Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Review of 'Kitnay Aadmi Thay?' Completely Useless Bollywood Trivia

Disclaimer : Diptakirti, the author of KAT (Kitnay Aadmi Thay?) is a friend. Bollywood & trivia has taken up a greater part of my life. Will try to keep the review unbiased.
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If you have a passing interest in Bollywood, or trivia, or preferably both then you're sincerely better off reading or ordering the book right now than going through this review. 

KAT is a Bollywood fan's wet dream come true. Like any blockbuster worth its salt it takes you by surprise with the depth of research in its very first chapter on opening credits over the years. My sister still has a smirk on her face as she could guess Taare Zameen Par (TZP), Kuch Na Kaho and Tanu Weds Manu to my meagre single recollection of TZP, as deserving candidates in this category.

The entire book is divided into similar chapters which at first glance don't seem to be following much of a plot, but as you breeze through the pages you realize you're a part of a potboiler, cleverly wrapped with the usual trappings of a Bollywood movie "jisme action hai, romance hai, suspense hai".

I'm getting this immense urge to discuss the different chapters, lists and information nuggets (like the Big B was called Munna by his parents) but will refrain from doing so at it'll be like giving away clues of a murder mystery. Just take it from me that you will be continuously trying to predict the next movie, star, date and theme that Dipta is discussing.

All right, temptation, I lose. Sample these 3 instances:

  • List of movies that were named after songs from other movies. Sounds simple? Now he goes on to compare the differences in years of release of the original movie containing the song and the movie named after the song (e.g. Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna (2006) released 30 years after Chalte Chalte which had the song Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna)
  • An entire chapter on the depiction of Parsis in Bollywood, and the list goes far beyond Being Cyrus (which apparently had a Parsi director - Homi Adjania & co-screenwriter - Kersi Khambatta)
  • Did you know there are (at least) 7 Bollywood movies remade or inspired from the Godfather series? Try guessing beyond Sarkar, and when you give up look at the bottom of the post for the answers.
You will still come across situations where you'll feel some of the lists are incomplete and you'll feel superior to the author for having missed some entries in certain lists, but he's cleverly clearly mentioned at the very beginning that not all the lists are complete and one of the primary purpose of the book is to increase the enjoyment by finishing these lists ourselves. However, typos I'm assuming are not covered under this so I take immense enjoyment in pointing out an error from Page 16 - 2nd paragraph, 1st line - "A list of film titles that went on to become songs in other films" should be "A list of film titles that took its name from songs in other films". Also, page 186, 3rd paragraph 3rd line "And thus was born probably the most famous human-best friend combo..." which I feel should read "And thus was born probably the most famous human-beast friend combo..."

Just like in his previous (and first book) - Cricket he keeps the audience engrossed with one tidbit after another and constantly challenges you. Also, I'm glad that he maintains his language which is elegant yet simple and never pretentious. It's in that perfect zone where you feel like the author is your friend, well spoken and intelligent, but never condescending, and always trying to be helpful rather than show off his immense knowledge.

The book is great, but has it's frailties, particularly in the form of the author's biases, and I guess gives a more genuine feel to it. It's clear from the very beginning that . He makes no bones about his obsession with Amitabh Bachchan, Sholay & Madhuri Dixit but you don't hold that as a grudge against him because the author is not trying to portray himself as a neutral, spectacle-wearing studious disciple of cinema, but a cheering, whistling, dancing fan. You kind of forgive him for not realizing that the greatest star that Bollywood ever produced was actually born in 1965 in New Delhi to Taj Mohammad Khan & Lateef Fatima.

This is one book I am looking forward to paying extra luggage fees to take with me and keep on my bookshelf.


Answer to the Godfather question: Dharmatma, Dayavan, Nayakan, Atank Hi Atank, Virasat, Rajneeti & Sarkar.

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