Monday, February 26, 2018

10 Things About Bioscope AKA My Urge To Talk About My New Book



Bioscope has been used as the early name for cinema, to describe a travelling movie theatre, or as a generic name for a film camera (and sometimes a projector). I interpreted it loosely as a device to peek into the past.
For kids growing up in 1980s India, it is also the name of a squat, cylindrical machine (on a stand) with small windows in which you placed your eyes to see a passing montage of photographs (usually bunched together in a theme). I interpreted this as a collection of snippets that showed a progression.
Somewhere this ‘Past + Progression’ got collectively interpreted as ‘History’. To protect my reputation* as a Bollywood Trivia Hunter not given to serious analysis, I added a ‘Frivolous’ before the history.
[* among my 17 friends who have read my earlier books diligently]

Everything* about this book is in ‘ten’. There are ten chapters. Each chapter has ten points. Even the end-chapter boxes (yes, those are my favourite usually!) have ten entries each.
This ‘coincidence’ is due to the fact that my publisher – Hachette – has just completed ten years in India and is taking out – wait for it – ten books to commemorate the occasion. That explains the stenciled ‘10’ on the cover and the (ahem) subtle ‘10’s on the cover, spine and back cover.
[* In a glaring oversight, there are only six footnotes in the book. Should have been ten! Hopefully, readers will forgive this oversight.]

The cover is a stunner. The ten is a die-cut ‘hole’ on the yellow top cover through which you can see part of a movie poster (see left) that’s the ‘bottom cover’. I am usually a big fan of ebooks but I’d recommend a paper version of this book, just for the cover.
The cover is designed by Bhavi Mehta and her absolutely stunning portfolio can be seen here.

I wrote the book in one super-fast burst (June to December 2017, including planning at the beginning and editing at the end) – slightly shorter than even my first book (on cricket). Though I have been toying with the idea of writing a ‘history’ of Hindi cinema using stories and snippets for some time now.

The collection of stories and snippets for started – very strangely – with a script that I was trying to write for a live show on the history of Hindi cinema and its creators, characters, costumes, clichés and what not. That show didn’t happen but the research helped!

The best part of writing a book is always the editorial interactions. Given the breakneck speed of writing, the edits were full of comments like:
-          “Not clear, please rephrase.”
-          “Mention two of the songs here.”
-          “Had Gulzar spoken to him about the lyrics?”
-          “What about mothers-in-law?”
-          And my favourite: In the context of Indo-Pakistan wars, “Check. There was Hindustan ki Kasam in 1972.”

The other part of the writing was ‘research’ which – in my case – means (a) watching movies on YouTube, (b) reading books and magazines on cinema and (c) chatting with friends on movies. My go-to people for (c) was this cool group of people, who have encyclopeadic knowledge on everything in the universe including and certainly not restricted to Hindi cinema. They are like a kind of Illuminati (but much more modest), who have critiqued chapter drafts, improved my knowledge of modern Indian history and thrown dialogues at me to fit into various obscure parts of the book.
The book is dedicated to them.

The chapters are interesting… I think. They cover a wide range of subjects like:
-          A history of box-office collections
-          Leading pairs down the ages
-          The stories behind the scripts
-          Legendary composer-lyricist combinations
-          A brief history of bad men
-          Expats in Hindi cinema
-          How the language of Hindi cinema has changed
-          Filmi fashion highlights
-          Biopics in Bollywood
-          A Filmi History of Independent India i.e. how major historical events have been depicted on screen.

My favourite chapter in the book is No. 7 – the one on how the language of Hindi cinema has changed over the years, both dialogues and songs. How people express love differently then and now, how they come together and how they leave each other, how people pray… this chapter is full of wild generalisations, interesting song selections and some silly jokes. Had most fun writing it.

You can buy the ebook on Amazon. Paper also on Amazon and Flipkart. (Psst… you can buy multiple copies and gift them.)