August 02, 2020
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Twist Karaoed

Some of the essays are quite awful but the elegant prose of others makes this book worth the price

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Twist Karaoed
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The Popcorn Essayists: What Movies Can Do To Writers

Edited By Jai Arjun Singh
Tranquebar | Pages: 227 | Rs. 395

What can movies do to writers? Consider the extreme case of Manil Suri, the author of two well-received novels. He’s a huge fan of Helen, the most famous item girl in Hindi cinema before the word ‘Bollywood’ was coined.

Suri was invited to give a book reading in New York. He decided to go a step further. He put on a bra and a skirt and performed a Helen number. If you google ‘Manil Suri Bollywood dance’ you will see the result, as terrible an impersonation of Helen as you are ever likely to see. It wouldn’t have been so bad if the performance had sold Suri’s books. It sold two!

Namita Gokhale writes with humour of her first employment, a stint with a film magazine. She soon learnt its peculiar lingo; Rajesh Khanna was ‘maha’ cool, another star was ‘absolutely nanga karaoed’. Fortunately the magazine folded quickly and Gokhale stopped writing in that way. Otherwise we would have had another Shobhaa De on our hands.

Manjula Padmanabhan visits the studio where Govind Nihalani is turning her play into a film. “A slender young man poses with an enormous flexible rod held in his hand, the mike dangling off one end of it. When the camera is rolling, he will bring the mike down with the lithe grace of an angler, fishing for dialogue in the lighted pond of the set in front of him.”

There are other essays in The Popcorn Essayists. Some are quite awful but any book that contains such elegant prose is worth the price.

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