Who’s interested in the private lives of our public stars? Who isn’t?! Bollywood has been witness to numerous biographies and autobiographies that stirred up controversy with their sometimes shocking and often scandalous revelations. Even as the writers laughed all the way to the bank, readers lapped up the unsavoury details with undisguised glee. What to do, we are like that only!
Vinod Mehta’s Meena Kumari, The Classic Biography revealed the many dimensions of the star – besides details about the men she loved and lost. We learnt that she read poetry, had literary friends, aspired to the higher life and was an alcoholic. The late Mehta had revealed that the actress also represented that generation of young Muslim girls who were pushed into the film industry so that they could become their family's meal tickets. Meena Kumari's family too exploited her and felt betrayed when she married Kamal Amrohi, while Meena saw herself as “unlucky and unloved,” as “she drank because she wanted to get drunk, not because she enjoyed it.” “Much of her sorrow was self-imposed,” revealed Mehta, adding, “She felt that god had cursed her, and transferred the tragedy of her films to her make-believe life.”
Sinha’s biography Anything But Khamosh by Bharathi S Pradhan, captured the veteran star-politician’s life, warts and all. “The book has the summary of my life, from how I left home to study films at Pune, my struggle in the film industry, and then the girls who came into my life - the gharwali (wife) came and then baharwali (the other woman),” said Sinha, referring to his off-screen intimacy with co-actor Reena Roy and how the relationship continued for a while even after his marriage with Poonam. Sinha stated that he had been honest “without hurting anybody's dignity. There is no vulgarity or voyeurism in the book. I haven't mentioned about many girls in my life. They are settled, they have children. It's not the right thing to identify them.”
From being forcefully kissed onscreen by Biswajeet at the age of 15, to the time Vinod Mehra's mother almost beat her up with a chappal refusing to accept her as her new daughter-in-law, to the time she landed up in sindoor and mangalsutra at the Rishi-Neetu wedding and went on to become the cynosure of all eyes as she engaged in a long conversation with Amitabh, it was all detailed in Rekha: The Untold Story written by Yasser Usman. The book, obviously unsanctioned by the reclusive star, also focused on the suicide of her second husband, Mukesh Agarwal, who tragically hanged himself with her dupatta.
And Then One Day, the memoirs of ‘India’s finest actor’, were brutally honest as the man himself. For one, it was Shah’s voice through and through; no ghost-writing nonsense here. He shared unexpected insights into his personal life, such as his difficult relationship with his father… his failed marriage as a teenager to Purveen, a 34-year-old Pakistani who was studying medicine at Aligarh Muslim University… the fact that he did not meet his daughter for the first 12 years of her life… that smoking pot gave a certain clarity to his thoughts… that he fell in love with Ratna Pathak Shah the "one true love of his life" at first sight, while drinking sugarcane juice at a roadside stall… that he had actively lobbied for the role of Mohandas Gandhi in Richard Attenborough's Gandhi… and his dislike at being dubbed a method actor, when all he wanted to do was sing, dance and fight the bad guys like other commercial actors!
Unlikely Hero: The Story of Om Puri whipped up a storm, as the late actor’s wife, journalist-columnist Nandita highlighted some of his most private sexual incidents to market the book. Om Puri was enraged at his wife reducing “a very important and sacred part of my life to cheap and lurid gossip.” Nandita countered, “My book on my husband is a biography, not bloody pornography. The book is about Om, the man and the actor…He had sex as an adolescent with his maid and then he had a long liaison with the other lady who was also a maid. This was his way of coming out of his other relationships and demolishing class differences.” The copies expectedly flew off the shelves!
A page-turner from the start, Karan Johar’s autobiography, An Unsuitable Boy, spilled secrets galore. The filmmaker discussed his sexual orientation – “Everybody knows what my sexual orientation is. I don't need to scream it out. I won't only because I live in a country where I could possibly be jailed for saying this,” and dished the dope on his “idiotic” spat with Kareena Kapoor, his 25 year-old-friendship with Kajol which ended over a tweet, losing his virginity at 26 in New York – “It seemed fake,” he divulged – and yes, he also discussed the turbulence in his equation with Shah Rukh and how he might have inadvertently hurt the superstar. Complete paisa vasool, this one!
The latest authorised biography by Ram Kamal Mukherjee, Beyond the Dream Girl, presented certain unknown aspects of the veteran star’s life. Such as the fact that she had been originally named Sujata and had been rejected the first time she was on stage, which led to a serious bout of depression. Her re-emergence as Hema Malini, her candid quotes on her colleagues including husband Dharmendra, Jeetendra, Shatrughan Sinha and Amitabh Bachchan, and how she didn’t want to join politics but had been cajoled by her mother… the book uncovered interesting vignettes of the Dream Girl’s life.
While he didn’t lash out at his detractors like we were hoping he would, Rishi Kapoor nevertheless gave us fodder aplenty to chew over in his autobiography, Khullam Khulla. He shared how he believed writers-directors were partial towards Amitabh Bachchan, that he is miffed with Javed Akhtar for blaming Raj Kapoor for lyricist Shailendra’s untimely death, that he played a part in getting Shah Rukh the role in Darr, and conversely that it was because of him that Rajesh Khanna did not get Satyam Shivam Sundaram! Other confessions included the fact that he once wore a ladies trouser for the song ‘Oh Hansini…’, and that wife Neetu deserved a medal for sticking with him.
A scorcher, this autobiography had to be cleared off shelves within a week of it bruising egos and launching lawsuits. Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s An Ordinary Life grabbed infamy for its revelations about the actor’s relationships with fellow actors Sunita Rajwar and his Miss Lovely co-star, Niharika Singh, which led to the women calling him out for being a “sympathy seeker,” criticising his “poor way of thinking,” and berating his “fabricated lies.” Siddiqui publicly apologised – but had grabbed all the attention by then!
Recommended Read : Now Nawaz withdraws his memoir… after grabbing all the possible attention!