Bombay Duck Is A Fish by Kanika Dhillon

Bombay Duck Is A Fish is an impressive debut by Kanika Dhillon. Her protagonist, Neki Brar, a small town girl from Amritsar moves to Mumbai to make it as a filmmaker in Bollywood. She finds a flat and her first job in Mumbai easily enough but trials follow soon after. Life on a film set is chaotic and Neki discovers a knack for showing up at the wrong place at the wrong time. Gradually, the naive girl metamorphoses into a shrewd Assistant Director and starts climbing the ladder of success. Little does she suspect that she will find herself, not many months later, standing on the terrace of her building, a bottle of wine and her diary in hand, thinking about how best to jump off.

As Creative Head at Red Chillies Entertainment, the author is no stranger to bright arc lights, or to the dark shadows created in their wake. She tells an intelligent, engaging tale laced with dark humour by painting vivid pictures about real life mayhem on a film set, which by implication, is a fleeting illusion at best. Just like all things Bollywood. Nothing is what it seems, quite like the self-explanatory title; that’s the whole point that the author appears to be making. But a variety of stereo-types speckle the pages: shallow actors, godfathers, affairs galore and petty politicking. Despairing professionals contemplating suicide and ghostly figures in white, smiling mysteriously complete the picture!

The book is a must read for Bollywood hopefuls who will be given a rare glimpse into the supposed glamour associated with film-making without having to live the grind. Unabashedly and unapologetically dedicated to Shah Rukh Khan, the author’s employer, Bombay Duck Is A Fish is a book about reality, struggle, ethics and hope. It is also a book about unfulfilled dreams, failures and weaknesses. Mostly it is the first draft of a script waiting to grow up into a film. A sense of déjà vu constantly trails the reader. Possibly because some of the characters, incidents, situations and scenarios may have been borrowed from earlier depictions on celluloid.

What really works for the book is Kanika’s simple style of writing and the obvious satire.The unexpected twist in the end, however, comes as a bit of let-down. Especially since the author has previously acknowledged that she is, “a die-hard happily ever after person, who believes in magic, miracles, heroes and superheroes. If you think too rationally, you will never be able to take the leap of faith.” Why, then, the leap off the ledge, Ms Dhillon?

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