"King of Bollywood: Shah Rukh Khan and the Seductive World fo Indian Cinema"
(Reviewed by Sudheer Apte SEP 24, 2007)
Anupama Chopra is a well-known translator of Mumbai and Bollywood for the Western audience, having written in the New York Times and other publications. Besides being a journalist and film critic, she is also an insider of the film industry. Her mother and sister are both famous screenwriters, and her husband has directed many commercial films including Mission Kashmir (2000). Chopra has several other movie-related books under her belt.
The Hindi movie industry has been much written about recently. In particular, Shah Rukh Khan is such an enormous star, and the appetite of his billions of fans so insatiable, that books on his life could fill a library. Just this year, a large coffee-table book on him by another journalist was released in the U.S. And yet, if you wanted to introduce your American friends to Bollywood, you didn't really have any good books to give them. Chopra's latest book King of Bollywood fills that need.
Chopra's style is crisp and attractive. She starts with a story about how the powerful "Elvis-like" appeal of Shah Rukh Khan attracts so many Americans of Indian origin to drive hundreds of miles to catch a glimpse of him on one of his overseas performances. She gently provides an overview of the Indian film industry and describes how it has historically responded to the changing environment within its young and growing country. But her prose never descends into academic dryness, and she uses Khan's life story as an illustration within the larger backdrop of the industry and the nation---invaluable for readers who are not very familiar with these.
This is a very American-friendly book. Every Hindi phrase that Chopra uses is immediately translated, and every name she drops is then quickly introduced. There is also a glossary called "Cast of Characters" in the beginning, which describes the people mentioned in the book. It doesn't take any chances---it even has an entry for superstar Amitabh Bachchan, who really shouldn't need one.
All of this spoon-feeding is accomplished painlessly and without getting in the way of Indian readers. They probably know that Shah Rukh Khan grew up in Delhi and started his career in a television series, but they might not know that his father was a Pashtun, a peaceful freedom fighter with Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan's Khudai Khidmatgars in the Northwest Frontier, who found himself in Delhi during Partition. Shah Rukh Khan's relationships with his parents and sister are described simply and sensitively, with a few black and white photographs. Regardless of the reader's background, Shah Rukh's story, which she summarizes as "how a middle-class Muslim boy from Delhi became one of the biggest movie stars in the biggest film industry in the world," is a universal and inspiring one.
Chopra acknowledges two of her early reviewers: Suketu Mehta, who wrote Maximum City, and her brother Vikram Chandra, who most recently wrote Sacred Games. Like those two books, Chopra's book also has some passages on the influence of the Mumbai gangsters on the Hindi film industry, but they are introduced through actual examples of a mafia don calling Shah Rukh on his cell phone.
As for the accuracy of the biography of Shah Rukh, the King Khan himself writes an endorsement on Chopra's official web site: "Whoever reads this book will have a clear and insightful understanding of Bollywood and of course, me. Thanks Anu."
- Amazon readers rating: from 2 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from King of Bollywood at Hachette Books
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- Sholay: The Making of a Classic (2000)
- DDLJ: "The Brave-hearted will take the Bride" (2003)
- King of Bollywood: Shah Rukh Khan and the Seductive World of Indian Cinema (August 2007)
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- Official website for Anupama Chopra
- Khabar's review of King of Bollywood and interview with Anupama Chopra
- "Bollywood's Good Girls Learn to be Bad" Essay by Chopra for the New York Times
- Forbes' review of King of Bollywood
- The Asian News review of King of Bollywood
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About the Author:
Anupama Chopra was born in India. Anupama received an MA in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. She received top honors at Medill, winning the Harrington Award for “academic excellence and promise for success in the field of magazine journalism.” She has a BA in English literature from Bombay University and was awarded the Dwarkanath Purshotham Gold Medal for academic excellence by the university.
She is a film critic and author. Her first book, Sholay: The Making of a Classic won the National Award in India for the best book on cinema. Chopra's husband, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, is a Bollywood filmmaker. She is the sister of Vikram Chandra. She has written about Bollywood for many publications in India and in the United States.
Chopra divides her time between Mumbai and Michigan.