‘Matinee Men’ by eminent film journalist Roshmila Bhattacharya explores the filmography (briefly), lives and times of 13 of the most popular heroes who came, saw, conquered and ruled the kingdom of Bollywood in various periods of time. Her personal experiences and interactions with these men, right from the time of being a ‘cub journalist’ in her own words, till date, has been chronicled beautifully in this book, which gives us a sneak peek into the fantasy world they dwell in, accessible to only a few.
Out of many heroes who have adorned the silver screen in all these 70 years, Roshmila’s list has 13 of them, carefully selected, each having its own flavor, as has been the genre in which these actors reigned.
From Dadamoni Ashok Kumar, Dilip Kumar, Shammi Kapoor, Big B and Mithun Chakraborty, the book has personal anecdotes of actors as told to her in the myriads of interviews that she had to take over the period of more than 2 decades of her journalistic career.
Some of these anecdotes are tales that depict heartwarming stories, giving a glimpse into the depths of the ‘real’ people that they were, behind those painted faces on the reel, that the strong lights of the camera projected us to.
Stories of love blossoming between a young Dev Anand and Suraiya or the strange conviction that Mithun had while watching Yogita Bali in the Bombay gymkhana that he would one day marry this lady (while he never even interacted with her during that time) or the little poems that Ashok Kumar recited to his children and loved hearing them later in his life are some of the many tales that would tug a string in your heart.
The writer also takes us through the toils that she would undergo to get these interviews back in the day. From waiting for hours under the scorching sun outside their vanity vans, to being invited into their homes, the roller coaster rides had its own toll on her life too.
My personal favorite is the chapter on Shah Rukh Khan. After waiting for a long time, when the author finally gets her interview done quite late in the night, that she realized that she had missed the last bus and even the last train to her home at Vashi, Navi Mumbai. It was then that Shah Rukh himself came to her rescue. In her own words, “he soothed me saying his car would drop me home”. When she asked how he would get home, he replied that if the shoot (that was going on) ended before Kabir, his chauffeur returned, he would hitch a ride with someone.
“And so while he cadged a ride, I arrived in Vashi in a large, red chauffeaur-driven Pajero, well past midnight. That’s Shah Rukh Khan, and that’s what makes him a Badshah for real!”
Chapters on Irrfan and John Abraham are equally interesting and leaves you with a feel good factor.
Overall, the book makes for an engaging read, especially if you are a Bollywood buff, and even if you are not, you would definitely get some ‘real life’ insight on these ‘Matinee Men’
My Rating – ****