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Book Review: 42 Lessons I Learnt from Bollywood

This Sahil Rizwan narrative will change your perception of ’90s Bollywood forever

Book Review: 42 Lessons I Learnt from Bollywood

Sahil Rizwan’s 42 Lessons I Learnt from Bollywood is testament to the fact that one should not judge a book by its cover. On the face of it, one may assume that it is likely to offer an insight into what went wrong with Bollywood during the ’90s but this deduction is as invalid as the argument that Rahul Roy is a super star.  Instead Rizwan aka the Vigil Idiot takes a dig at 42 movies from that era and dissects them in signature manner.

Those of you who follow Rizwan’s blog may be aware of his illustrative ways but for the oblivious, Rizwan has developed a considerable fan following for movie reviews which, unlike the ones from regular critics, involve a good dose of humour and cartoon sketches with dialogues and his critique in speech bubbles. In an era when Bollywood reviewers tend to use complex language and are often biased, keeping in mind their relationship with the stars before criticizing, Rizwan is like a God sent. He writes in a language that anybody can understand and does not hesitate one bit in criticizing actors – be it veterans like Rishi Kapoor or the ever-popular King Khan. Case in point: He bashed Dev Anand’s Awwal Number for being the most stupid film of all time in which the veteran actor not only plays the Chief of Police but also the chief selector.

In 42 Lessons I Learnt from Bollywood, Rizwan goes back in time and uses his formula to highlight unforgiving blunders in blockbusters like Baazigar, Khalnayak, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Yaraana to name a few. As a consequence, one can’t help but smile, and at times even laugh, at one’s naivety that helped these films succeed at the box office; had viewers been sensible back then, many superstars of today may have not been shining as bright.

The writer, however, continues to stress that he loves Bollywood and these are films that he grew old watching. He relates them to instances from his own childhood. For example, he compares Biwi No.1 to playing in dirt and points out that it is only when you grow up, you realize that it wasn’t healthy at all.

If you thought that Salman Khan’s Hum Aapke Hain Kaun was the best film to come out of Bollywood, that Baazigar had a solid storyline to its credit and that Amitabh Bachchan could play the leading man anytime he wanted, this book will burst all such bubbles and more. Revisiting the best and the worst of the ’90s, Rizwan makes harsh, but justifiable, points like a dog cannot solve your problems if you don’t want to solve them on your own and that when you get old, you should not play a dude in the film. Be it Aamir Khan and Manisha Koirala-starrer Mann, in which the leads don’t exchange contacts despite being part of an era of mobile phones, or Rani Mukherjee’s Raja Ki Aayegi Baraat where a rape victim falls for her own rapist, Rizwan rips apart these films for the absurdity they promoted.

Mind you, the book is full of profane language but if you are looking for good humour, 42 Lessons I Learnt from Bollywood is your best bet. One time read and you’ll either end up hating the films you’ve long adored or reflecting on your own cinematic intelligence; wondering as to why you found them to be unique in the first place. PS: Don’t think of reading it in a public place; read it when alone so as to avoid feeling ashamed over your own gullibility.

- Omair Alavi is afreelance journalist and can be contacted at [email protected]

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