I really enjoyed this book, and it has only fueled my desire to go to India. Which is strange, really, since a goodly portion of this books concerns gangsters, dancing girls, and the Shiv Sena; none of these are particularly tourist-friendly–well, the dancing girls might be, if you’re a male tourist.
My favorite part was the Bollywood section, of course. It was fascinating to read about how a film gets made: how the script develops, how casting is determined, how financing is secured, how the shooting proceeds, and how all of these things can change on very short notice. It was even more interesting because I’d actually seen the film in question (“Mission Kashmir”). I knew a little bit about Sanjay Dutt and his legal troubles, but not to the extent that they were explored here; a lot of the Hrithik Roshan information I already knew because I have read this charmingly silly and rather gossipy book (it also had a description of Preity Zinta and the gangsters, which I need to go back and look at again).
I feel a little bit like I’ve done the Suketu/Vikram trifecta, since I’ve now read Maximum City, seen “Mission Kashmir,” and read Sacred Games (which I should write a *real* review for). It was very interesting to see where they all overlapped and where they diverged. I should point out that I have also read and loved Vikram Chandra’s other two books, that I have seen other Vidhu Vinod Chopra films, and that I’ve read some of Anupama Chopra’s books and articles too, so I’m not a total n00b.
But what I really identified with is the adolescent Suketu’s move from then-Bombay to New York, and his struggle, upon returning years later to Mumbai, to find his lost childhood. You can’t go back, no matter how much as you might want to. All you can do is hope that things haven’t changed so much that you’re hopelessly lost while also harboring a nagging suspicion that you *ought* to know this place and just…don’t. It’s hard to explain if you haven’t experienced it, but read this book to get an inkling. (We won’t even dwell on the agonies of what it’s like to move to an entirely different country where you don’t speak the language and generally stick out like a sort thumb, but needless to say, he nails that too.)
It’s big, it’s sprawling, it covers both the sacred and the profane–it’s just like Mumbai, in other words. And I want to go there some day.
Suketu Mehta’s site
Source: borrowed from library