Summary and Story:
Zoravar Cheema lives and breathes the movies. Half Sikh and half Pashtun, he is a street-smart young man with dreams of making it big in tinsel town.
A twist of fate (and some false bravado) lands him as a thug with the most feared dacoit of the times. A facial scar all thanks to it almost crushes his dreams. Not one to accept fate, he succeeds in freeing himself from the predicament and moves to Bombay to follow his dreams.
Combining fiction with history, the book follows the struggle, rise, and fall of the superstar. With a generous dose of movie history.
The first book in the Bollywood Saga series, the Zoravar by Maharsh Shah spans four decades between the 1940s to the 1970s. You can pretty much consider the book an ode to the movies. An ode to the golden years of Indian cinema. Right from the cover that pays homage to the posters of the era to the titular character of Zoravar.
“Talent is God-given, passion is not”
Zoravar’s character has been well etched. As expected, he is larger than life, witty, and charming. And unscrupulous at times. He could well be mistaken to have been a real person living the era. Be his struggling years and the typical “living on the streets” before making it big. His rivalry with the superstar of the times, Dilip Kumar. Or his underestimating the up-and-coming Dev Anand. His nexus with the underworld. Or dabbling in production and politics to stay relevant.
The book has an interesting mix of characters, both fictional and real. It is quite a page-turner. The twists and turns make for an engrossing read. The writing is simple although there is a generous use of the vernacular. There are a few creative liberties. Sultana daku was sent to the gallows. And do we really know what the superstars of the time were like off-screen? But that does not take away from the book.
If you are a movie buff, you will definitely enjoy reading this one. Both Bollywood-related and political events are well woven into the narrative. The rise and fall of studios, the release of the magnum opus, Mughal-e-Azam, the craze of Awaara Hoon in Europe. Or the partition and the infamous emergency era. There is a bit of Hollywood history woven in as well. The author’s experience and research in the movie industry reflect well in the story.
“We always like our failed children more than the ones who succeed.”
On the downside, the story does get a bit cliched at times. How can a book about the movies not have the typical masala? It is a tad predictable if you are aware of Bollywood history. There are a few behind-the-scene nitty-gritties and movie-making techniques explained in detail that I personally found interesting, but would not appeal to all readers.
I enjoyed reading the book and am looking forward to the next book in the series. It is a good attempt from a first-time author. If you are looking for a pacey read, do pick up the book. Just be prepared for the cliffhanger at the end.An ode to the movies and the golden years of Indian cinema. Zoravar by Maharsh Shah #BookReview @maharshs @blogchatter #BookChatter #BohoPonderings Click To Tweet
This review has been written as part of the Blogchatter Book Review Program. I was offered the book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
About the author
Maharsh Shah has worked extensively with major movie studios as part of their creative development and commissioning teams. He has been involved in the development and production of various Hindi feature films, apart from writing columns about pop culture and movie trivia in leading newspapers. He lives and works in Mumbai but would prefer to migrate to the hills and run a tavern-cum-bookstore instead.