Book Review: Jai Arjun Singh’s ‘The World of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’

In all the years I’ve been writing this blog, one film maker whose name keeps cropping up every now and then—whose films I’ve reviewed, whose work I’ve commented on—is the brilliant Hrishikesh Mukherjee. From his editing of classics like Do Bigha Zameen, Madhumati and Chemmeen, to his direction of both popular hits like Asli-Naqli and relatively little-known works like Majhli Didi and Biwi aur Makaan, Hrishikesh Mukherjee has had a hand (and a mind and a heart, and sometimes—as I discovered when I read Jai Arjun Singh’s ‘sort of biography’ of the man—a house) in some of my favourite films.

Jai Arjun Singh's 'The World of Hrishikesh Mukherjee'

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The Popcorn Essayists

For those of you who like cinema, and who like reading about cinema (which is probably why you’re reading this), a piece of news I wanted to share: the launch of a new book. The Popcorn Essayists: What Movies Do To Writers is an anthology of film writing—by writers who don’t professionally review or otherwise write about cinema. Compiled and edited by Jai Arjun Singh, the book contains essays by a wide range of authors, most of them very well-respected and well-known. Anjum Hasan, Manjula Padmanabhan, Namita Gokhale and Amitava Kumar are among those who’ve contributed to The Popcorn Essayists.

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Forthcoming books – and a contribution

Apologies for the long silence. It isn’t as if I’ve packed up pen and paper (rather, my laptop) and gone off to vegetate somewhere. There are things happening in my world of writing; the problem is that writing takes such a long time. There’s many a month between the inception of an idea and the day the book hits the shelves… I have a book coming out probably in October 2011; this will be the sequel to The Englishman’s Cameo, and I’m currently writing the sequel to that book. So, Muzaffar Jang fans have something to look forward to – both this winter, and the next.

In addition to that, Westland-Tranquebar will be releasing a collection of my short stories – all on the theme of dark humour – probably in November 2011.

And, meanwhile, here’s another book to which I’ve contributed: The Popcorn Essayists: What Movies do to Writers. It’s an anthology of film-related writing from well-known Indian writers who don’t typically write about cinema: Manjula Padmanabhan, Sumana Roy, Amitava Kumar, Anjum Hassan and others – including me.  Published by Westland-Tranquebar, compiled and edited by Jai Arjun Singh, the book will be formally released in March 2011. It’s already available online on Flipkart, though, so if you live in India, you can order it here.

The stories in this book promise to be very interesting. If you’re a cinema buff, don’t miss this one.


Oh, and yes: an excerpt from my essay for The Popcorn Essayists: What Movies do to Writers. I contributed an article on one of my favourite themes from cinema, suspense thrillers from Hindi cinema in the 1950s and 60s. The piece is called Villains and Vamps and All Things Camp, and here’s a sneak peek:

“The spy kings also seemed to command the hottest molls and the most ingenious torture equipment. I suppose finances come into that; you can’t have Helen as a ‘secretary’ who operates a machine that slowly grills the hero over a bed of coals, when all you’re doing is running a backyard bootlegging outfit. But ooh, the spy kings, with their truckloads of dirty money! They were the ones who could afford the works: the leopard skin-hot pink satin-mirrored ceiling dens, the bars crowded with bottles of Vat 69, the hordes of henchmen clad in too-tight pants and T-shirts.


There’s something so giddily, gorgeously glorious about it all.”

Happy reading!