We love and have always loved the first Bollywood female superstar Sridevi. Who would not love her? ” It has been a blissful experience to write a book about my screen idol. I had always been appalled by the fact that there was no good text detailing the five-decade-long cinematic journey of Sridevi,” says the author Satyarth Nayak. Deepika Padukone launched the book in Delhi and in Mumbai, Karan Johar did the honor.
The story of the eternal Screen Goddess is well told by Satyarth in his latest book. He shares his journey while writing the book and how the idea germinated into his mind. The admiration for the actor is undoubted of prime importance. Seeking her approval, Satyarth approached Boney Kapoor and discussed the book proposal. In the meanwhile, Janhvi had the movie Dhadak in the pipeline which led to a slight delay as Sridevi was focusing all her energies on the debut launch of her daughter.
“I owed it to her to share her legendary journey with the world. Both Penguin and Boney sir encouraged me and I began work on the book.”
The research work was taken well care of. Most of the research came first handedly to the author as he visited Sridevi’s Coworkers, family members, friends et al. Besides this the author also shared that he had a stack of magazines from the 80s and the 90s as his personal collection which also contributed to the research. It helped him a lot in putting the book together and covering every aspect of Sridevi’s career in the film industry.
“It took me one and a half years. I started the book in mid-2018 and it finally released in December 2019.” Satyarth told me that a career spanning 5 languages, 50 years and 300 films held by Sridevi, the time is worth the effort!
“What was the most difficult aspect while writing this book?” I asked Satyarth to which he gave a thought and then answering simply he said that the only difficult thing which he felt was to cover such a prolific career journey of the iconic actor in a book was something which was really daunting. He also revealed that the people he interviewed not only helped him confirm his already known facts but also to clear some of the wrong notions about the actor. One of the facts cited by the author is that the actual birthplace of Sridevi is Chennai and not Sivakasi as it is largely believed.
Writing in the Genes
“My grandfather was a man of literature and he really opened the world of stories for me. My mother nurtured my reading habit and even now we discuss story ideas and book proposals,” says Satyarth when I asked about how did he start writing and my next question which I snapped to him was his favorite genre. “I was born on Halloween Day so maybe that explains my love for thrills and chills,” Satyarth said jokingly. It takes you inside unexplored dimensions and that absolutely fascinates me.”
The first book you wrote, Emperor Riddles was also a thriller, tell me something about it,” I asked yet another question sipping the not so hot coffee. “My debut thriller The Emperor’s Riddles is a history meets mystery. It takes the readers on a trail of nine riddles scattered across nine places in India while the backdrop is the lesser-known legend of one of our most legendary Indian emperors and his two-thousand-year-old secret project, “Satyarth snapped back. Originally motivated by Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons, Satyarth became curious about the existence of any such esoteric secrets in our own Indian history and culture. A random search was a revelation about an emperor and what he had done about two thousand years ago which led to being the stepping stone for the book.
“How did it feel grabbing that first award you got for literature?” He knew the next question was coming his way. “There was those obvious feelings of joy and pride but it also brought a sense of responsibility that I needed to keep up the good work. One cannot rest on a laurel and must keep moving ahead and try to better oneself with each book. That has always been my endeavor and even now I am striving to think how my next book can be a notch above my earlier ones. An author must have the hunger to keep writing better.”
I was getting curious that who all did Satyarth meet while writing this book. His answer was the names of some of the legends who have directly or indirectly worked with Sridevi during her career. Some of the names as quoted by the author include Kamal Haasan, Rajinikanth, Chiranjeevi, Nagarjuna, and Venkatesh. The list didn’t end here. He notified that he also interviewed Bharathiraja and Raghavendra Rao who shaped her career in Tamil and Telugu cinema. In Bollywood, he interviewed her co-actors like Jeetendra, Anil Kapoor, Sunny Deol, and Rishi Kapoor and directors like Subhash Ghai, Mahesh Bhatt, Pankaj Parashar, Gauri Shinde, and R. Balki. Besides veterans like Lata Mangeshkar, Waheeda Rehman and Javed Akhtar, the younger generation like Karan Johar, Kajol, Vidya Balan, Manish Malhotra, and Neeta Lulla, etc have all shared their inputs and memories of Sri.
Upon asking the question that has he covered each and every aspect of her life in his book, the author said, “That has definitely been the attempt. Given that she was India’s First Female Superstar and many facts about her are widely known, I wanted the book to reveal unknown facts about her. Very few people are aware of her iconic body of work down south and the first few chapters of the book are solely devoted to that. Besides this information, the author also shared that the extremely rare anecdotes shared by the film personalities have made the narrative both entertaining and enlightening.
After finishing two-thirds of my coffee, I asked him, “what all works of her you like?” It didn’t take him long to quote a few of her works which he like since his childhood days. “Films like Poompatta, Vidhi Vilasam, Yashoda Krishna, Babu, and Bala Bharatam. The Tamil films I love are Moondru Mudichu, 16 Vayathinile, Johnny and Moondram Pirai while Jagadeka Veerudu Athiloka Sundari, Kartika Deepam, Akhari Poratam, and Kshana Kshanam are my Telugu favorites. In Hindi Lamhe, Mr. India, Chandni, Chaalbaaz, Khuda Gawah, and English Vinglish are her best work,” said the author.
My questions were not over yet. I gave a thought and asked him about his advice to the readers out there. He was very glad that I asked this question. He said that the readers are the ones who actually finish the book started by the authors. He also personally requested me to spread the word about how the reading is slowly being eliminated and why everyone should inculcate reading in their daily routines. He quoted, “Reading is becoming an endangered habit around the world and we need to keep it alive. Let’s be intolerant of people who do not read.”
Distractions that are vital
Writing the book alone is not sufficient. Marketing and promotions are equally important aspects of making a book stand out. The author says that the activities do distract him a lot but it plays a vital role as for the author, the reading community must know about the book you have written. He also emphasized that he uses social media as a tool to promote his book(s). Besides this, he also makes sure that he gets as many book reviews as possible and also he loves interacting with the book clubs and bookstores. The media coverage also plays a key role according to him.
On future Projects…
Coming back to writing, I wanted to know about his next project. He was generous to share about his second book which is also a thriller. “My second thriller is ready and will be out shortly. This is another Om Patnaik adventure who was my protagonist in The Emperor’s Riddles. It has elements of myth and fantasy and I hope readers will enjoy it as much as my debut thriller. My first book on Hindu mythology is also nearing completion and will hopefully release this year. I am also planning a book on Mahabharata and exploring my next book on cinema,” he informed.
I wanted to know about any motion picture or web series he had in his pipeline to which he shared about his various projects. “After doing the screenplay for Porus on Sony, I am presently scripting a web-series for Amazon. It’s a mega-budget series with fascinating elements of fantasy. I am also exploring film scripts for both the big screen and the web. I do hope to take the Emperor’s Riddles to the screen one day. Let’s see if that dream comes true,” I could see his eyes twinkle with excitement.
On eBooks vs Print Books…
The technological advancements will not kill the printed book according to the author. He said that those who are loyal to the printed books will continue showering their love for the paper. I agreed as I also love holding the book in my hands to read. He also warned that the new authors must be careful as many self-publishing sites may be spurious and take them for a ride. I take his word of caution and will definitely share this with my author friends.
On Favorite authors…
The coffee was about to be finished with only a few sips left and I also did not want to take much of his valuable time so I decided to ask him about who all were his favorite authors. He quoted that out of the many books he has read, Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Agatha Christie are the ones who have highly influenced him.
The interview went smoothly and I was about to ask him his opinion on what should people know about Sridevi and her struggle at that point in time in a male-dominated industry. “The most important thing people need to know about Sridevi is how she battled patriarchy in the eighties. Today we talk about misogyny, sexism, wage parity and toxic masculinity and Sridevi combated all those in her days and emerged victoriously. She became the ‘hero’ of her films and became more powerful than her male co-actors. She was getting paid more than them and her stardom was bigger than all of them. She had the courage to refuse films opposite Amitabh if her role was not equally solid. When Sridevi was in a film, no one asked who the hero was. She raised the status of the Indian film heroine to a whole new level altogether. That I feel is the most inspiring part of her journey which is even more relevant today.”
“It was wonderful talking to you and I wish you all the best for your book(s) and scripts. I am sure this will make the best Cover!”I gestured with a smile.
I thank you for your time and giving me an opportunity to spread the word about the journey of the first female superstar of Bollywood, ” he smiled back.
The coffee was finished and as the interview was done, we both shook hands and left for the day.