Glam-sham authors

Deccan Chronicle.

Entertainment, Bollywood

Every other film actor wants to author a book, but is their credibility irrefutable?

Karisma Kapoor

Every other film actor wants to author a book, but is their credibility irrefutable?

In the annals of Hindi film industry, there have been plenty of hyphenates: actor-model, actor-director, actor-singer, etc. One of the most recent trends in the ‘follower’ or ‘herd mentality’ list has been the actor-writer — that breed who appears intense enough to write her/his life’s journey/fiction (or flimsy cookbook/parenting tips) and is celebrated enough to pull it off. We are not talking about actors who are genuine authors/writers here but the glamourous ones craving to be published.

The copycat syndrome

The continually expanding and evolving society and cinema always witness celebs trying to push the envelope of creativity and talent in other spheres.  Take the case of Twinkle Khanna who couldn’t establish herself as an accomplished actor. She turned an entrepreneur armed with her interior-designing acumen. And then further tapped into her writing skills with her column in a leading newspaper followed by her books — Mrs. Funnybones, The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad and Pyjamas are Forgiving.

Now, we have everyone follow suit — from Priyanka Chopra to Kareena Kapoor and I am sure Alia Bhatt will soon author one too. Her scriptwriter sister Shaheen Bhatt beat her in the game by having authored I’ve Never Been (Un) Happier, a book on dealing with her depression and mood disorder.

Well-known author, TedX speaker and chairperson of Om Puri Foundation, Nandita Puri puts it succinctly. “Most of the actresses are here by lineage or luck who have not even learnt the craft of acting. To put an intellectual stamp to their names, they suddenly become author/writer to pep up their status!”
Most of the time, the established stars fall for the writing profession’s mythologies.

Ananth Narayan Mahadevan — eminent scriptwriter, actor, director and producer at Ananth Mahadevan Films — asserts, “Actors are narcissistic. They watch themselves in their own movies and then read about themselves in their own books. Everyone who has begun by sleeping on railway platforms has a book brewing within him/her. Their writings are blessings in disguise for those who wish to know what not to do.”

Run-of-the-mill stories

The subjects chosen for the book by actors are mostly mediocre and mundane, with subjects on parenting or about his/her family and growing-up years. Karisma Kapoor’s My Yummy Mummy Guide, Sonali’s Bendre Behl’s The Modern Gurukul: My Experiments with Parenting, Divya Dutta’s Me and Maa etc. pander to the fancy of motherhood and family-oriented fans. The Perils of Being Moderately Famous by Soha Ali Khan had critics swoon over her witty, self-deprecating and forthright style of writing. The book claims to captivate fantasists.

Inspirational stories on survival and conquering depression are swiftly gobbled up by publishers who know the pulse of the vulnerable readers.

Manisha Koirala’s Healed: How Cancer Gave Me a New Life, Lisa Ray’s Close To The Bone, Emraan Hashmi’s The Kiss Of Life, a heart-wrenching book on how he dealt with his son’s illness, are known to be popular with even the street vendors doing good business from cheap prints for a bargain at traffic signals.
Fitness, food and wellness are the other ‘most churned out’ fodder from the Bollywood stable; especially cookery books never miss to hit the bull’s eye among star-struck health freaks.

The Great Indian Diet by Shilpa Shetty went quickly off the shelves because of her credibility as a fitness enthusiast. “Partly due to her yoga and fitness regime and partly glamour, her book on recipes works. But imagine her trying to write non-fiction or a novel,” remarks Nandita Puri.

Ananth Mahadevan prefers to overlook such nooks. He says, “They are cooking up books all the time… beauty, fashion, styles, yoga, cookery et al. So how many of us are cooking those dishes? I will pass the menu card….”

Ghost-writing

There are literary experts like Chiki Sarkar (ex-Penguin and Founder of Juggernaut Publishing) monitoring the works of top actresses. So how much is the exact contribution of the actor? “Monitor lizards are a necessity to read the writing of the actors. They are to actors what editors are to authors. Let’s put it this way… the thoughts are the actor’s, the words-words-words are the monitor’s,” answers Ananth Mahadevan.

Moreover, as Sohin Malik, publisher of Embassy Books, points out that credibility also plays a role here. “Being public figures, these actors’ voices are already known by people. So if suddenly there’s a book authored by a celeb, who you know doesn’t speak the language very eloquently, it wouldn’t jell with the audience. The book would have to be a combination of a ghost-writer and the celeb.”

Return on investment

In this cut-throat and competitive world, stardom and brand value take precedence over meaningful content-based material for an obvious reason — return on investment. Original writing and intriguing stories, however passionate endeavours they may be, publishers clamour to put the works penned by stars; after all, at the end of the day, selling books is just another business. The target, playing to the advantage of the publisher, is the interest and curiosity displayed by awestruck readers who get bamboozled into lapping up celeb stuff. This was evident in the sales of Kareena Kapoor’s The Style Diary of a Bollywood Diva, in which she talks about her life as a progeny of the Kapoor khandaan and about reaching heights of stardom in the Hindi film industry. The book is also peppered with her pointers on how to look and feel good and dress like a star, and shares some relationship advice.

Then there is Priyanka Chopra’s book Unfinished, prodding women to dream big, in which she put forth her personal trials, of expressing her beliefs confidently and boldly.

Ananth Mahadevan sees it for what it is. “The name, not the product, is the maxim — whether you are selling a film or a book, it’s ‘who’s in it?’ rather than ‘what’s in it?’ But what’s in it for the publisher? The initial moolah before the masquerade is caught. And they are content — to hell with content,” he quips.
Another interesting revelation comes from Sohin Malik. “If the actor has a large network, it contributes to the sales. Endorsement is another thing… if a megastar endorses his book, that’s just enough. Besides, buying off tens of thousands of copies or the financial arrangement is not a detriment for him/her.” It’s the haloed status of an author which matters to the Bollywood stars.

Reader’s takeaway

Readers do understand these works have been ghost-written, yet their immense voy-eurism is the driving factor to purchase memoirs written by stars. They, obviously, are not the intelligentsia.

The subjects chosen for the book by actors are mostly mediocre and mundane, with subjects on parenting or about his/her family and growing-up years.

Kareena Kapoor Khan’s Pregnancy Bible
Karisma Kapoor’s My Yummy Mummy Guide
Sonali’s Bendre Behl’s The Modern Gurukul: My Experiments with Parenting,
Divya Dutta’s Me and Maa
Soha Ali Khan’s The Perils of Being Moderately Famous
Manisha Koirala’s Healed: How Cancer Gave Me a New Life
Lisa Ray’s

The subjects chosen for the book by actors are mostly mediocre and mundane, with subjects on parenting or about his/her family and growing-up years.

Kareena Kapoor Khan’s Pregnancy Bible
Karisma Kapoor’s My Yummy Mummy Guide
Sonali’s Bendre Behl’s The Modern Gurukul: My Experiments with Parenting
Divya Dutta’s Me and Maa
Soha Ali Khan’s The Perils of Being Moderately Famous
Manisha Koirala’s Healed: How Cancer Gave Me a New Life
Lisa Ray’s Close To The Bone

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