A filmi self-help book

A filmi self-help book

Supertraits ofSuperstars Priyanka Sinha Jha Rupa2014, pp 186195

Supertraits of Superstars by journalist Priyanka Sinha Jha, aims to be a motivational aid, hopefully inspiring people to overcome obstacles and achieve their dreams. Jha talks about the lives of successful Hindi film stars, and how they are where they are today despite overwhelming odds. Why should a journalist write a self-help book, you might ask. Jha straightaway deals with that question in her preface, because that was the disbelieving response of her family and friends when she decided to launch the project. “The question was valid — I am not a life coach or a motivational speaker. I have not conquered Mount Everest either.”

She manages to chip away at any scepticism that you might have with the candid admission that she was an average student, swinging between being ‘painful shy’ and ‘brutally frank.’ She also explains that this meant that she was wrongly perceived as swinging between being dull and rude — which she says didn’t do too much good for her self-esteem. She thus made it a habit of “…daydreaming about beautiful places, where fairies set things right and nobody picked on tongue-tied kids by tagging them as dumb.” Jha disarms you completely by saying that she “settled into that comfortable zone which children deemed mediocre are consigned to.” 

Through this kind of sharing in the preface, the author comes across as straightforward and down-to-earth, with no holier-than-thou sermons. It also helps to gloss over the rather simplistic style of writing, which is even clumsy and inelegant at times, simply because there is a sincere and honest ring to her intention. And whether this was deliberate or not, this also immediately encompasses the thousands who might not be masters of the English language, but who are looking for a break in life, and perhaps can connect with the intent here rather than be drawn into nuances of sentence construction and all that.

Having said that, the actual content of the book — short sketches of ‘successful’ Hindi film stars Amitabh Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai, Vidya Balan, John Abraham, Karan Johar, Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina Kaif, Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Hrithik Roshan and Aamir Khan. A rather eclectic mix, I personally thought, but Jha makes it clear that she has either interviewed them in her career as a journalist, or chosen to research intensely. As an aside, I must wonder aloud why TV channels and publishers continue to give time and space to actors who still have police cases pending against them. In this case, what kind of an inspirational message does it send out? 

While each actor portrayed here has ample reason to be included as inspirational examples, for reasons of space I am only going to mention a few that appealed to me. Amitabh Bachchan for his punctuality, professionalism, discipline and his fantastic ability to multi-task. For his ability to fight back when he was financially up to his ears in debt. And for continuing to dominate despite flopped experiments like RGV’s Sholay. Hrithik Roshan who conquered stammering as a child and teenager. Shah Rukh Khan for daring to dream and landing up in Bombay with Rs 1, 500 in his pocket. Vidya Balan for overcoming all that loud criticism about her dressing sense and finally discovering that she could be herself, and when she did, she rose to become a top billed star in a nexus-oriented Hindi film industry.

The book is presented in what I can only describe as a Reader’s Digest style — every chapter on each star is divided into sections with the most prominent traits, with blurbs on most pages. There is a kind of summary at the end, which lists the traits that made the persons discussed in this book successful, and how one could look for one’s own strong points. The cartoon depicting the star in question in each chapter is a nice touch, and helps to make them human.

 The cover is quite terrible, and certainly could have been designed better considering the kind of actors being written about. Rupa books were the pioneers of low-cost publications in India, and this one is priced reasonably. I don’t see any reason why this sincere offering should not find readers who might get inspired. And it doesn’t have to be bought just for that purpose — through all that clumsy writing, it is quite a fascinating read, as most things about Bollywood are.