by Susmita Dasgupta
The book is a set of philosophical essays on Amitabh Bachchan, a star like no other in Bollywood. Packed into the persona of Amitabh Bachchan is a star, a person, an expression of his writers, directors, cinematographers, music directors, choreographers and most importantly, the viewer. There are spaces where Amitabh Bachchan, as a person, spreads over to his screen persona and creates his stardom with many episodes and experiences from his life lived in flesh and blood. The book discusses Amitabh against images and appeals of other popular stars like Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand, Dilip Kumar and Rajesh Khanna and even Shah Rukh Khan. The book also discusses many of his films which were a remake of popular films of earlier days, as well as many of Amitabh’s films which were remade later with the present day stars. The book finds that the star is an individual, the self-image of the viewer and essential in a modernizing society in which the individual is rooted in the institution of family and marriage and must operate within the structures of his class, caste, religion and even the city in which he lives. In his desire to take charge of his life, overcome the barriers that stand in the way of a fuller realization of his essence as an individual. Cinema can be classified around the star and the principles of classification pertain to the existential questions of the star in his embeddedness into the world and also a desire to transcend those attachments into a purer state of being.
About The Author
Susmita Dasgupta is a doctorate on the sociology of the Hindi commercial cinema, trivialized as Bollywood from Delhi's premier institution, Jawaharlal Nehru University. Her specialization is Amitabh Bachchan whose persona she analyzes as it appears in popular imagination. She studies the appeal of popular cinema as the fan views it and locates popular appeal in the wider arena of sociology, democratic politics, cultural contests and class conflict in the society. She finds that in much of what is trashed as pandering to the unschooled masses lies important arguments about justice, discourses around law, political assertions around cultures, sociological challenges to beliefs; in short the popular film is a veritable cauldron for major intellectual ideas most of which are yet to emerge in academics. Dr Dasgupta observes that beneath the formula of the popular film lies a web of cognitive categories, a repetitive pattern, or a kind of a “software” which dispenses content in ways that it reaches the viewers as philosophy of life. The author makes a case for the study of popular cinema as philosophy. Dr Dasgupta is well read in philosophy, history, arts, literature, sociology and anthropology. She works in the Joint Plant Committee, a body constituted by the Government of India as a policy economist and is due to retire in three years.