Candid tales of a Bombay girl

Candid tales of a Bombay girl

Neena Gupta's autobiography is frank, honest and funny in parts, just like the actor.

Sach Kahun Toh

Actor Neena Gupta’s autobiography, 'Sach Kahun Toh', is an account of her life, trials, tribulations, the challenges while growing up, and the rocky road to fame. Divided into five sections, each of which deals with a different journey, the book offers fascinating glimpses into the author’s life.

The style adopted here is candid, lucid and easy to read. The tone of its narration, the author explains in a recent interview, was not really a conscious choice. “Because I am like that,” she says. “I am what my book is. I didn’t have to do anything special for it.”

The first section, ‘Delhi Girl’, follows Neena Gupta’s early years and childhood in Delhi, her family life right up to her days in the National School of Drama, and talks about the strong individual that was her mother. It depicts the struggles of growing up a girl in a conservative environment, her interest in acting and drama, and a love for Sanskrit. Those were challenging times for a free-spirited and independent girl.

The narration is smooth enough, if a little repetitive at times when the differences between the then and now are highlighted. There are remembered conversations and an intriguing account of the National School of Drama and its politics, and her time with the Repertory Company.

Early struggles

Comparing those times with the present, she says, “Things have changed a lot…when I came, there was not even television, it was just only films, and of course, theatre for actors. But now things have changed, people have changed. I think this is a very good phase. OTT platforms are there and people are exploring new subjects. I think young actors and actresses as well as writers have more to choose from and more opportunities compared to when I came in.”

The next section, ‘Bombay Girl’, is an account of the actor’s first years in Mumbai in the 1980s, the difficulty of finding a place to stay, and mentions some very interesting people. There is also an account of Lallu Ladki, a role that eventually caused a fair bit of confusion for the writer. There are familiar names featured here, glimpses into film festivals and travels abroad, the television series Khandaan, in which she played a memorable character, and the author’s thoughts about the casting couch.

It is a section that refers, rather frankly, to the need for focus in the pursuit of a goal. There were ups and downs, and a great deal of personal and professional setbacks. It also reveals, quite succinctly, the eventual attainment of success.

And of course, this section also talks about Vivian Richards, albeit briefly.

The third part of the book features the birth of Masaba, her daughter. It details more personal struggles and the story behind the song ‘Choli ke Peeche Kya Hai’. Part four has more on films, music, and about a testing time with a certain television channel. More on the author’s parents is revealed, along with her mother’s secret heartache. And the last section has more on the writer’s family.

Written over a period of five months during the Covid lockdowns, 'Sach Kahun Toh' is a memoir told lucidly, and is refreshingly candid. Yes, there are some awkward moments as the conversational tone borders on repetition. There are occasions when the time skips are a little confusing. Some events are told very briefly, and there are many to keep track of as the narrative progresses. It does, however, remain eminently readable. The text is sprinkled with a selection of photographs, both old and recent.

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