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To be honest, I was little skeptical myself as to go through the book as several thoughts crossed my mind firstly it could just turn out to be a flick in the centenary year of cinema.  Secondly, the writers of this book are professional journalists not entirely attached to the film industry so there was a sense of ambiguity as to they could do full justice to the subject.

My thoughts changed after going through the book.  The research work done in bringing to the reader Hindi cinema’s most defining years namely the 1950s and the 1960s made me feel apologetic to the writers for having questioned their intention.  Beyond doubt, House Full is one of the few honest efforts to take the reader back to an interregnum of cinema when films were doused with meaning, issues and directors/producers were on a mission much bigger than merely making money.  The authors very subtly tell you how gentle cinema back then was but extremely hard hitting soirees of a society which had just got independent of foreign rule and was thus churning not just politically but economically and culturally too.

Ziya Us Salam, who modestly says he has merely edited the book, has actually done a wonderful job of making the most of meager means at his disposal.  Without fuss but with amazing acumen, he and his co-writers Vijay Lokapally, Anuj Kumar and Suresh Kohli have bravely analyzed iconic films and an epochal period of Indian cinema.  It is no mean task to pontificate on the rights and wrongs of films by greats like Mehboob Khan, Bimal Roy, K Asif, Chetan Anand, Shakti Samant, BR Chopra, Yash Chopra.

Cinema being the reflection of reality, more so in those times when intentions were honest and efforts singularly focussed, when item numbers did not rule the roost, when violence was not meaningless, when raunchiness had not even begun to shed its first piece of clothing, when cinema was mostly about making a statement without making a fuss to take you back to such a happening era of Indian cinema needs to be lauded for its thoughtfulness.  While taking you back there, House Full also keeps you hooked on with myriad anecdotes of what transpired behind the scenes, how a film like Mother India was put together.

A film critic with the renowned Indian daily, The Hindu since 2000, Ziya Us Salam has been writing regularly on cinema, preferring a multi-layered approach often reduced to mere slapstick in today's media. A dispassionate observer of Hindi cinema, he has contributed to several anthologies.

MY TAKE:  House Full is an enthralling read for many reasons, first among them being the well laid out content.  The book has been simplified to the core, much like the cinema it dwells on, and that’s where, perhaps, the potency of both lies.  Other than the windfall of anecdotes, there is also the beautifully illustrated stress on the undying gem of this golden era of Indian cinema, a serenading of the truly pluralistic approach to life.  So, you have the greatest of bhajans written by Naushad; the Persian-Sanskrit mix of Mughal-e-Azam; the stories behind the songs, the songs behind the films, the films behind the issues, the issues behind emerging social mores.  If you are an ardent fan of Bollywood no reason to suggest you might have already picked a copy, but even if not give it a try it is really interesting to go through the golden period.  Happy reading!



BOOK:  Housefull: The Golden Age of Hindi Cinema

AUTHOR:  Ziya Us Salam, Mahesh Bhatt

PUBLISHER: Om Books International



PRICE: Rs. 395

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