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Not three hilarious books for the price of one!
on 8 March 2003
Maybe one should always be suspicious of books where the jacket reviews seem to be written by the author's mates. On the cover, Nick (They Think It's All Over) Hancock describes this as "three ... hilarious books for the price of one"...[it]... didn't entirely work for me. Bits were amusing, certainly, but there was also much that was irritating, banal, trite and just unfunny. For a part-travel diary from a thespian and cricketer I expected a bit more respect for India rather than jokes about head waggling, curries and local cuisine-based bottom-related maladies.However, Balham to Bollywood is certainly an interesting and often amusing insight into the world of film-making, whether Bollywood or Pinewood, and certainly parts of its are funny. Chris England is an actor and comedy writer (in fact, co-writer of the excellent An Evening With Gary Lineker) who accepts a part in a Bollywood film (Lagaan) to be made in India and based around a cricket challenge match set in the last century between Indian locals and the Imperial English rulers. (Guess who wins?).
Written in the format of a travel diary, we follow the cast through the auditions (largely based on cricket skills), the travel preparations and rehearsals, the botched costume fittings (where intricate measurements are taken then everyone given shapeless, ill-fitting stuff to wear!), the endless takes, the amusing crowd scenes and incidents along the way and ultimately the real life challenge match between the local crew and director and the English actors (Really guess who wins?!). In fact, the main event is the real challenge match and it is amusing to see how the day-to-day tasks of getting the movie together have a sub-plot related to the anticipated real game.
The book, however, is a constant tussle between, on the one hand, an insight into the worlds of film-making and Indian culture which, of course, come together in Bollywood (and what a way to experience it!) and, on the other, a book of gratuitous remarks and unfunny rehashed jokes. A unique book, based on a great idea, is somewhat spoiled by an under-current of rather puerile asides. I did enjoy it, mostly, and it is certainly an entertaining and oft-amusing read. However, it is too long (329 pages in hard-back form) and could have been much better if it had stuck to being an account of the film-making (and the cricket match, of course)...