From the dawn of Indian cinema in the 1930s until the present day, Bollywood has attracted a cast of larger-than-life characters: romancers, rogues, heroines and harlots – both off and on screen. It is only fitting that many of the top Bollywood actors and actresses have been the subject of biographies over the years. Some have even written autobiographies themselves. At its best, this genre makes for gripping reading; full of humour, adversity and often shocking revelations as they reveal the inner workings of one of the world’s most successful film industries.
Here are a selection of our favourite Bollywood biographies and autobiographies, which we’re sure your readers will love:
1) Amitabh Bachchan: A Big B, by Dhirubhai Patel (2016)
Amitabh Bachchan’s career spans more than 40 years of on-screen appearances in dozens of Bollywood movies. In the early 1970s he was the bad boy of Bollywood, known for his smouldering good looks, fast wit and exquisite wardrobe. Retiring from the screen in 1988, Bachchan soon grew restless. His comeback as an actor in 1992 and as a film producer from 1996 to 1999 was one of the most widely acclaimed cinematic comebacks in Bollywood, with Bachchan having lost none of his previous form. Since 2000 Bachchan has taken on the role of Bollywood’s eminence grise, acting as one of the Indian film industry’s foremost global ambassadors.
In India Bachchan embarked on successful career as a TV presenter from 2000 onwards, becoming well known as the first presenter of the Indian adaptation of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? In his personal life, Bachchan is passionate about humanitarian work, playing a vital role in the UNICEF campaign to eradicate Polio in India in 2002, among other good causes. A Big B is candid, engaging and humble, revealing a likeable man with huge reserves of personal commitment and light humour, which has served him well as one of Bollywood’s most instantly recognisable male personalities.
Price: £9.99, paperback
2) Rekha: The Untold Story, by Yasser Usman (2016)
Bhanurekha Ganesan, better known by her stage name Rekha, is one of the most enduring female heartthrobs of Hindi cinema. She is a prolific actress, appearing in no fewer than 184 Bollywood movies between 1966 and 2015! Starting off as a child actress, Rekha was to grow up to be the epitome of Bollywood glamour; stylish and effortlessly sexy. It is hard to overestimate Rekha’s influence on the Bollywood style of singing and dancing, for which she won a number of prestigious awards, including three Filmfare Awards for best actress and best supporting actress.
Rekha’s off screen life was not always so easy and plain sailing. Yasser Usman’s biography reveals a lonely child struggling to find love from a distant father and gambling-addict mother. In her early years Rekha was shy, plump and awkward. Her talent for self-transformation became evident in her late teens, but her quest for love and acceptance continued throughout her life. Rekha: The Untold Story uncovers the superstar’s many personal tragedies, including the suicide of her husband, her many love affairs and a lifelong struggle with poor self-esteem. This is one of Bollywood’s best loved icons as you will never have seen her before.
Price: £6.99, paperback
3) Raj Kapoor: The Great Showman, by Lata Khubchandani (2012)
Ranbir Raj Kapoor (1924-1988) is recognised as one of the best actors and performers of the early years of Indian cinema, holding an equivalent place to his Hollywood contemporary Clark Gable in the hearts of Bollywood fans. Kapoor’s own story is as colourful as any of his films, and in many ways peppered with as much tragedy and drama. Born into a Hindu family in Peshawar province in what was then British India, the young Kapoor was driven by a thirst for cinema. His first film appearance was in the low-budget movie Inquilab in 1935, when he was only 11 years old.
As his film career took off rapidly over the following 12 years, Kapoor also experienced at first-hand the pain of the separation troubles following Indian independence in 1947. His home area became part of Pakistan and saw the expulsion (or worse) of its Hindu population over several traumatic months. Kapoor never spoke much about this at the time or sense, maintaining the stiff upper lip expected of contemporary celebrities.
Kapoor retained a cultivated dignity in both his film performances and personal life throughout his career, despite weathering financial crises, declining health (due to asthma), a punishing professional schedule and a tumultuous love life. The Great Showman celebrates the hidden and public faces of Raj Kapoor; a man who was both patriot and internationalist, family man and playboy, vagabond and gentlemen.
Price: £13.50, paperback
4) Cracking The Code: How To Survive & Thrive in Bollywood, by Ayushmann Khurrana
The previous three books have starred titans of the classic era of Bollywood. However, some of the industry’s rising stars have also released gripping autobiographies. One of our favourite recent books is the engaging, down-to-earth memoir of Ayushmann Khurrana. Khurrana is a young man (born 1984) at the peak of his Bollywood career, but still has plenty of stories to tell. His began a career as a TV host from 2004 onwards, breaking into Bollywood in 2012 with the romantic comedy Vicky Donor, reportedly based on his own experience as a sperm donor. Part of a new generation of celebrity-conscious actors, Khurrana is as much known from his offstage and social media exploits as he is for his considerable acting talent. Cracking The Code reveals all. Written in Khurrana’s informal, wisecracking style, the autobiography is couched in terms of a tongue in cheek survival guide – full of incisive comments about the intrigues and personalities of modern Bollywood.
Price: £9.99, paperback
The World’s Greatest Range Of Bollywood Biographies & Memoirs From Motilal Books
At Motilal Books we are proud to stock the largest collection of English language Indian publications in the world. With over 13,000 titles in stock and hundreds more added to our catalogue each month, we are the place to turn to for booksellers looking for a diverse range of Indian books. We can source dozens of Bollywood biographies, autobiographies and film novelisations, alongside other genres ranging from economics to religious studies. For more information about our current stock and wholesale prices, please email [email protected], or call us on 01727 761 677.