead roles such as Sushmita Sen in Aarya or Raveena Tandon in Aaryank on the OTT.
The future is female in cinema, which brings hope even if it’s a long way to go.
As random as they seem, Anupama Chopra’s astute observations and commentary are based on deep research, divergent thinking, and lived experiences. It’s why she is the undisputed crème de la crème of Bollywood’s film journalists and critics.
She highlights less-discussed narratives in this book, such as: “Almost a decade before Kangana Ranaut made nepotism a household word, Zoya was calling it out in Luck by Chance. Ironically, Karan Johar (whom Kangana memorably called the flagbearer of nepotism on his show, Koffee with Karan), playing himself in the film, is the one who explains to Zafar how outsiders often break into the business—by grabbing plum roles that star kids have rejected. That’s how Shah Rukh Khan bagged Darr and Baazigar, and Amitabh Bachchan, Zanjeer.”
Or how the movie Daayraa (1996), starring Nirmal Pandey and Sonali Kulkarni, boldly explored gender fluidity and patriarchy.
“Until then, there had never been a Hindi film like Daayraa. There hasn’t been one since. The dancer revels in putting on saris, jewellery, and make-up. Nirmal Pandey plays this character with finesse and empathy. He revels in the dancer’s grace and delicacy as a woman. In one scene, we see him putting on a bra.”
Or what it means to be Muslim in India,
“Chak De! India was the first time Shah Rukh Khan played a Muslim on screen, barring a brief cameo in Kamal Hassan’s Hey Ram. Kabir’s religion is the pivot of the story but Shimit doesn’t hammer the point home. Kabir is fully cognisant of what has caused his downfall, but he never spells it out. So when his former teammate says, ‘Ek galti toh sabko maaf hoti hai,’ (everyone is allowed one mistake), Kabir only asks ruefully, ‘Sabko?’ (Everyone?)”
There are some surprising missing names in this book which can make people accuse the author of being a partisan.
However, any personal recommendation will always be subjective and biased, despite the best intentions to remain as neutral as possible. Even experts are entitled to their personal tastes, preferences, associations, and even fondness.
By no means is A Place in My Heart an exhaustive list of all things Bollywood and Indian cinema. Neither does it make any grandiose claims of being so. It is a personal recommendation of an ardent Bollywood lover who’s also an expert on the said subject. So, you get nothing less than the finest movie recommendations and insider experiences in Bollywood.
There’s no denying that Anupama Chopra has a nose for good content. And she picks an eclectic and inclusive mix for your viewing pleasure.
A Place In My Heart is like reading an audiobook. You can hear Anupama Chopra’s voice resounding in your head as you read, making it a doubly delightful experience. Grab your copy, and reclaim your weekends and joie de vivre too!
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Tina Sequeira is an award-winning writer and marketer. Winner of the Rashtriya Gaurav Award in association with the Government of Telangana, Orange Flower Award by Women’s Web, India's leading website for women, read more...
Women's Web is an open platform that publishes a diversity of views, individual posts do not necessarily represent the platform's views and opinions at all times.
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Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 might have had a box office collection of 260 crores INR and entertained Indian audiences, but it's full of problematic stereotypes.
Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 starts with a scene in which the protagonist, Ruhaan (played by Kartik Aaryan) finds an abandoned pink suitcase in a moving cable car and thinks there was a bomb inside it.
Just then, he sees an unknown person (Kiara Advani) wave and gesture at him to convey that the suitcase was theirs. Ruhaan, with the widest possible smile, says, “Bomb mai bag nahi hai, bomb ka bag hai,” (There isn’t a bomb in the bag, the bag belongs to a bomb).
Who even writes such dialogues in 2022?
Anupama, an idealist at heart, believes that passing on the mic to amplify suppressed voices is the best way to show solidarity with the marginalised.
Anupama writes with a clear vision of what she wants to say, and makes sure she explores all possible facets of the topic, be it parenting or work or on books.
An intelligent, extroverted writer with a ton of empathy, she is also one who thinks aloud in her writing. Anupama says that she is largely a self driven person, and her passion to write keeps her motivated.
Among her many achievements Anupama is also a multiple award winning blogger, author, serial entrepreneur, a digital content creator, creative writing mentor, choreographer and mother to a rambunctious 7-year-old who is her life’s inspiration and keeps her on her toes.