"This book comes the closest to understanding him"
The interest in biographies and memoirs is always dependent on their subjects.
In the fascinating realm of Indian cinema, actors, and filmmakers are lauded for their onscreen magic.
Audiences relish their persona on the silver screen, where they portray stories, inhabiting the worlds and emotions of vibrant characters.
However, when these famous stars project their thoughts and feelings onto paper, it can be an entirely different connection.
It is gratifying and exciting for fans to read about the lives of the stars they idolise.
Delving into these books, DESIblitz presents 15 excellent Bollywood biographies and memoirs you will love to read.
Romancing With Life – Dev Anand (2007)
In his early 80s, the evergreen legend of Indian cinema, Dev Anand published his official autobiography.
Dev Sahab shone in Bollywood’s Golden Era in the ’50s and ’60s. He continued to work until his death in December 2011.
As such, he enthralled multiple generations. Millions enjoy reading about his fascinating and inspiring life.
Romancing With Life begins with Dev Sahab’s childhood.
It chronicles his struggle to achieve stardom and his relationships, including his doomed romance with Suraiya.
Above all, Dev Sahab’s undying, positive zest for life shines through in every chapter.
King of Bollywood: Shah Rukh Khan and the Seductive World of Indian Cinema – Anupama Chopra (2007)
Shah Rukh Khan holds the prestigious title of ‘King Khan.’ Having mesmerised fans for over 30 years, the superstar has a massive global following.
Anupama Chopra’s biography of SRK shines a light on his many achievements and his amazing career.
Praising the book, SRK enthused:
“Whoever reads this book will have a clear and insightful understanding of Bollywood and of course, me.”
As well as this, the book contains interesting stories about SRK’s personal life.
These tales encompass the Pathaan (2023) actor courting his wife Gauri Khan and his industrial friendships.
I’ll Do It My Way: The Incredible Journey of Aamir Khan – Christina Daniels (2012)
Bollywood’s ‘Mr Perfectionist’ Aamir Khan is infamous for seldom interacting with audiences away from the screen.
The actor does not attend award functions or use social media.
Some of his fans are eager to know more about Aamir and his life. To satisfy their wish, all they need to do is read I’ll Do It My Way by Christina Daniels.
This beautifully written book is adorned with interviews from the colleagues and co-stars of Aamir, who speak about their experiences of working with him.
Not only that but the book also divulges into his career. It explores his bravery in choosing unconventional roles and going against the mainstream tide of Indian cinema.
Christina described the journey of writing the book as “amazing”. That is evident from the engaging pace and content of the biography.
The Substance and the Shadow – Dilip Kumar (2014)
Dilip Kumar is a Bollywood icon. Many credit him with his pioneering method acting within Indian cinema.
The Substance and the Shadow is in Dilip Sahab’s voice but is written by Udayatara Nayar.
Dharmendra, Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan, Madhuri Dixit Nene, and Priyanka Chopra Jonas all attended the book launch.
In the book, Dilip Sahab unveils his childhood, enigmatic career, and his philanthropy.
He also dedicates an entire chapter to his past romance Madhubala.
Within the memoir, the legend discusses the social responsibility of an actor:
“The actor who is adored by millions of people owes something to society, which has given him an elevated and highly respected position.”
Authentic, insightful, and entertaining, The Substance and the Shadow is among the best Bollywood biographies and memoirs.
Rajesh Khanna: The Untold Story of India’s First Superstar – Yasser Usman (2014)
When one talks about yesteryear superstars of Indian cinema, Rajesh Khanna tops the list. The term ‘superstar’ was coined after him in Bollywood.
During his lifetime, Rajesh hardly ever spoke about his personal life. Yasser Usman’s book provides readers with a unique insight into the complex actor.
The book documents the trials and tribulations of Rajesh Khanna. From being infamously late to sets to his several failed relationships, Rajesh Khanna has it all.
Iconic screenwriter Salim Khan speaks about the book’s depiction of the Anand (1971) star:
“Nobody really knew Rajesh Khanna. This book comes the closest to understanding him.”
Rajesh Khanna innately encapsulates the superstar’s fame and loneliness.
And Then One Day – Naseeruddin Shah (2014)
Known for his outspoken and blunt views, Naseeruddin Shah wears his heart on his sleeve.
His unfiltered book makes for one of Bollywood’s most original biographies and memoirs.
And Then One Day is decorated with witty anecdotes about Naseeruddin’s feudal education to his turn in the spotlight.
There are moving portrayals and poignant revelations too. An Amazon review by MJ Aravind reads:
“A great read. Went through it in a single sitting.”
“A rare occurrence for me. A true autobiography; not just a celebrity puff job.”
MJ’s review speaks volumes of the book’s sincerity. It paints a shimmering picture of Naseeruddin’s work which will be celebrated for years to come.
Mohammed Rafi: Golden Voice of the Silver Screen – Sujata Dev (2015)
Sujata Dev pens this heartwarming biography of playback singing legend Mohammed Rafi. It is with the official authorisation of his son Shahid Rafi.
Published 35 years after Rafi Sahab’s death in 1980, this book captures the highs and lows of his life.
Upon reading it, people can identify with the great man behind all of the soul-stirring renditions.
Rafi Sahab gave playback for acting legend Dilip Kumar in 77 songs.
Dilip Sahab wrote the foreword for the book. He commends Sujata’s efforts in highlighting Rafi Sahab’s life:
“I can see the author has put in painstaking labour to bring out the story of [Rafi Sahab]’s life and to highlight the exceptional contribution he made to Indian film music.”
This gracious compliment signifies the genuineness of Mohammed Rafi.
It is this authenticity that reminds Indian music aficionados of why they love and admire Rafi Sahab.
Rekha: The Untold Story – Yasser Usman (2016)
Any list of glamorous, vivacious Bollywood divas is incomplete without Rekha.
Somewhat of a recluse, Rekha remains an enigma to her fans. Yasser Usman’s biography of her gives audiences a chance to catch a glimpse of the woman behind the vamp.
A particular focus of the book is Rekha’s alleged affair with Amitabh Bachchan. Rekha: An Untold Story covers both sides of the argument.
It includes quotes from both Rekha and Amitabh, highlighting the balance of which the book can be proud. Amitabh is quoted from his 1998 interview with Simi Garewal.
He refutes claims of moving in with Rekha:
“There were claims that I had moved in with her in her house, which is just a big joke.”
Rekha: An Untold Story presents Rekha from her brash and bold days to her elegant and majestic years. It is an unputdownable biography.
Khullam Khulla – Rishi Kapoor & Meena Iyer (2017)
Appropriately named after one of his hit songs, Khullam Khulla is the quintessential no-nonsense Rishi Kapoor.
Rishi writes this searingly honest autobiography along with Meena Iyer. He details his early years, his opulent time in filmdom, and his brief links with the underworld.
The Bobby (1973) star also admits that he bought his first award.
He dives into his initial fraught relationship with Amitabh Bachchan and his illogical dislike for Rajesh Khanna.
Rishi is also generous in crediting his music directors, lyricists, and co-actors for their support during his career.
Promoting the book, Rishi did an interview with Rajeev Masand. He starts by telling Rishi how enjoyable he found the book:
“I finished the book in one go. I started it in the morning and finished in the evening. It’s just such an enjoyable read.”
Brash, unapologetic, and magnanimous, Khullam Khulla is an ode to Rishi Kapoor.
An Unsuitable Boy – Karan Johar & Poonam Saxena (2017)
Co-written with Poonam Saxena, ace Bollywood filmmaker Karan Johar writes this compelling memoir. Several may be aware of Karan’s vast repertoire of filmmaking.
However, the producer-director is unafraid to showcase his experiences of love and sex, as well as friendships and fallouts.
Karan also voices his opinion on the direction in which the film industry is heading.
In An Unsuitable Boy, Karan maturely comments on societal expectations of a film celebrity:
“You’re expected to be happy. You’re expected to be sociable. You’re expected to be there for the people.
“These expectations can drain you.”
The memoir is filled with pragmatic statements such as this.
Whether on the couch or behind the camera, Karan has established himself as an outgoing, exuberant individual.
An Unsuitable Boy makes him more vulnerable and uncovers the mask of one of Bollywood’s most loved filmmakers.
Raj Kapoor: The One and Only Showman – Ritu Nanda (2017)
Widely revered as the ultimate showman of Indian cinema, Raj Kapoor is a renowned actor, producer, and director.
Raj Sahab never wrote an autobiography in his lifetime. Classic Indian film connoisseurs yearn to know him on a personal level.
They can fulfill that desire with Raj Kapoor: The One and Only Showman. The book is presented by none other than Raj Sahab’s older daughter Ritu Nanda.
The One and Only Showman contains rare interviews from Raj Sahab himself, as well as his father Prithviraj Kapoor, and his wife Krishna Kapoor.
This interesting biography also comprises recollections of Raj Sahab’s colleagues Dev Anand and Lata Mangeshkar who reminisce about their contemporaries.
If one wants to know Raj Kapoor on a human level, this influential book is a good place to start with.
Guru Dutt: An Unfinished Story – Yasser Usman (2020)
The saga of Guru Dutt remains a web of mysticism and tragedy. The talented filmmaker made classics such as Pyaasa (1957) and Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959).
He had a tumultuous marriage to the singer Geeta Dutt and he took his own life on October 10, 1964. He was only 39.
Yasser Usman tackles Guru Sahab’s life through the lens of his sister Lalitha Lajmi.
Yasser expresses the director’s story with confidence and care. He is sensitive and compassionate as he describes the Guru Sahab’s adulation as well as his failing mental health.
Arguably, it is Guru Sahab and Geeta Ji’s relationship that takes centre stage. The book tenderly explains how Guru Sahab was unable to balance his marriage with his work.
Guru Dutt: An Unfinished Story is a tale of a couple bound by love, yet broken by art.
For that, Guru Sahab’s story is unforgettable and heart-wrenching.
Unfinished – Priyanka Chopra Jonas (2021)
Priyanka Chopra Jonas is one of the most recognised film faces in the world. She has created an indelible imprint on Hollywood as well as Indian cinema.
Her elegance and poise know no bounds which was emphaised by her ‘Miss World’ triumph in 2004.
Unfinished tells her remarkable story in her own words. Priyanka discloses her inspiring childhood of being raised by two army doctors.
She then unexpectedly found fame through Indian beauty pageants that aided her in becoming an actress.
Unfinished also lifts the lid on some of the unsavoury elements of Bollywood. Priyanka unabashedly breaks her silence on uncomfortable experiences.
Sassy, rebellious, and bold, Unfinished is Priyanka telling her story as only she can.
Pregnancy Bible – Kareena Kapoor Khan & Aditi Shah Bhimjyani (2021)
Kareena Kapoor Khan joins forces with Aditi Shah Bhimjyani to create a thought-provoking and helpful guide for new mothers.
The Omkara (2006) actress has set benchmarks for staying relevant in Bollywood despite being a married mother.
In Pregnancy Bible, Kareena reveals her cravings and her experiences with morning sickness.
She also highlights postpartum effects and breastfeeding.
Coming from an acclaimed actress, this knowledge can be grasped better, especially if the readers are fans of Kareena.
Tina Sequeira, from Women’s Web, expresses her happiness that Kareena did not sugarcoat her experiences:
“I was sceptical when I first picked up the book and wondered if Kareena’s pregnancy experiences would be whitewashed to make her seem extraordinary.
“And I was glad to discover she didn’t go down that route.”
Pregnancy Bible is much more than what its title merely suggests. It is a relatable memoir that educates and entertains.
Sanjeev Kumar: The Actor We All Loved – Uday Jariwala & Reeta Ramamurthy Gupta (2022)
Sanjeev Kumar is a hugely respected actor. He was one of the most popular Bollywood performers of the ’70s and ’80s.
The Actor We All Loved provides readers with an original glimpse into Sanjeev’s path-breaking story. The book prides itself on his versatile acting and jolly humour.
It also contains personal essays written by Sanjeev’s co-stars including Sharmila Tagore and Tanuja.
In the book, Sanjeev is quoted regarding his self-control:
“I have always been able to control myself.”
This admirable sense of control is certainly visible in Sanjeev’s staggering body of work which is immortalised via this stunning biography.
The biographies and memoirs of celebrities are always a treat for their fans.
More so when the material is based on Bollywood stars. In the glitz and glamour of the film industry, it is easy to forget that these icons are human beings too.
When their books come out, their fans can connect with them on a personal basis.
This material is inspiring, relatable, and even better when they are dripping with honesty and brashness.
These books deserve to be preserved and read multiple times over.