Talking about Khamosh

Bharathi Aunty,'' read Sonakshi Sinha's text message. "Which excerpt should I read at the launch? I haven't had time to read the book."

By BHARATHI S. Pradhan
  • Published 10.01.16

Bharathi Aunty,'' read Sonakshi Sinha's text message. "Which excerpt should I read at the launch? I haven't had time to read the book."

While recommending that she take a look at the first two chapters which dealt with her father's childhood and his climb to fame, the writer's pride added, "But you'll read the next and the next because it's quite unputdownable."

We were discussing her father's new book Anything But Khamosh , the Shatrughan Sinha biography, which was launched on January 6, in Delhi. It took seven years to bring this book to the stores with only two points as the brief: Shatrughan Sinha (the subject, christened SS in the book by me) and I would make this the most honest celebrity biography of India and it would spotlight, unsparingly, the glamour world of films and the power world of politics.

It was therefore well balanced and fitting that skilled politicians L.K. Advani and Yashwant Sinha were the chief guests at the book launch while Sonakshi, as guest of honour, brought in the glamour quotient of a sought-after star. Nobody at the jam-packed hall of The Claridges in Delhi would have imagined the tensions of putting together an event that would be as talked about as the book itself. But my relief was tangible when L.K. Advani, dressed jauntily in a black cap and natty coat, walked in bang on time with daughter Pratibha. Another sigh went up on spotting Yashwant Sinha already seated and waiting in the front row with Dr Harsh Vardhan, General V.K. Singh, Amar Singh and many others walking in. Sonakshi had flown into Delhi barely an hour earlier and was going straight from the book launch back to the airport to catch a flight back to Mumbai. She was busy rehearsing her act for an awards function and this one, a quick, three-hour trip to Delhi, was for her daddy alone. Sona was undoubtedly the star attraction but on stage she was daddy's little girl who sat between SS and her glowing mother Poonam Sinha.

I'd always wanted to dispense with a conventional book release - the usual line-up of speeches by the publisher (Ajay Mago of Om Books International), the author (that would be me), the subject (SS), the chief guests and so on, with a celebrity compere probably reading from a tele-prompter. Right from day one, I mooted the idea of a lively discussion on stage moderated by someone articulate who knew the book and could think on her feet. Dipa Chaudhuri, the well-spoken chief editor of Om Books was my idea of the right moderator. It worked out so well that book launches will never be the same again.

L.K. Advani had once told me that if anyone ever wanted to give him a gift, there were only two things he loved receiving: chocolates and books. The 88-year-old veteran loves books for sure, so I had personally sent him the first copy that had come off the press. On his part, Advani had not only meticulously read the book but when he had to "say a few words" (he chose to stand up and speak), he brandished the book and read out a back cover excerpt which he said, summed it all up for him. He was also grace personified as he showed me the message I'd written in the book for him and said how honoured he was to have received it.

"Older brother" Yashwant Sinha had also read the book and it was quite delightful to hear him refer to Shatrughan Sinha as SS. The two senior Sinhas (Yashwant, Shatrughan) seated next to each other did look like brothers - both wore stoles.

Their stoles reminded me of Muffler Man Arvind Kejriwal who had promised me the evening before that he would be at the book launch. I'd met him the night before at a special screening of Wazir in Delhi when his entire team, including deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, had turned up. It was hilarious when Vidhu Vinod Chopra, the producer of Wazir, referred to the Delhi government's move to give a rose to traffic offenders of the odd-even rule. For an idea that was taken straight from the Gandhigiri propagated by Munna Bhai, Vidhu asked Kejriwal for royalty! Unfortunately, Kejriwal didn't make it to the book launch as he was hijacked by an emergency Cabinet meeting.

Who was there all through was the man in the news, Kirti Azad, who sat in the front row and stayed on for the after-launch dinner party.

After that exhilarating launch, hopefully, we'll be in Calcutta next Sunday in conversation with filmmaker Goutam Ghosh at the Kolkata Literary Fest.

Bharathi S. Pradhan is a senior journalist and author