Kitnay Aadmi Thay

But you always wanted to write a Bollywood book, right? 
Well, yes but you know how I am. In between reading better books on Bollywood, writing a blog and watching Masterchef, I somehow forgot about it.

So, what changed that?
Well, I was commissioned by Puffin to write a book on the cricket World Cup in March 2010 (which was released in January 2011). 
I met a dear friend (and a senior from b-school) - Brajesh Bajpai - at an alumni get-together in May 2010 and since he was a cricket fan, I very proudly told him about the book. I expected to hear great words of encouragement & excitement but instead, he asked "But why are you not writing a Bollywood book? I am looking forward to one written by you."
This got me thinking. And I wrote out a proposal for a 'hard-core Bollywood book' in June/July 2010. My friend, Nilendu Misra, took a look at the proposal and assured me that Dan Brown's publishing records were under serious threat from this one. (Yes, he is a very good friend.)

Errr... that was the proposal. What about the book? 
Well, for all of 2010, I was happily writing, correcting and proof-reading the cricket book. The proposal was duly polished at regular intervals. I sent it to a couple of book editors during that time and expected Nilendu's thoughts to have miraculously 'incepted' in their brains. Christopher Nolan is not God and the proposal was promptly rejected!

Towards the end of 2010, the cricket book was done and I again had nothing to do by way of hobby. So, I started writing a few lines before going to bed every day - a little like a BP patient taking medications before sleeping.

By May 2011, I had scribbled pages and pages of notes in a small square diary (much of which was thought of during my long drives back from work). These notes had then become a large number of disjointed chapters from my late-night typing - none of which looked anywhere close to a book anybody would want to read.

In June 2011, I took a week off from work and transcribed all the thoughts and scribbles in one massive 250-page manuscript. In the subsequent week, we went on a family holiday to Fisherman's Cove and I took a spiral-bound, hard-copy of the manuscript along. In between the swims, seafood and snoozing, I used a red pen to cross out the silly parts, embellished some of the not-so-silly parts and laughed out loud at the very silly parts. 
Once I was back, I put in a couple of marathon night-out sessions to complete the book into one (hopefully) coherent mass - separated into 50 chapters and 8 sections!   
(BTW, it was not so easy as I just made it sound. Checking and cross-checking some of the things that I always 'knew' was bloody difficult! If it weren't for YouTube and IMDb, I would have abandoned the project by now.) 

Arre baba, what is the book ABOUT?
Oh yes, right. It is a book of Bollywood lists. I wrote about that, didn't I?
Here... let me quote from the introduction of the book:

This book is for Bollywood fans. If you love Disco Dancer, if you feel choked (or even better, cry) when Amitabh dies in Deewaar, if you know when Hrithik met Suzanne, if you have film magazines from a decade back — this book is for you. 
This book is about the favourite pastime of Bollywood fans. Which are the 10 best death scenes? Seven best sequels? Anupam Kher’s 8 best performances? The 12 best comedies of all times? The whole parlour game of making lists—and fighting endlessly over them—is what this book is all about. Currently, blood is being shed in college canteens, on internet discussion forums, over a drink, to decide the 10 best Gulzar-RD partnerships. This book is not intended to stop those battles but to fuel them. (BTW, none of the above lists appears in this book.) 
This book is about getting more people to join in the game. This book is incomplete. But before you ask for your money back, I can assure you it is more fun this way. It presents you with names on a list and you are supposed to come up with more. Scribble in the extra names on the margins. Call up your childhood buddy in Alwar and ask him how many films he remembers in which Amitabh played a Sikh. Feel superior if an obvious title is missing.Enjoy! 

And which intrepid publisher is printing this... err... book?
After I finished the book in June 2011, I promptly mailed it to a few good friends. 

Nilendu said, it had become even better than the summary (thank god!) and quoted Ray to describe the chapters as "ek ekta dharalo chakku, dorshoker bukey bnidhey hall-ey paira udiye debey". Yes, with friends like him, I don't need enemies. 
A stern friend like Udayan criticised it mercilessly but observed there may be a few people who would like to read about the most memorable Sikh characters in Bollywood. 
Another batchmate, Shiva, read the whole manuscript, corrected many factual mistakes, added some entries to various lists and did the near-impossible task of convincing my wife that this book will find a few readers. ("Arre, some of them work in my office only!")

I also have indulgent and accomplished friends. Noted author and journalist, Bishwanath Ghosh, wrote a glowing recommendation to his editor at Westland. 
I had also mailed the book (following the detailed instructions of font, spacing and quantity) to a few other publishers - all of whom rejected it in due course of time. 

The editor (Prita Maitra) called me over and started asking me detailed questions on the whys and hows of the chapters, structure and motivation of the characters. Ummm, no... not the last one. At the end of the meeting, I came out thinking that I had certainly got a good reaction if not an acceptance.  
One fine morning in July 2011, she wrote me a mail casually talking about proofs, production costs and cover art. I had to compose myself and ask her carefully if this meant I was on board. And she wrote back, "Looks like it".     
And the game was afoot...
Westland, incidentally, has a whole lot of super-successful authors on its lists including Arnab Ray, Bishwanath Ghosh, Soumya Bhattacharya, Amish Tripathi, Rashmi Bansal and the like. If the law of averages kicks in now... 

So, it is called KAT? Is that the best you could have done? 
That is a million-dollar question. The 'working title' was The Book of Bollywood Lists which - while accurate and descriptive - wasn't likely to attract too many readers. 

I asked the readers of this blog for names and I had some very interesting suggestions like: 
- Bolly Mera Naam 
- Matinee Matters
- Cine Maa: The Mother of Bollywood Lists
- BollyListic: 50 Bollywood Lists
- BollyFan: A Fan's Handbook to Bollywood
- Hi Fi List: Trivia from Hindi Films 

But the name (or part of it) that was suggested by the most number of people and because it is from a film that I just love, the name finally is (drum roll):


So, will it have any pictures or will it be just talk talk talk?
Oh yes, there will be. Hundreds! Errr, no... but quite a few. 
In fact, I have worked harder at diligently calling producers asking for permission and high-res versions of stills from their films than I worked at writing the damn book. 
And I got to speak / write to some of the biggest names of the country's film industry.

Some of the experiences were very sad.

Some of them were on the edge of history. 
"I have selected the stills but I have to show them to Mani-sir once before I send them."
"Mani-sir? Mani Ratnam?"
"Yes, sir. He's on a location recce. He will be back on Tuesday."
"Location? Where?"
"I can't tell you, sir..." 

Not unlike the other time when I asked the CEO of a production house if he can share photographs or storyboards from an unmade film of theirs. And he replied... 
It is interesting that you are considering ***** in your chapter of 'unmade films' since it is back in development and therefore, we won't be able to share any related material. The tagline on the poster says pretty much everything that we want to say at this point. I won't be able to comment to the plot right now. 
These responses more than made up the frustration of having wait endlessly with some other houses.

Ho hum... when is it coming out?
Well, we planned for a May 2012 release - coinciding with the beginning of celebrations around 100 Years of Bollywood. (Yup, Raja Harishchandra released in May 1913 and Bollywood is gearing up to pay tribute for the entire year.)
Updated to Add: The May release has been postponed to avoid a clash with IPL and Rowdy Rathore. The printer will dispatch the copies to all locations by middle of June and online sites should open pre-order within a week after that. Stores everywhere should have the book by first week of July latest.

So, where will it be available? 
The question is - "where do you want it, bayh-bay?"
Every online bookstore with a www in front of its name will be stocking it. Flipkart, IndiaPlaza, InfiBeam, HomeShop18, Ebay, Indiatimes, LandmarkOnTheNet, Crossword - you name it, we got it covered.
And of course, the two last named stores will be carrying it on their shelves as well. Not to mention, any half-decent bookstore anywhere in the country! We will also get the good people at Dial-A-Book to rush across and deliver it home if you are feeling a little lazy.
BTW, if you pass by a store without the book, SCREAM!
Leave a comment here. Message me on Twitter (@diptakirti). Drop a note on Facebook. I have been a salesman all my life. I get really excited by distribution gaps!

Will the book cost an arm and a leg? 
Absolutely not.
The cover price is Rs 275 - that's like one movie at the multiplex (though admittedly, three on Tata Sky). And once Flipkart and Indiaplaza are done with their gig, it will a paltry near-200 price.

Will you only be killing trees to sell the book or have you heard of Kindle?
We are hoping to bring out the Kindle version at about the same time as the paper version, give or take a week or two. And Amazon will save the Amazonian rain forests.
In fact, the Kindle version is available right here.

So, who did the cover? 
It is great, isn't it?
Gunjan Ahlawat - a graduate from NID who's studying at The Glasgow School of Art - did the cover. You can see some of his other work here.
The illustrations have been done by Urmimala Nag.
I quite like some of the small touches e.g. the Gabbar on the spine as if the Kitnay Aadmi Thay? is a speech-bubble coming out of his mouth!
Interestingly, two of the stars on cover (Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan) have two chapters dedicated to them. Sholay is an intrinsic part of the book. Shashi Kapoor and Sharmila Tagore make sporadic appearances.
BTW, do you know the name of the movie from which Sharmila's gun-toting pose is taken?

So, how has the response been? 
Oh, pretty well - I would say. Take a look at some of the reviews.

Reviews - Mainstream Media

The Hindu / July 21, 2012: The Maha Vishnu of Mount Road gave the book a cautious thumbs up (I think). While frowning at the "collegian style and humour", it thought the book had "plenty of fodder for arguments, impromptu quizzes and foolhardy bets". / July 31, 2012: Calling the trivia "not-so-useless", they found the book to be a "fun read" and felt it "caters to the fans of Indian cinema who find films an inseparable part of their lives". Cannot argue with that! 

HT City / August 6, 2012: Delhi's No. 1 entertainment supplement gave the book a great review, calling it the "perfect encyclopedia for Bollywood" and recommended it as "a joy-ride for the movie-buff inside you". 

Deccan Chronicle / September 27, 2012: The review started with "Trust a Bengali to have the patience to put together..." and ended with "Bollywood fans will giggle over it and use KAT to win arguments with passion and sheer one-upmanship". 

Dawn / January 27, 2013: Aman Ki Asha suddenly made sense for me when a review appeared in Pakistan and called it "the ideal book for any fanatic, who will probably end up wanting a sequel". 

Dainik Bhaskar / Septemer 3, 2013: In the first Hindi review of the book, a noted journalist and Bollywood columnist did a full review and called it "filmon par prakashit kitabon mein yeh prayaas anutha aur atyant pathaniya hai."

Reviews - Blogs & Social Media

Flipkart reviews here
Infibeam reviews here.

Several bloggers reviewed the book either spontaneously or on request of my publishers. Some of them are:

Abhishek Mukherjee - "I cannot remember the last time when non-fiction was this entertaining."

Suhel Banerjee - "Bollywood fan's wet dream come true"

Maryann Taylor - "A gem of a book on all things Bollywood"

Indian Nerve - "Totally recommended for those who’d like to add a dash of filmy to their otherwise normal lives."

Pallavi Kamat - "The only thing left for Dipta to do now is come out with a second book listing all the things which he mentions in KAT would require a separate book."

BlogAdda has a review programme for its members and some of them who reviewed Kitnay Aadmi Thay are:
Momofrs - "Do grab a copy and read it. I’m sure that once you’ve turned over the last page, you would immediately want a sequel."

Furobiker - "You will love this book, if you love Bollywood as much as I do."

A Spoon full of World - "The humour stays intact and sometimes will have you in splits."

Dunkdaft - "Go grab your copy with popcorn, samosa and an oily pack of chips. :)"

Vyo's World - "Like a surgeon he dissects every movie to understand the anatomy of Bollywood"

Apart from these, three of India's best known film critics (Anupama Chopra, Shubhra Gupta and Sukanya Verma) and one well-known director (Sanjay Gupta) said very kind things about the book on Twitter.

Interviews & Profiles
HT City (Kolkata) / July 1, 2012: A pre-release profile that said "the book can be a page turner for all those who enjoy recounting Bollywood stories, and have an eye and ear for apparently unimportant but amusing details."

The Wall Street Journal (India Real Time on / August 13, 2012: An interview with Beth Watkins (she of Beth Loves Bollywood fame) that thought the book "has lots of fun with lists of filmi types, tropes, facts and familiar faces. The book merrily hops from one topic to the next, just as chatter with movie-mad friends flows from nostalgia to argument to shared belly laughs." 

Beth had some very perceptive observations on how difficult it would be to write a book where cinema evokes high passion and how objectivity dies on the altar of passion.

The Asian Age / August 19, 2012An interview in which I got to talk about the beginnings of my Bollywood romance, the movies I would love to see made and my plans for a next book (if that


Arjun Narayanan said…
As a person who hopes to write a book on Hindi cinema soon, I wish you all the very best for your new venture!
Anonymous said…
who gives the fuck about crazy stuff you are doing??!!
asheesh u said…
every month between my husband and myself ,a new book comes home. and neither of us read the other persons books. but criticize it mercilessly. so when ur book came home . i looked at it and started my ranting i even told him " for god sake even on the cover they have written that its a completely useless book on bollywood trivia" .
not having a new book my self i decided to skim ur book so i could find more think to use to poke fun at my husband's book selection. and the next thing i was hooked to ur book . so much so that by the time he was on page 10 i was on page 110. and every time a topic would start i would wondered if has covered this or that n there it was either in the next para or the next page.
had a really great reading ur book. thx u for the pure entertainment and the "completely useless bollywood trivia it provided,
oindrilla said…
Dear Mr. Diptakirti Chaudhuri

Your book is highly entertaining but you just cannot afford to make the mistake you made. You have mentioned in the 'Dawaa and Duaa' section that Jaya Bhaduri suffered from Cancer in Mili but let me break it to you. She was in fact a patient of pernicious anaemia.

Oindrilla Chakraborty
@ Oindrilla - Thanks a ton. Grateful and impressed that you managed to catch this.
I, myself, have no recollection of this disease in Mili. Could you tell me in which scene it was mentioned?
oindrilla said…
@diptakirti: This was mentioned in the scene in which Amitabh Bachchan decides to meet a doctor after he finds out that Jaya Bhaduri is suffering from this disease. He asks the doctor if anything can be done about and which is when the doctor replies saying, "Pernicious anemia! Yeh toh bohot khatarnak bimari hai. Aise patient ko hum bacha nahi sakte. Kisse hui hai yeh bimari". Of course I just remember the scene in bits and part so I fail to quote them verbatim. And thank you so much for acknowledging my comment.