“I feel blessed to know that you will be holding my book with the same hands that hold other knowledgeable books written by extraordinary individuals who guide you in one way or another in life”, writes Raaj Grover, in his author’s note while introducing his book, ‘The Legends of Bollywood’. Given the overdose of Bollywood that is fed into our lives every day through the social media handles, I wasn’t entirely convinced if I should spend more time reading about them. But his humility encouraged me to continue and I am glad I did.
The book is a nostalgic tribute to the legendary people whom the author had known from his days as the Production-in-charge of Sunil Dutt’s Ajanta Arts. The chapters of the book indicated that there about 21 people about whom he has spoken starting with Amitabh Bachchan. But, once into the book I realized, it is not merely about the celebrities. There also some Kakas, Chachas and Bhaiyyas, who find their duly deserving mention in the book. You will see that there is no definite structure to the narration. The chapters are free-flowing, sometimes even jumping lanes, making it a true recollection of memories. Towards the end of the book, Grover also discusses Ajanta Arts Welfare troupe and Mohan studio. The last chapter of the book is very special where he ascertains how art embraces everyone even the ones beyond the border.
Despite the tons and tons of articles on Amitabh and his stupendous career, I never knew that his mother was friends with the then Prime minister Indira Gandhi and the prime minister herself had reached out to Nargis Dutt to help Amitabh find a role. It is one thing to listen to the twisted tales that media throws at you and another to listen to the recollections of a gentleman who had witnessed firsthand the birth and growth of these stars. As you go from chapter to chapter, you learn that none of them had it easy. Some were gifted with looks, some had recommendations, some had the lady luck smiling at them. Irrespective of all that, each one of them had had a long and difficult journey to endure before they made it big.
Along with the stories about these celebrities, you also get to read some beautiful poetry in each chapter. Raaj Grover, being a poet at heart, has been generous in quoting a lot his favourite lines, making it a thoroughly enjoyable read. The best about these poems is that the book has both the transliterated and translated version of the poems thereby enabling both the Hindi-speaking and non-Hindi speaking readers to experience the emotions that flow through those verses. Although I haven’t read the Hindi version of the book, I must mention the commendable job done by Suchitra Iyer in translating the book to English. I am so glad that she retained a lot of Hindi words (transliterated) instead of blindly translating each word into English. That was a smart choice by the author and the translator because it keeps the spirit and flavour of the book intact.
I am not sure if it is because Raaj Grover is 80 years old and is already going through his second childhood, but I felt that there was a certain child-like innocence in his narration. Every time, he mentions Nargis Dutt, he refers to her as Nargis Bhabhi or Nargisji, Sunil Dutt as Dutt saheb, Rajesh Khanna as Khanna Saheb and so on. You can see the love and respect the author had for the people around him. But like a child again, he doesn’t hold back while talking about bitter experiences and controversies. The only time I felt hat he hadn’t spoken enough was when he wrote about Sanjay Dutt and his dark days.
Need I mention that the book is an easy and entertaining read? But if that is not reason enough, here is another reason why you might want to buy a copy of the book. All the earnings from the sales of this book will be donated to the Nargis Dutt Foundation. The foundation was started in fond memory of Nargis Dutt who succumbed to cancer. The foundation aids cancer patients who cannot afford treatment. This is a very noble gesture from the author and I am sure there is a huge population that can use all the help that one can provide. So, pick your copy and make a difference today.