Changemakers by Gayatri Rangachari Shah and Mallika Kapur: Review

Title: Changemakers

Authors: Gayatri Rangachari Shah & Mallika Kapur

Publisher: Penguin

Pages: 300

Price: 399

Why is a biography written? It is either to present before the world the evolution of an individual with exceptional qualities, who has done something extraordinary in his field or it is to enumerate the intensity of the pains and struggles which one has gone through to reach where he or she is. Change Makers: Twenty Women Transforming Bollywood Behind the Scenes doesn’t have either of these. At least 18 of these 20 women are from well off and sometimes rich families. They often had enough resources and family support to complete their study in the field of their choice, even outside the country, and settle comfortably in Mumbai. There are albeit minor struggles, but these are what every individual face when making a career in whatever field. So there is nothing exceptional to write. A reader can question, why these 20 women in particular? What is so special about them? Why leave out 20 other women for these 20?

These women have certainly made a mark in Bollywood and oftentimes broken conventional barriers to be where they are but are they really ‘transformational’? To be fair, most of these achievers are new and don’t have a rich and substantial body of work behind them to establish their greatness. Most are in their 30s and 40s and though they are in the industry for 10-12 years on an average, most of them don’t have more than a couple of good films to their names. We can’t assume what the criteria was for choosing the select cabal of women, but it is surprising that some more famous transformational artistes like music director Usha Khanna, director Tanuja Chandra, editor Aruna Raje Patil, critic Amita Malik, directors Sai Paranjpe, Kalpana Lajmi, choreographer Saroj Khan, writer Honey Irani, lyricist Rani Malik or Maya Govind, etc., are not included in this book. Many of these have a long history in the industry and they have a richer and more diverse oeuvre of work than most of those eulogised here. We are sure there are many other women who had much greater struggle to find
a footing in filmdom who deserve coverage.

The narrative has a set pattern. Every chapter begins in the same way and ends the same. It starts with stray incidents involving the artist, followed by a series of goodie quotes from a selective coterie of the fraternity and ends with a comparatively shorter description of the early family life and some specs of ‘struggle’, which ideally should have covered the greater part.

Nevertheless, the book is not devoid of its share of good things. The most important attribute is that we have a healthy peek into the interiors of Bollywood — how things work in the complex system and it gives the small-town girl or boy aspiring to reach Bollywood, important clues to ascend the stairs of access. One thing that stands out is ‘talent’. Through the stories of Anupama Chopra, Kiran Rao, Gauri Shinde or Charu Khurana we are strengthened in the belief that nothing except talent works in Bollywood. Even if we ignore the typo errors that unfortunately the book has in several places, the stories inspire — may not be so much due to the individual struggles, but more due to the fact that it involves the glamorous world of Bollywood, which has its aura and addiction and breaking into that tinsel world is every artiste’s ultimate dream. This
book makes the dream look more
realistic.

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