HYDERABAD: For people who have grown up watching Hindi movies, Sonia Golani’s new book, Decoding Bollywood: Stories of 15 Film Directors, (Westland) is like hitting a pot of gold. As the name suggests, the book traces the lives of 15 filmmakers in the film industry from greats like Prakash Jha, Sudhir Mishra and Mahesh Bhatt to youngsters like Anurag Basu, Kunal Kohli and Zoya Akhtar. We wonder, how did she draw up the list of the directors to profile? Sonia responds, “I wanted to keep the book very contemporary and include all the people who had tremendous achievements to their credit.” Sonia has picked filmmakers across different genres and age groups. She covers stories of those who came from film families like Farah Khan, Rohit Shetty, Mahesh Bhatt and Zoya Akhtar to those who were armed with film training like Prakash Jha and Sudhir Mishra. Sonia has interviewed advertising professionals like Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and R Balki, who used their experience as a springboard to gain a toehold in the industry, and documentary filmmakers like Kabir Khan and Nandita Das. The book also includes chapters on how television helped directors like Anurag Basu, Kunal Kohli, Vipul Shah and Ashutosh Gowariker to make outstanding films.
Not attempting to critique the directors’ films or get into the technical aspects of filmmaking, Sonia takes a journalistic approach to delve into the personal lives of the directors. For instance, Mahesh Bhatt opens up to her as he recounts his early days in the industry, navigating his personal traumas and using cinema to give expression to his thoughts. Endearing stories of directors like Kunal Kohli, who in a leap of faith joined the Yash Raj conglomerate also find a place in the book. Sonia has also managed to get the directors’ views on Bollywood’s futile dream of the Oscars. As Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, scoffing at this, says, “We can make the best films in the world and should demand respect from the world. The idea is not to chase the Oscars but to take our stories to the world.”
In the preface, Sonia writes that Bollywood was an integral part of her growing up years, having watched iconic movies like Sholay, Satte pe Satta, Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, Arth. She affirms, “I have lived in Mumbai all my life. So I wanted to know how the industry functions and its finer intricacies.” That last year Indian cinema completed 100 years gave her another compelling reason to write a book on films. “It is my tribute to the Hindi film industry and also to my city, Mumbai,” she proclaims.