The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Britannica bites Bollywood pie

Mumbai, Feb. 27: The encyclopaedia people have also jumped onto the Bollywood bandwagon.

In keeping with increasing scholarly research in Hindi films (and also an expanding NRI market that laps up highly-priced books on Bollywood), now comes a tome on the subject from Encyclopaedia Britannica.

The 659-page Encyclopaedia of Hindi Cinema, launched by director Yash Chopra in the city this week, claims to take a critical look at Hindi films that have generated so much interest worldwide of late and are felt to be a mirror of Indian social mores and attitudes.

“The Indian film industry has evolved over the decades in a most dynamic process. Our idea in publishing the book was to capture the big picture in a manner that is informative, scholarly and yet entertaining, without being clinical, sensational and judgmental,” said Aalok Wadhwa, managing director, Encyclopaedia Britannica, India.

The book, priced at Rs 2,700 and rich with photographs — including those of forgotten actresses like Zubeida — is divided into six sections. There are 34 essays, ranging from the silent era to the present day.

They cover the history of Hindi cinema, the business aspect, aspects of film-making like cinematography, Bollywood elements like music, comedy, fight sequences, set design, Hindi film landmarks, from Ashok Kumar (who did not live to see the book) to Madhuri Dixit and biographies of some remarkable film lives, well-known or not-so-well-known.

The editorial advisers are Gulzar, Govind Nihalni and Saibal Chatterjee.

The film buff looking for a piece of specific information may be little disappointed by the format, but Nihalni says that the essay form was chosen so that all the aspects of Hindi films — that include fight sequences as well — could be dealt with in depth.

“There is an excellent encyclopaedia on Hindi films in the usual format published from abroad. But we wanted to provide the pieces with insight and analysis from practitioners of film crafts,” says Nihalni.

No one is complaining. “I am told that the publishers are already getting ready for the second edition,” says Nihalni.

While he has written on cinematography, fightmaster Veeru Devgan has penned a piece on “action” in Hindi films.

Amit Khanna, one of the men who have waged a long battle to corporatise Bollywood, is the author of the section on the business aspect of Hindi cinema.

Amita Malik, Feroze Rangoonwala and Shoma A. Chatterjee are also among the contributors.

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