Stunning beauties, elaborate sets, and captivating song-and-dance numbers. Forget Hollywood. Hindi cinema—otherwise known as Bollywood—is the world’s largest film industry with an estimated 3.6 billion tickets sold annually across the globe. These 5 must-read books about the booming Indian movie business will have you dancing to the Bollywood tune.
1. A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman
“Veda, a classical dance prodigy in India, lives and breathes dance—so when an accident leaves her a below-knee amputee, her dreams are shattered. For a girl who’s grown used to receiving applause for her dance prowess and flexibility, adjusting to a prosthetic leg is painful and humbling. But Veda refuses to let her disability rob her of her dreams, and she starts all over again, taking beginner classes with the youngest dancers. Then Veda meets Govinda, a young man who approaches dance as a spiritual pursuit. As their relationship deepens, Veda reconnects with the world around her, and begins to discover who she is and what dance truly means to her.”
2. A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev
“Mili Rathod hasn’t seen her husband in twenty years—not since she was promised to him at the age of four. Yet marriage has allowed Mili a freedom rarely given to girls in her village. Her grandmother has even allowed her to leave India and study in America for eight months, all to make her the perfect modern wife. Which is exactly what Mili longs to be—if her husband would just come and claim her.
“Bollywood’s favorite director, Samir Rathod, has come to Michigan to secure a divorce for his older brother. Persuading a naïve village girl to sign the papers should be easy for someone with Samir’s tabloid-famous charm. But Mili is neither a fool nor a gold-digger. Open-hearted yet complex, she’s trying to reconcile her independence with cherished traditions. And before he can stop himself, Samir is immersed in Mili’s life—cooking her dal and rotis, escorting her to her roommate’s elaborate Indian wedding, and wondering where his loyalties and happiness lie.”
3. The Last Devadasi by Barbara L. Baer
“Kamala Kumari is more than a Gemini Studio starlet: she’s a classical dancer trained in the age-old line of Devadasis, a caste set in place a thousand years ago when girls were first dedicated in south Indian temples to serve the gods and men. From the promise of art and devotion, the sacred dancers fell into the hands of priests who both exalted and betrayed them. Beautiful, brilliant and proud, Kamala struggles to escape the old ways, entangling her Indian assistant, Dutch lover, and his young American wife. With its turbulent passions amid social upheavals, The Last Devadasi takes readers on a sensual feast in the 1970s palm-shaded trading city of Madras.”
4. Q & A: A Novel by Vikas Swarup
“Vikas Swarup’s spectacular debut, which provided the inspiration for the award-winning film Slumdog Millionaire, is a page-turning and beguiling story of love, perseverance, and drama.”
5. The Next Life by Ashok Sinha
“The story of an Indian woman’s triumph against depression. A set of characters are involved in her journey her husband, her sons, her psychiatrist, her hypnotist, her favorite hero of the Indian Film-world called Bollywood. As her story progresses, there unfolds a parallel set of stories from ancient India featuring emperors and sages; as also does India’s present socio-politico-religious scene. Naturally, many political episodes and undercurrents touching upon a number of other countries of the world Pakistan, United States of America, China, Russia, Italy come into light. Thus, this novel is not only a depiction of the struggle of an individual to win over odds of life and of her buoyant transformation, it is also a succinct record of the true happenings in India of the yore as well as of India of today, woven and intertwined in an absorbing frame of fiction and reality. Readers in India as well as anywhere else in the world would find this story touching and moving; entertaining and even educational.”