Most Indians enjoy our homegrown brand of emotional, colourful, often dramatic cinema. But no one enjoys it more than Anupama Chopra. When she first fell in love with Bollywood—in 1989 to be precise—the term hadn’t been invented, yet she was fiercely attracted to this ‘ecosystem fuelled by luck and money, gambling and glamour’, as she puts it. In 1993, she entered the sacred realm of B-town as a film journalist and made a place for herself. The latest book by this author and film critic, A Place in My Heart, is a testament to her enduring love for this industry and everything related to it.
In this collection of taut, almost conversational essays, Chopra outlines 51 films, artists and events that have found firm footing in her heart over the years, and lays bare what she loves about them. She follows no strict timeline, adheres to no theme, nor any pre-defined format, yet her easy writing style and relatable conclusions are appealing. The book begins with Ramesh Sippy’s Sholay, which was the subject of Chopra’s National Award-winning book Sholay: The Making of a Classic. Next, she shares her interactions with the doyen of Indian cinema, Amitabh Bachchan. These two chapters set the tone for the rest of the book, outlining her pick of favoured films, personalities, and institutions.
Her love of Indian cinema through the ages is apparent. The chapters highlight films as old as Duniya Na Mane—a feminist Hindi feature film from 1937, and ones as recent as the layered Malayalam family drama Kumbalangi Nights and the thought-provoking Tamil film Super Deluxe, released on OTT platforms in 2019. Her selection includes big-ticket behemoths like Mughal-e-Azam, Guide, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, and Dil Chahta Hai. Yet, she doesn’t restrict herself to blockbusters that did well at the box office, liberally picking what appealed to her sensibilities, regardless of commercial success. Hence, films such as Udaan, Supermen of Malegaon and writer Arundhati Roy’s lesser-known In Which Annie Gives It Those Ones, also find pride of place in Chopra’s list.
Another interesting aspect of the book are the chapters on various artists. Vibrant personalities like filmmaker Karan Johar, actors Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Diljit Dosanjh are included, as is the spotlight-shy filmmaker Aditya Chopra. The book rounds off with essays on the dying art of going to theatres, a soliloquy on the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival—of which she is the director, and one on the Cannes Film Festival.
Those who love Indian films will enjoy A Place in My Heart. It is an engaging and easy read which can be browsed through in a piecemeal manner or read in one sitting. Just like its subject matter, the book entertains from start to finish.
‘Writing Books Requires a Different Muscle Altogether’
How did you select the various subjects to be included in your book?
I primarily wanted to include films that made an impact on me, many of which hadn’t been covered in my earlier books. For example, I wanted to include a selection of my favourite films made in the South, to which I was recently introduced through OTT platforms.
Was the transition from writing complete books on one film to this short essay format a difficult one?
No it wasn’t difficult. Having written books on Sholay and Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, I wanted to mix it up by highlighting the movies I love, and people and film events. I think offering this mixed bag is what makes it interesting.
Why did you decide to write this book now?
I hadn’t written a book since my last one on Shah Rukh Khan in 2008. There have been multiple compilations of my columns, but no new book and I really wanted to do that. Writing books requires a different muscle altogether and helps you hone your craft. But I was intimidated of writing 50,000 words on a single film. This format was a great way to put my thoughts together.
Why did you decide to include personalities and institutions in a book about films?
The book is essentially about things that have shaped my career. Through these films, personalities, and institutions, I have shared my thoughts as a front bencher to the evolution of the film industry, and how it has changed tremendously.
What have been the biggest changes you have observed in the industry?
It used to be run like any other family business but now it’s much more professional, with managers, lawyers, bound scripts, and contracts. Also, the cultural impact of cinema has increased tremendously.
A Place in My Heart
By: Anupama Chopra
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Price: Rs 499