It takes British journalist Hardy (Scoop-Wallah, 2000, etc.) 257 pages to get an interview with top Indian film star Hrithik Roshan, but she learns a lot about the nation’s film industry along the way.
The author sets out to write about Roshan following a chance sighting of him in a hot Bombay bar just after his first film, Kaho Naa . . . Pyaar Hai (Tell Me . . . You Love Me), has turned him into every Indian girl’s fantasy. But calls to Hrithik’s inscrutable “people” are continually rebuffed, so Hardy keeps herself busy with talking to other people in the industry. She comes up with some pretty good snapshots of the Bollywood movie-magic machine, an art form worshipped with near-religious fervor by inhabitants of the sub-continent. Her portraits are also vividly drawn: the ultra-swanky glossy-film-magazine editor, the director trying to take the films in a different direction, the street vendor who serves as Hardy’s chorus and voice of the common man. The author’s attempts to weave all this into a coherent framework are less successful. Perhaps the overwrought descriptions (Bombay is continually referred to as a lascivious, naked woman) and abrupt segues are meant to replicate the neon-pink, nonlinear, hyper-surreal world of Bollywood films—most of which fuse garish production design, musical montages, and clumsy action scenes into a melodramatic mishmash—but it’s not a very successful gambit on the printed page. The closer Hardy gets to her distant interview, the less important it seems to the reader; her quest becomes more of a hindrance than a helpful narrative device.
Adequate introduction to the power of Bollywood and the individuals it deifies on the big screen, but the chaotic material desperately needs a more rigorous approach.