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June 29, 2014

Book Review: Spot Girl

Text by Nittal Chandarana

Romance, Bollywood and the inner workings of our favourite industry. Read our review of Spot Girl…

The Read: Spot Girl
Author: Komal Mehta
Publisher: Penguin India

Script: A romantic novel tracing the journey of Jiya, a spot girl. She goes from being madly in love with superstar Shezad Khan to working for him and being so close to realising this dream, to being sidetracked by a new, bitchy starlet on the block and the latter’s perfect manager…arriving at The Perfect Climax. Throw in some insane Bollywood trivia, an understanding of how this ‘dreamy’ industry works, the Cannes Film Festival – and you’ve got a Page 3 paperback.

Hero hai hero: Falak, manager of the rival party, makes for the perfect second lead. He’s handsome, he’s wronged, he’s clever and kind and chivalrous and a whole lot of other approving adjectives. Plus, he’s second fiddle to Shezad and you know how we have a soft corner for the underdog.

We like! You begin to flip through the pages expecting another run-off-the mill chick-lit but Spot Girl makes for a fun read with a refreshing narrative. We’re suckers for Bollywood and loved all the intelligent banter. We also loved how the nuances of Cannes, Nice and Monaco were captured.

Maybe not: A whole lot of repetition. Shezad’s character has been explained and justified multiple times.

Deadly Dialogue: “I remember Dadi telling me that when she was young the cost of a movie ticket was 4 annas. It had always struck me as strange how people gave 4 annas for two hours of silence … and yet when life was crazy and I was frustrated, the only place where I found peace is in a cinema hall−no matter the cost or the absence of silence.”

Read it? Read it not? Yes, it is another romantic novel but it tells you much more. It will transport you to film studios, sets, France and back, and give you an in on a superstar vs. his-core-workers’ life. Also, my God this enthusiasm for the movies is infectious.

Q&A with author Komal Mehta

1. How much of the book is autobiographical?
Quite a bit of it. I’ve worked in the field of movie marketing for many years and started as a management trainee. I used to make copies and coffees and used to feel like a spot boy. That’s where the germ of the idea originated. The book is full of my personal experiences disguised in the narrative. However, I was never the manager of a superstar but that pivot gave me a chance to write about all my experiences.

2. Your first book, Nick of Time, belongs to the romance genre and so does Spot Girl. Why the attachment?
Nick of Time was a very tender romance made up of ‘first love’ moments. Spot Girl on the other hand is a a bigger love – the unconditional love for cinema that we as Indians have. It is a love that’s lasting, but one in which the twain never meet and there is no ‘happy ending’ moment. Having said that, I must also say that ‘romance’ is my identity and it is what I am known for writing.

3. The book is laced with Bollywood trivia. Where is it all amassed from?
This book was one of the most difficult for me to write because my canvas of emotions was so grand.  I felt like writing about the film industry was like sampling a world by itself and for its accurate representation I need to include it in its entirety – the ups, the downs, the past, the present and the future. Also I’ve seen, all over the world, everyone is so proud of their films. They have film museums and archives and they cherish their legacy. Here we watch Hollywood films and demean our own industry. I felt inspired to add bits of trivia that would enhance my story and also highlight how valuable our industry is. I had to hunt for authentic stories and got most of my dope from two industry insiders – the former director of Lehrein, Sarwar Quddus and Mr. Narayan Srinivasan, the festival director of the MAMI Film Festival.

4. How did the journey from being a spot girl to a writer happen?
It was very gradual. I started writing very early on in life and was freelancing with major dailies while studying. Once I finished my MBA and got a placement with Reliance Big Pictures, life was all about work. It wasn’t until a few years after that that I got back to writing again and one day just sat down to write a story that had been with me for a very long time. That book ended up as Nick of Time. After that, the struggle to find a publisher started. It took me nearly 2 years to find a publisher (after 14 rejections; everyone except Penguin had rejected my book) and I finally got to release it. I was still working full time when I released my first book and sold the movie rights for it and it was only when I got offered my second book that I finally quit my job. I got my first serial a month after I left my job and since then writing is what I’ve been doing. I still consider myself to be a spot girl. My ‘big’ break in films is yet to happen.

5. Films cannot be made without spot boys/girls because…
Who would do all the hard work? Who would make films for passion and not just for the glamour and money?

6. Do tell us a little about what you’re working on at present.
I am a full time (struggling) writer now. My first serial Aur Pyaar Ho Gaya in on air on Zee. I am working on my first film and second serial and of course, the third book. Hopefully by next year this time, I will be more than a spot girl….

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