29th Book of 2021
There are many Bollywood personalities who are quite open about themselves, and you understand them a lot. There are many Movie directors and producers who are generally behind the scenes when it comes to moviemaking, but they assure they are close to their audiences by being Reality-show judges or Interview Host or being a pro at handling their social media handles. Similarly, there are few who are interested in creating movies only and doesn’t expose themselves at all and hence you always have a sense of curiosity in knowing about them. One such personalities is Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra who is the proud director of movies like Rang De Basanti, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and recently released, Toofaan.
It was a complete surprise when I learnt that his autobiography has been released which has been co-written with Reeta Ramamurthy Gupta, who is herself a very sound author and popular personality. The book is named “The Stranger in the Mirror” which is published by Rupa Publications in around 320 pages. This is one of the rare books where I have completed it by reading only 20-30 pages daily because I wanted to consume it in a way where I can imbibe much of its qualities in my working lifestyle. Now that I have finished reading it, I can very easily say that I have learnt a lot from it and how to be a constant personality throughout your career so that everyone you meet has the same thing to say about you.
This book is written in a style that you’ll feel you are watching a movie which is shifting its timeline back-to-back to keep you interested in the story. Mostly when I have read any autobiography, it always starts from the author’s birth/childhood and ends up with the chapter which discusses his/her most recent life-event. This is completely different from all such attempts. Here, you’ll be surprised reading the next chapter after completing one as it will be completely different than the one you read just now. This makes you excited to know the other side of Rakeysh’s personality.
The book talks mainly about the world of cinema which has consumed Rakeysh in a way that his life revolves around it. Right from how he began from the world of advertising and then slowly moved to direction tells you about the amount of effort and commitment he has put in his work and craft. How certain good practices and relationships helped him with the opportunities or the help at the right time displays the importance of having good people around you. Rakeysh has been very vocal about the people who supported him in the life and career in several chapters throughout the book which tells you about the power of gratitude and how it keeps compounding to give you great results when you expect the least.
He tells it all- his days of success as well as failure. He hasn’t hidden anything which helps the reader in you to connect the dots with your life and see how you reacted in the similar conditions. He also talks about how he had to regularly consider keeping his only house on mortgage because every time he wanted funds, people didn’t agree, and he was all by himself to make that movie he wanted to. He also describes how small experiences or incidents made him think about the certain topic and then finally decide of creating a movie on it. He states how difficult it became for him when he took his scripts to the actors who kept refusing the movie continuously making it difficult for him to proceed ahead with his dreams.
When he is not speaking, his favourite people are talking about him or their experiences of collaborating with Rakeysh in their own words. I would like to mention some of these people such as Abhishek Bachchan, Sonam Kapoor, Aamir Khan, Waheeda Rehman, Ronnie Screwvala, Madhavan, Prahlad Kakkar, Manoj Bajpayee, Narayana Murthy, Farhan Akhtar, Atul Kulkarni etc. Even his family has spoken about him in depth such as his sister, his wife, and children. All these pieces will make you understand the character of Rakeysh more and what makes him one of the rare personalities in Bollywood. His craft of making cinema without thinking of its success or failure tells you about the passion for movies that he has.
Overall, the book is surely interesting, and it will help you know the process of moviemaking more than what you already know. Next time when you would be watching ROMP’s movie, you’ll watch every scene deeply as you know it has been picturized keeping certain aspects in mind. I really loved his emotional feelings for Amitabh Bachchan and I could connect a lot with it being Big B’s fan myself. Reeta has played the major part in bringing everything together and scripting it in a way that makes you feel that you are directly talking with the director. I will not say that this is the most inspirational or motivational autobiography, but you would just love knowing this person who is fighting all the odds to continue his passion of making movies. I give this book 4.25 stars out of 5. Last but not the least, I loved the last chapter where it is described on how the title of the book got decided. Kudos to Reeta for giving the book a very beautiful end.