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A Treat for Cinema lovers

We are our own individual personalities. We are brought up like individual thinking men; we don't meddle in each other's lives. But we are like Sicilians: when you need us we gang up. We are like the Corleones in The Godfather."Randhir Kapoor, thus grandly but aptly sums up the legendary status of the Kapoor clan in the Indian film pantheon.

Madhu Jain, in her biography 'The Kapoors' has attempted the Herculean task of weaving a compelling saga of the lives of four generations of this legendary dynasty. Despite the plethora of facts, events and cinematic references doled out with a generous hand, the book is extremely engrossing and eminently readable. Also, the delineation of the life and times of these colorful actors never descends to gossipy kitsch. In fact the book has all the elements of a Shakespearean tragedy. The main protagonists are the Kapoor men with their awe-inspiring and charismatic personalities but they all suffer from a tragic flaw - hedonism. 'Good food, good booze and good living-our life revolves around it' says Randhir Kapoor. This excess translates into the 'family curse' of alcoholism and other maladies which is their nemesis.

The book is divided into three parts aptly called 'The Patriarch', 'The Consolidators'and 'The Inheritors'. The first part focuses on the life of Prithviraj Kapoor, the second on his sons- Raj, Shammi and Shashi while the third part details the life of the third generation of Randhir, Rishi and Rajiv and the fourth generation of Karisma and Kareena. But at no point does this well-researched biography become just a dry factual tome of information.

Jain has used a free-flowing narrative which provides the reader an insight into the grand Kapoor passion for cinema and theatre. She dwells upon their boundless hospitality encapsulated in the colorful phrase 'gadi vi tyar tay roti vi tyar'. The reader is given a peep into a world of lesser known facts about this 'filmi' family - the lifelong affair with food, 'Black label' and music, the academic failures, the strong family-ties, the obsessive dependence on the Kapoor wives, the genuine acceptance of all religions, the socialist idealism, the abiding love for Prithvi theatres et al. But this is done with none of the nascent voyeurism one would associate with such an exercise. Jain displays a rare depth and sensitivity as she goes beyond the outer 'showman' persona of the Kapoors and lays bare the vulnerable inner core. Raj Kapoor's complex about his short stature is highlighted with humor "Mujhse milne aayee thi aur heel mein".

The biography achieves a first in that it brings within its ambit the fortunes and careers of nine Kapoors (twelve if you include star wives Geeta Bali, Babita and Neetu Singh) spanning four generations and seven decades. In doing so, it also charts the growth of Indian cinema from the silent era to the first talkie Alam Ara and from there on to Bollywood cinema in its present avatar. The gallery of rare photographs add a riveting visual dimension to the narrative. The book is undoubtedly a treat for all cinema lovers.

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