The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Book Briefs

To shrink the lady

The unknown indira By Raj Kumar, National, Rs 100

Readers will groan at another book on Indira Gandhi, especially when they encounter the author’s declaration in block letters that “This is not a work of history” but “a Psycho-dynamic study of Indira Priyadarshini Nehru Gandhi”. This is a hogwash for a lot of nonsense and hagiography. For one thing, Indira Gandhi was emphatically Indira Gandhi, she hardly ever used Priyadarshini and never, despite her fierce loyalty to her father, used her paternal surname. What the author intends to say in the declaration is not clear, neither is the purpose of writing this book and having it published. The book abounds in statements like “Yes, Indira was certainly a Destroyer, but who destroyed only to create.” Or “Indira Gandhi, the perfect woman, interwove within herself the twin images of loving, doting mother and no-nonsense politician. And she played both roles par excellence.” Such is the self-confidence of the author that he prints testimonials about himself at the end of the book. Raj Kumar is apparently a trained psychiatrist. Maybe he should see one soon to stop himself from inflicting this kind of book on the market.

Adding nothing to history

The forgotten mughals: a history of the later emperors of the house of babar, 1707-1857 By G.S. Cheema, Manohar, Rs 895

Only a very brave man will attempt to write a straightforward political narrative of the successors of Aurangzeb. The question of courage comes up because such a writer will be following in the footsteps of two redoubtable historians — William Irvine and Jadunath Sarkar. Irvine authored Later Mughals and Sarkar took the narrative forward in his four volume account of The Fall of the Mughal Empire. The two books are packed with facts and rich in anecdotes. It is difficult to imagine an improvement on their empirical foundations and their narrative structure. Not that there is nothing new to be said about the period, but that cannot be said through straight political history. Cheema, a bureaucrat, fails to add anything new.

You can’t be serious

yash chopra: fifty years in Indian cinema By Rachel Dwyer, Roli, Rs 450

In the age of cultural studies and popular culture, Hindi films have been elevated to the status of an academic subject. Rachel Dwyer of the School of Oriental and African Studies leads the small of group of scholars who try to endow to Hindi films a profundity that is in reality non-existent. It is difficult to take seriously a book, intended to be read by intelligent people, which carries a foreward by Lata Mangeshkar. Dwyer sets about examining in this book how her subject, Yash Chopra, has transformed the look of popular Indian cinema. The question is, has the look really been transformed' If indeed it has been transformed then technology probably had a big role to play. Better colour, better cameras, better sound and so on. The other aspects of “look” remain quite the same. The dialogue has changed, but that need not be the contribution of a director like Yash Chopra. More than anything else, giving Hindi films an academic respectability has ring of insincerity about it. It is as insincere as asking a famous singer, not known for her intellectual attainments, to write a foreword to a serious book. And if this is not a serious work, why is a scholar writing it'

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