Penguin Random House released Bhawana Somaaya’s Once Upon A Time in India at Mumbai’s The Club in Andheri. The Garden Grill with white chairs and gold ribbons was a perfect venue festooned with trees and fairy lights to release a book that travels a century of Indian cinema.
The chief guest for the evening, Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan, arrived on the dot of 7pm and the event started as soon as the camera bulbs cleared the way.
After a welcome from The Club the anchor for the evening Bhawana Somaaya’s co-host of a show at 927BigFM radio channel began the proceedings. A 2 minute audio visual put together by Film Heritage Foundation followed by singers Parthiv and Manasi Gohil performed a medley featuring a century of Indian cinema in just 5 minutes.
Speaking on the occasion, author Bhawana Somaay said, “Out of all the performing mediums cinema is the most sensitive and most effective medium because it has the power to transform lives and alter mindsets” she elaborated that while human life is mortal cinema is timeless and will tell stories for years to come.
Somaaya said her endeavor to compile the book was to revive old images like the bioscope we watched in childhood. She said she was privileged that the best in the business – Penguin understood and respected her manuscript without compromises and had the vision to package it as a fun diary. She credited Penguin for the choice of the book cover and said it had to be an Amitabh Bachchan film still given his long innings (47 years) in filmdom beginning with Saat Hindustani 1969 to Pink/ 2016.
The book and a cake resembling the book was brought by kids dressed in the costume of Anthony Gonsalves and unveiled from an ornate book instead of the regular wrapping paper. About the book Amitabh Bachchan said that in India we don’t have the habit of documentation and Bhawana Somaaya’s Once Upon A Time in India is a great step towards it because this way the coming generations will learn how cinema evolved and I thank Bhawana for her endeavor.
During an In Conversation with the author, Amitabh Bachchan elaborated on his memories of movies:
“I was born and brought up in Allahabad and Capital Cinema was where we watched most of the films. First our parents would watch the films and only if they found it appropriate my brother and I were taken along for the show. My first ever film in the theatre was Laurel and Hardy’s The Flying Deuces. I remember watching a children’s film Jagriti, the ticket then cost 50 paisa. Much later Allahabad got its first air conditioned theatre Niranjan, the first film screened there was a Dev AnandDilip Kumar starrer, I don’t recall the name.
As always Bachchan refused to take credit for his success, said “Somebody wrote things for me, somebody asked me to wear something, somebody asked me to walk somewhere and I just followed like a robot. I am fortunate that things worked out in my favour and the audience liked my films. That is why I say that there is no favorite decade for me. Every decade brought new memories, new trends and new artists. In the olden days there would be only two women on the sets, the heroine and her mother. Today there is a sea change; more than fifty percent of the work force on a film set is female. I think that is a huge change. I applaud the contribution and as an actor feel far more secure when women are in charge of set, production, camera, continuity departments because they are more observant, diligent and efficient and I don’t have to be bothered with continuity hassles and can concentrate on my acting.”
He also spoke about his films last releases Pikku and Pink, Bachchan said, “Pikku is about the relationship between a father and a daughter. Pink on the other hand has a great amount of identification with daughters in the world and typically in India. It raises an issue that needs to be addressed, it was time to emphasize that No means No and the country identified with that.”