Bollywood Confidential
by Sonia Singh, contemporary (2005)
Avon, $12.95, ISBN 0-06-059038-6

Bollywood Confidential is the story of an American actress Raveena Rai who realizes that, after seven years in the business, her career is still not going anywhere due to the dearth of roles offered to Indian actresses. When her agent offers her a leading role in a movie, she's about to jump in joy... until she learns that she's to play the leading role in a Bollywood movie. Still, it's not as if she has anything better to do. Besides, for all she knows, the movie can make her a Bollywood sensation and make Hollywood take notice of her.

It is only when she reaches Mumbai that she realizes that the director is a lecherous buffoon with more girth than vision. The movie, initially about a young lady from America searching for her father in India, has been scrapped without her knowledge and now she's to star as a Red Sonja version of Mumtaz Mahal in an action-laden retelling of the grand love story that led to the creation of the Taj Mahal. The movie will feature boat chases, the Eiffel Tower, and even a Ferrari until the director has to be "persuaded" out of using the last one. Raveena is convinced that her career is so dead as Taj Mahal 3000: Unleashed is obviously going to be the punchline of movie critics in the decades to come.

There are more - bitchy local actresses, a crazy uncle that she has to seek lodging with, and frequent brushes with severe food poisoning - but perhaps the hot male lead Siddharth will be a pleasant diversion to the rest of the crazy world that Raveena has found herself in. But he doesn't seem to reciprocate her attentions at all, dang it!

Bollywood Confidential is not a good adult romance novel. I suspect that it will make a great teenage romance novel, however, because this is one of those stories where the hero acts like a jerk and the "happy ending" comes from how the heroine finally manages to pry this man from the other bitch who latches on to him. It's all so much like a high school soap opera, the so-called romance here, and I suspect that I'm way too old and therefore too cynical to appreciate the heroine's triumph. Siddharth doesn't deserve all that effort - he's really not worth all that time and energy and tears. Raveena is an adult, right? She should find a man who isn't afraid to adore her.

What makes this book worth a look, however, is the amusing - if superficial - glimpse into life in Mumbai, both in and out of the movie industry. As a fan of those masala love movies back in those days, I can definitely appreciate and laugh with the author as she pokes gentle fun at the various aspects of the industry. The laughably melodramatic plots, the ridiculous action scenes, the constant singing and dancing... oh yes, they are all here. I've also learned some interesting new trivias as well. Ms Singh manages to bring to life the sounds and sights of Mumbai very well - which is surprising, really, considering her tendency to use short and choppy sentences in the story, heh.

Bollywood Confidential has enough novelty appeal to keep me reading long after I'm completely over the whole Siddharth and Raveena drama, but that is because I love the world that the story is set in and its culture. I suspect that anyone else who doesn't care too much about Mumbai and Bollywood movies will have a much harder time getting into this story.

Rating: 60

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