Book Reviews Reviews

Women’s Day 2020: 8 Books You Should Read to Make This Women’s Day Memorable

Written by Omair Alavi

Make this Women’s Day different by reading about some of the most successful women from the entertainment world, who have made a difference with their hard work and dedication.

By Omair Alavi Created: 8 March 2020 

Every year we celebrate the International Women’s Day by going out on the streets, holding placards and speaking about women’s rights, the ones they have and the ones they deserve. However, make this Women’s Day different by reading about some of the most successful women from the entertainment world, who have made a difference with their hard work and dedication. One of these 8 books must be in your collection, otherwise, get hold of the one that you find the most interesting and read on.

1. Mother Maiden Mistress: Women In Hindi Cinema, 1950-2010

Hindi Cinema is by far the most evolved when it comes to film industry in this part of the world. Authors Bhawana Somaya, Jigna Kothari and Supriya Madangarli join hands to come up with an interesting book that chronicles the rise of Bollywood from the 1950s to the 2010s, from the perspective of women. In Mother Maiden Mistress: Women In Hindi Cinema, 1950-2010, they write about those actress who played her part in making the film industry safe for their successors, and about their struggles during their initial days. From the first film Raja Harishchandra (1913) in which Dadasaheb Phalke settled for a man as a heroine, to the many flicks where a woman played the title role, this book covers it all.

Be it Waheeda Rehman, Asha Parekh, Hema Malini or Shabana Azmi, Madhuri Dixit and Rani Mukerji, this book takes you down the memory lane and records the journey of women in Hindi cinema. The six decades this book covers may not be the entire history of Bollywood but those were the most progressive ones for females who went onto play the Sati-Savitris, the comedians, the rebels, to carrying the entire load of the film on their shoulders.

2. Changemakers: Twenty Women Transforming Bollywood from Behind the Scenes

Bollywood is not just limited to beautiful actresses who first played damsels in distress and later graduated to character roles on the screen. There is more to Bollywood than meets the eye, although the women this book talks about are usually behind the scenes. You got right – Changemakers: Twenty Women Transforming Bollywood from Behind the Scenes is all about the successful female directors, writers, producers, choreographers and all those women who have played their part in making Bollywood an industry to reckon with.

Authors Gayatri Rangachari Shah and Mallika Kapur talk about as many as twenty women who came from different backgrounds, made Bollywood there home and despite not having any prior connections to the industry rose to a position that rivaled that of their male counterparts. These women might not be seen in front of the camera but their work makes them stand out – she could be a lyricist, a music composer, a set designer, or even an editor who deserves to be applauded for upgrading Bollywood with their contribution.

3. Sheroes: 25 Daring Women Of Bollywood

Ever wondered where Bollywood would have gone had it not been for the strong female characters in some of the films that became iconic? Deepa Gahlot’s Sheroes – 25 Daring Women of Bollywood talks about twenty-five such characters who were instrumental in making the audience accept women as central characters in a film. It is a book about those women who’ve carved their own identity in a man’s world, through their power-packed performance in front of the camera.

From Nargis’ performance in Mother India to Vyjayanthimala’s in Dr Vidya, from Waheeda Rehman’s acting in Guide to Suchitra Sen’s in Aandhi, this book discusses all those characters that helped the audience mature and accept women as equals at a time when they were just considered eye candies in films. You can also read about movies like Damini where Meenakshi Seshadri fought against the system, or Queen that had Kangana Ranaut in the role of lifetime. The most surprising entry here is that of Kamal Haasan in Chachi 420 who played a female character just to be close to his daughter. Interesting, isn’t it?

4. The Life and Times of Nargis

And then there was Nargis, Bollywood’s first female superstar who was instrumental in the success of many films especially in the 1950s. T J S George’s The Life And Times of Nargis covers the life and death of Bollywood’s Mother India in the most emphatic way possible, and shows to the world that there was more to Nargis than it was shown in Sanjay Dutt’s biopic a couple of years back. You get to know about the young girl who began her career as a 14-year old Fatima Rashid, then became Baby Rani before blooming into Nargis, one of the most successful actresses in India.

The author compares Nargis Dutt to United India’s first Superstar Actress Devika Rani, besides talking about her collaborations with Mehboob Khan, Raj Kapoor and other filmmakers of that time. Yes, she was criticized during her last years for supporting Indira Gandhi’s Emergency, for her condescending remarks against Satyajit Ray and her failure to be a perfect mother, but it’s all available here because the writer covers every aspect of her life. Why she married Sunil Dutt who played her son in Mother India, how she was linked to an iconic scene in Bobby and why she is still remembered despite her death in 1981, this book talks about it all and can be termed as a perfect tribute for a perfect actress.

5. Healed: How Cancer Gave Me a New Life

Talking of Manisha Koirala brings us to the actress who debuted as one of the most beautiful actresses in the 1990s; what we don’t know is how she managed to defeat Cancer and use the experience to come out strongly. In Healed: How Cancer Gave Me a New Life, she talks about her journey as a patient who battled against ovarian cancer and the difficulties she faced while rebuilding her life once she came back. Not only do the readers get to know about the treatment that she received abroad but also about her emotional roller-coaster ride from which she struggled before coming out triumphant. Reading about her journey not just gives hope to the many cancer patients out there but also to those people who face impossible situations in their life and think of quitting before reaching the finish line.

6. Lisa Ray: Close to the Bone

Lisa Ray may have not worked much in Bollywood but she has proved her mettle abroad wherever she has worked. As an author, she also managed to inspire many with Close To The Bone where she talks about her escape from a rare blood cancer from which she was suffering. Instead of going away from the limelight into the wilderness like many others, Lisa took the disease head-on and came out victorious. Not only does she discuss the ordeal in the most honest manner, she celebrates her victory, her life and her conversion to Buddhism that saw her through the most turbulent phase of her life. She also gets to discuss her relationships that failed, her battle against an eating disorder, and how she managed to defeat it all through this book.

7. Hema Malini: Beyond The Dream Girl

Think of Hema Malini and you think of Bollywood flicks like Seeta Aur Geeta, Sholay, Trishul, Razia Sultan, etc., however, that is just one part of the Dream Girl’s glorious career. According to her autobiography – written in collaboration with Ram Kamal Mukherjee – Hema Malini talks about her life as an actress, wife, mother and most importantly, Hindi cinema’s biggest female Superstar. Through Hema Malini: Beyond The Dream Girl you find out that Amitabh Bachchan was most comfortable with Hema ji because ‘the audience came to watch Hema ji fight, not me’. You also get to know that every bachelor actor in her early days wanted to share the screen with her, but she fell for an already-married Dharmendra with whom she tied the knot later in her career. Why she worked extensively in the 1980s, how she manages to keep herself fit at 70, and how she handles her step-children Sunny and Bobby Deol, she talks about everything from her heart in this book, making it a not to be missed thing.

8. Asha Parekh – The Hit Girl

If there was one actress who ruled the screen both in the black and white era and the colored ones, that was Asha Parekh. In The Hit Girl she talks about her entry into films, how she managed to become the top actress despite stiff competition and why she stayed around despite leaving acting in the 1990s. The book covers her career as an actress who braved the Rajesh Khanna era, stayed relevant in the days of the Angry Young Man and how she transformed herself as she became mature with the passage of time. Why she didn’t marry the man she loved, why she works as a philanthropist and what difficulties she faced as the head of film censors in India, are some of the factors covered in this biography. Read it to find out her biggest regret (not playing Amitabh Bachchan’s heroine), her closeness with one of her seniors and how she felt on dancing on RD Burman’s tunes!

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About the author

Omair Alavi

Omair Alavi is a highly regarded journalist, critic, and commentator, specializing in news, sports, showbiz, film, blogs, articles, drama, reviews, and PTV drama. With extensive experience and a keen eye for storytelling, he captivates audiences with his insightful analysis and compelling presentations. His expertise and contributions have made him a prominent figure in the media and entertainment industry.