Starring the author

Celebrity works

Starring the author

The written word is getting an image makeover and how. While writing styles and reading preferences have kept changing and evolving over the years, it is the turn of the author to undergo a transformation of sorts now.

No longer is he/she your quintessential intellectual with a trademark ‘jhola’ and a serious look. The writing scene is getting a much needed splash of glamour with the entry of several celebrities who are penning down their life stories and experiences.

Notable among these is Twinkle Khanna aka Mrs Funnybones whose books have been runaway hits with critics and readers praising her funny take on serious issues in life. Controversial director Ram Gopal Varma launched his autobiography, ‘Guns and Thighs’ while actor Emraan Hashmi released a book on his struggles with his son Ayaan’s cancer. From the sporting field, big names like Sachin Tendulkar,Yuvraj Singh, Saina Nehwal, Mary Kom and Vishwanathan Anand are some of the celebrities who have put down their struggles and triumphs in writing.

So what sets these books apart? “It is the fact that we are reading that person’s perspective on something. It need not necessarily be something that we don’t know about them; just their account of what transpired,” says Soma Bhattacharjee, a professional. “It is important for people to know why that person did something or why something happened, how they tackled issues and so on.”

Asked which autobiography she would like to read, Soma says, “I would like to read ‘The Act of Life’ by Amrish Puri. He is an actor I have always admired and he has managed to keep his personal and professional lives separate; something that most actors today don’t know how to do.”

And these ‘mass market’ writers command quite a fan following; their numbers are no less than that of an established author. But not everyone is impressed. “Publicity is a huge factor in such ventures and so most of the personalities will take care of the image which they want to portray to their readers,” reasons Rashmi Swamy, a freelance photographer. “Also, I am not sure how many of them sit and write their autobiographies themselves and how many get it done by ghost writers.”

But even then, there are some autobiographies that she will like to read. “I will like to read Naseeruddin Shah’s autobiography, ‘Then One Day’. He is an interesting person and I am curious to know his take on Bollywood, which seems to be quite different from the others,” she adds.

“I never liked reading autobiographies of people because I thought why would I be interested in another person’s life?” says Nidhi Srivastava, co-founder of the popular ‘Bring Your Own Book’ club. “But sometime last year, I discovered this audio book of a memoir by blogging celebrity Jenny Lawson. Titled ‘Furiously Happy’, it was fascinating. Hearing someone narrate their own life story is infinitely more interesting than just reading about it,” she says.

Her preferences rest with the women writers. “Reading about contemporary women is really inspiring. The situations, the environment, the references to popular culture — everything is so relatable and accurate. In fiction, so many things can be fictionalised.” Not just autobiographies, celebrities have taken to writing about myriad subjects ranging from health and fitness to parenting and more. Shilpa Shetty has co-authored a book called ‘The Great Indian Diet’ with nutritionist Luke Coutinho. Sonali Bendre Behl too became a writer with her book ‘The Modern Gurukul: My Experiments with Parenting’. And all these experiments with writing are unleashed with a lot of fanfare and pomp.

“Hype is part of marketing these days,” says Soma. “Every writer wants return on his investment, that is the way it is. It is not just for celebrities, all authors think this way.”

“I don’t think they are over-hyped,” chips in Nidhi. “Autobiographies are not everyone’s cup of tea but rather an acquired taste. The candour, frankness, even exaggeration, that one can see in these books — everything is interesting in its own way.”

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