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<i>Bombay Talkies</i> by Mayank Shekhar

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By: Gaurav Malani, IndiaFM
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Mayank Shekhar is a well-known film critic and journalist who has been writing for leading Mumbai dailies. So when the writer comes up with a book of his own, expectations are surely rife. But does it turn true to your expectations? Well, what he ends up in offering in the book is a compilation of all his reviews ever since the time he started writing.

The book opens with a much technical foreword by Ashutosh Gowariker where he interestingly doesn't talk about the book or the author but about the basic human tendency to criticize. He further defines two types of reviews and subsequently talks about reviewing reviews. (Gowariker's Swades finds a mention in the book and also gets a 4 star rating, but I must add that there isn't anything suspicious about it and the rating is well-deserved).

After an introduction by Mayank, the book gets straight to its point with the reviews of films released in 2005 and 2004, arranged alphabetically. Mayank shows enough consideration with reviewing most movies, covering everything from the globally famous Black to the less-known Missed Call. The good part is that the reviews are genuine, unbiased, dependable and have reliable ratings that (at least) I could very easily relate to. Thankfully, the reviews are based only on the movie content and remain unaffected by star-power, banner name or box office performances. For instance, you pleasantly get to see the biggest hit of 2004, Murder, receiving just a 1 ' star rating or the formulaic Garv getting 1 star and less known films like Satya Bol or Humdum winning favorable 3 star ratings. Also at places the reviews move forward to analyze the subject of the film as well - a genre of review that Gowariker defines in the foreword.

Interestingly the author doesn't miss the opportunity to review his favorite film Sholay on the excuse that it was re-released in 2004 (incidentally the blockbuster has almost re-released practically every year in theatres). And if you think the book review is talking only about Mayank's reviews, that's because the prime (read 'only') content of the book happens to be his reviews.

On the downside, everything from the book's title to its format is quite conventional. I personally feel that the book misses the 'collector's item' grade since it restricts itself to reviews of films released in 2005 and 2004. (i.e. the time period in which Mayank started reviewing professionally). The book doesn't broadly talk about Bollywood or movies, but is only limited to movies of these two years. There isn't any additional effort invested to add any uniqueness to the book. It just lands up being a personal collection of Mayank's reviews.

However a positive part of this format is that the book not just lists good movies but some really bad ones too. And some good reviews of these bad movies make for an interesting read. On the flipside, since you have access to all his reviews at one place, you can catch the repetitiveness of some phrases or lines that he uses in his reviews. For example, his favorite line 'if there were an Indian version of the Golden Raspberry Awards (worst film of the year), it would go out to this one' figures repeatedly in reviews of Fun, Boom and Bachke Rehna Re Baba. Ideally it would be termed as his signature style of writing but here it adds to the monotony.

One mechanical flaw of the book is that the listing of movies that are reviewed is not comprehensive. Mayank misses many prominent titles like Ab Tak Chhappan (2004) and Kyaa Kool Hai Hum (2005), to name a few. Also many movies like Kal Ho Naa Ho, Pinjar, Calcutta Mail, Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon, Boom, Munnabhai MBBS and many more are wrongly listed under the year 2004, while they actually released in 2003.

'Bombay Talkies by Mayank Shekhar' qualifies more as his personal portfolio or his extended resume.

There are movies (Bollywood), there are movie reviews (Mayank) and then there are reviews on movie reviews (like this article). Maybe there might be a review on this review too. Go on, the cycle continues...

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