Neeta Shah's 'Bollywood Striptease' is a light and frothy take on the big bad world of Hindi cinema. Mind you calling it Bollywood might not go down well with many of the insiders. More than being an intriguing narrative the book is closer to being a handbook on 'how to' navigate your way in a world which comes with its share of the good, bad and the ugly.
Nikki, the central protagonist is a twenty something chartered accountant who's always been fascinated by the sheer glitz and glamour of the silver screen. Coming from an affluent background gives her the much needed cushioning in a city like Mumbai where it's difficult for rank outsiders to find a footing. But Nikki's journey is anything but a cakewalk once she decides to take the plunge into a world, which comes with its own set of rules and ways of operating. From getting into shape, to shaping one's portfolio and the never ending rigmarole of having to pick oneself up after being disappointed with the increasing number of rejections following an audition and the nasty casting couch rearing its head at the most unexpected junctures…yes its all there in the book.
But what's not there is a distinct style in the narrative or a voice that touches a chord. Nikki's struggle at times comes across as contrived and almost uninspiring. Portions of the book where Nikki gets together with her best friend to celebrate a minor triumph or a major setback are repetitive and don't add anything new to the story. On the other hand Nikki's friend Akanksha's struggle that comes closest to being a more realistic portrayal is not developed to its full potential. The Nikki-Akshay tumultuous affair comes across as a harebrained idea, which seems to have been added as an afterthought. While the book tries to incorporate all the elements associated with a masala potboiler, it does not leave you feeling its 'paisa vasool'. And what's even more disappointing is the way in which Nikki finally lands her dream debut.
The book's attempt to keep the tone light and breezy undermines the seedy underside of the industry, which could have given the story a more well rounded structure. If you are looking for something to read on a two hour flight and looking for a layman's perspective into a world where the stardust never settles down then pick up the book, read it and forget about it. This striptease leaves you with a sense of ennui.
Book Review: Bollywood Striptease; Author: Neeta Shah; Publisher: Rupa Publications