24 November, 2020

Spineless Meets Ugly Duckling

Sidharth Bhatia’s book is invaluable to anyone interested in the early hist­ory of Indian cinema.

Spineless Meets Ugly Duckling

Baburao Patel’s Filmindia was the only film magazine of any significance for 20 or so years from the time of its launch in 1935. There were many imitations but none came close in content or popularity. It was written in a style all its own—witty as well as outrageous. It loved exposing the shenanigans of filmstars and was not afraid of taking names. As a teenager, I used to wait impatiently for the next issue to arrive by boat in distant Fiji. It was not the most reliable magazine but was fun to read. The film reviews were often very rude and got personal. Kalp­ana Kartik was ‘pigeon-chested’, Mala Sinha had a ‘potato face’ and poor Sura­iya was an ‘ugly duckling’. Buxom actr­esses were praised for their ‘assets’. Dev Anand was ‘spineless’, V. Shantaram had ‘negroid characteristics’.

Bhatia’s book traces the life and times of Baburao Patel, who had the reputation of being anti-Muslim, even though his three best friends—Mehboob Khan, Dilip Kumar and...



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