“Bollywood mentality: a history of a cultural phenomenon.”

This book skillfully showcases Indian cinema (and questions the meaning of the all-encompassing term “Bollywood”) and traces its history for more than a century. With anecdotes from five continents told in an upbeat, stimulating manner, this book tells the true, tightly knit and heady history of modern India.

In this rigorously researched book, Sunny Singh points out that Indian cinema has been the most “quintessentially Indian cultural product” over the past century, whether it is the masala movie, the kinetic thriller, the family saga, or the hilarious comedy.

Singh brings this art form to a global scale, but not condescendingly, but lovingly. There is a strong thread running through the book, covering the history of modern India and the ability of cinema to influence politics at both the micro and macro levels. Rarely has a book been written with such clarity and heart, engaging the reader and leaving them wanting more. The first few chapters on the origins of Indian cinema are delightful, while the chapters on ways of viewing movies are thought-provoking.

The book also paints a picture of the good life of Bollywood movies and the joy they continue to bring to a third-culture kid living all over the world: from New York to Barcelona, from Islamabad to London. Singh points out that Hindi movies continue to be the common ground on which she connects with people around the world.

“Bollywood mentality: a history of a cultural phenomenon.”

In my own experience, people recognize The Three Stooges in my travels, whether in Beijing or Prague. I can also relate to the family outings described in the book, Agneepath is a unique movie, and I remember my childhood in Lancashire and my favorite music – in my case, AR Rahman’s beautiful soundtrack. The book is also interspersed with some heartwarming descriptions of Singh’s life, as well as some factual tidbits. For example, I didn’t know about Binaca Geetmala on the one hand, and after reading the book, I reveled in old videos of the radio show on YouTube. Reading this book was like being in an old friend’s house, talking about shared experiences and fond memories.

The Mind of Bollywood also showcases a movie industry that has long influenced the world (Channel 4’s broadcast of Sholay in their 1982 Christmas program is still a remarkable feat).

The book also takes the reader on a long, fascinating journey through South Asian history, covering classical Sanskrit theater and its eventual decline, the region’s many performance traditions, and the 19th-century Parsi Theater that served as the film’s predecessor.

Also of great interest are the chapters named after songs, both for those who have grown up with the classics and for novices who are about to discover them. Singh’s book is a great remedy to snuggle up with on the coming cold winter nights. From the cool coded scenes of Razia Sultan to the global significance of Patan – this book offers something for cinephiles and novices alike, giving us a deeper understanding of the movies we all love. The book is rich in content and connects the stalwarts of cinema over the decades; Zeenat Aman and Amitabh Bachchan, Raj Kapoor and Nargis, Shah Rukh Khan and Madhuri Dixit.

In short, Singh’s capitalized book provides outsiders and fans alike with a sublime overview of the world’s largest film industry.

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