New Delhi- As a final year journalism student who has been learning film making and by now familiar with the Indian film industry or Bollywood, any book on this topic will always be of interest.
On this particular morning, I was at the Fiji High Commissioner Yogesh Karan's residence in Vasant Kunj, New Delhi, waiting patiently for him to get ready and for us to head to Rajasthan with the Minister for Women Dr Jiko Luveni when I spotted this colourful and eye catching book Bollywood's Top 20- Superstars of Indian Cinema on the coffee table.
As I browsed through the first few pages, what struck me was the editor's note "In memory of Lilac theatre in Suva, Fiji Islands and all single screen halls of the past everywhere. Many of them were flea pits with uncomfortable seats and bad projections but there was a time when they gave us so much joy, two to three hours at a time."
My first reaction was "wow, who is this Baichand Patel who knows about Lilac Theatre in Suva?"
Sounds like a Suva guy.
My queries were answered when Mr Karan told me that Mr Patel is a Fiji citizen and has been residing in New Delhi.
By then we had to leave for our destination, but that book was definitely not leaving my memory.
I wanted to read it and also meet its editor.
It was only when the President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau visited Delhi last month that I finally got to meet Mr Patel or Baichand as he preferred to be called.
Upon meeting him to discuss his book, I found that he is a Delhite just like me but with Fiji at heart.
A former UN official who studied filmmaking at New York University, Baichand a barrister also graduated from London School of Economics.
In his book which was launched by actress Kajol, he outlined the structure of the Indian and its changing face and the stories of 20 actors and actresses in the industry who were selected on their popularity and talent.
For someone who watched his first film sitting on his mum's laps in Ba back in the days, Baichand knew exactly how Hindi cinema has cast a seductive spell over its spectators for close to a century now.
"The first film I saw was Wadia Movietone's Bambaiwali (1941) starring Fearless Nadia," he said.
This was ten years after 'talkies ' came to India in 1941.
Baichand admitted that he came from a family of film buffs.
So for him, this book is a celebration of Hindustani films from the introduction of sound in 1931 to the present day.
As a film student, I learnt that the in the Hindi cinema, The Golden Era was from after Independence in 1947 to the 1960s.
The book published by Penguin India and divided into 20 chapters, covered the eminent actors of all era of Indian cinema including "K.L. Saigal, Devika Rani, Ashok Kumar, Nargis, Suraiya, Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand, Madhubala, Meena Kumari, Shammi Kapoor, Waheeda Rehman, Hema Malini, Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan, Madhuri Dixit, Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol and Kareena Kapoor" written by some of the best contemporary writers on cinema.
"We are covering these eight decades through 20 stars, the brightest, and often the best men and women who gave us so much pleasure over the years."
"The 20 stars we have chosen to honour are not necessarily the most talented, though heaven knows they are all talented enough, but they were and some of them still are the most popular of their time," he said.
While some of them features in very popular films, which most times makes it to the Box Office, some also acted in spectacular flops.
According to him, the scenario in Bollywood over the last 60 years, where the women in the Indian cinema were more worldly and the men more macho and the cinema are more techno savvy like the Hollywood.
"The women in Hindi cinema are more assertive though no less beautiful (than yesteryear ones), they often smoke on screen and they are equal to men. Mainstream cinema has been a good trend-setter for equality of gender - it is happening now".
"The hero, however, has not changed as much as women though they - the crop represented by Salman Khan, Ajay Devgn and Amitabh Bachchan - are a little more physical and action-oriented than the early superstars like Dilip Kumar and Raj Kumar". He added.
"I recall a movie, 'Amar', in which Dilip Kumar rapes a girl played by Nimmi and then marries her. But the movie flopped because it was ahead of its time...Now heroes like Saif Ali Khan and Sanjay Dutt play villains and negative characters. Rishi Kapoor plays a bad man in 'Agneepath'," Patel said.
"But heroines are reluctant to play mothers. After 35-40 years, they are past their prime and it's over for them," Patel said.
The trend of Indian cinema has entirely different from those 30-40 years ago. Present movies music is not as good as that of the golden era of Indian movies in the 1950s.
"I miss the good actors," Patel said.
"From 1931, when sound was introduced in cinema, till 1952, they shot movies with the same camera because during the Nehru era, they could not import anything. Indians have a tradition for repairing everything. But now they are technically superior. Films like 'Peepli Live' and 'Dhobi Ghat...' are as good as anything made in Hollywood," he said.
His three favourite movies in the recent times include 'Delhi Belly', 'Peepli Live' and 'Dev D'".
Patel stated "the 1970s and 1980s were terrible decades for Hindi cinema".
"The films were uniformly bad at that time," he said.
"Cinema halls built 50 or so years earlier had decayed, with rats taking over, you have to be very brave or in very dire need to use the toilets."
Bollywood has been "up and running again for a few years now, the multiplexes that have come up have comfortable seats and there is no shortage of screens", he said.
Baichand believes that India is now entering a second Golden Age of Hindi cinema.
As a loyal Bollywood film lover, this is a must read. You will love it as it will make you want to dance in the rain.