In Short Books

'Scene 75' review: On the people who lurked in the edges of Hindi film industry

Ali Amjad. Harish Rai. Alimullah Khan. Peter the cook who is actually Ramnath. Writers, directors, cooks-turned-scriptwriters — the cast of this novel is made up of eternal hopefuls who land up in the Bombay of the 1970s to live out their film-related dreams. Their lives become entangled with the occupants of the Sursingar Housing Society and a dark comedy begins.

Ali Amjad, who, one suspects, is the famous scriptwriter and author Raza himself, lets us look at the Hindi film industry through his eyes — at the manipulative heroes, simpering heroines, the fixing of scripts/ films/ film awards, the phalanx of wannabes waiting for their big break. It’s a masterly study of a society in flux, as also a clear-eyed look at how much of an Other the Muslim is, in Bombay/ Mumbai.

The leavening agent all through is wry, sly humour. Just below that flows a gentle but unmistakable cynicism. As the tale slowly turns dark, that cynicism rises to the surface and colours everything. Raza, for those who don’t know, was a novelist and poet who worked on films like Lamhe, Karz, Mili,Gol Maal. He became a household name after writing the dialogues for the TV serial, Mahabharat. The translation by Poonam Saxena is clean and careful; at times, the language seems to have been left deliberately unpolished, to let the author’s voice come through.

Reading this novel, one remembers the time when words were used to great effect, when sentences were crafted with subtlety, when everything did not need to be so much in your face. Oh, to have those times back again!

The writer is an author, journalist and manuscript editor, based in Bengaluru.

Scene 75; Rahi Masoom Raza, trs Poonam Saxena, Harper Perennial, ₹399

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Printable version | Mar 31, 2020 2:57:44 PM |

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