I’m not sure how many of you UAers know this or not, but in addition to being Editor of this website, I’m also a law student and so am surrounded by readings 24-7! Now that you know, you can imagine my excitement when I was introduced to some fiction books on Bollywood written by a talented writer in the UK, Puneet Bhandal. The books – the Bollywood Series – were a nice distraction from the array of cases I’ve been reading as a law student, and were especially fun to read since I’m an avid Bollywood fan.
The first book in the series is called Starlet Rivalry. The second you open the book, you will be immediately hooked to the tale. Although the book is fiction, it feels more like you’ve opened a Filmfare magazine and are hearing the latest juicy Bollywood gossip. Teenage fans will adore this book and it was a great start to the series. Next in the series is Double Take, which still is a fictional tale, but focuses more on plot twists and turns to build up to a surprise ending. The third book in the trilogy is Stuntman, which focuses more on the stunt doubles for the heroes of Bollywood. The books don’t have to be read in sequence, so pick and choose whichever you find intriguing. Having read them all, I recommend you read all of them!
I had a chance to interview the author, Puneet Bhandal, which you can read below to find out how these books came into being and what the future holds for this talented writer.
UA: You are one of the first authors to take on Bollywood as a subject for a fictional book geared towards teens. When did you realize you wanted to write for this market? Do you have prior experience in journalism/writing? Please share some background with our readers!
Puneet: I never set out to write teenage fiction – I just realised that there were no Bollywood fiction books for children and then began doing some research. I spoke to many agents and publishers who shared the opinion that there was a gap in the market and potential demand for Bollywood fiction for young adults.
I used to be a Bollywood film journalist although I had branched out into more mainstream journalism. However, my knowledge of Bollywood movies and the ways of the film industry remained strong so I always felt confident that I could do such books justice.
UA: Have you always been a Bollywood buff, and when did you realize that Bollywood would make a great focus for the series?
Puneet: I have grown up watching Bollywood movies, even though I was born and brought up in the UK. I have always found them to be great, light entertainment. When I was young, I used to want to read books on India and I used to go to the library to read books on the history of Bollywood. Film magazines were another pastime!
I just realised one day that there needs to be Bollywood fiction for those youngsters who like Bollywood. It’s a great way of getting film buffs to read.
UA: What are some of your favorite Bollywood movies? Which movie do you wish you had been in as a lead actress?
Puneet: I like quite a few films, I grew up when Sholay was released and that has to rate highly on my list. Of the more recent films, I have enjoyed a few of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s movies like Khamoshi, Devdas, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. I like the romance and drama of Bollywood, but I am not a big fan of Bollywood action or comedy.
The movie I would have loved to be a lead actress in is Guide. I love that film, it was so different. Waheeda Rehman was fabulous in it.
UA: Starlet Rivalry, your first book, is a great introduction to the glitz and glam of Bollywood. If Starlet Rivalry were made into a feature film or a TV series in Bollywood, who would you cast in the lead roles?
Puneet: I would have taken Aishwariya Rai in the role of Bela, the lead character but I think she is a tad too old to be cast as a teenager now, so perhaps Katrina Kaif is a better choice. I would actually opt for a totally new face if given complete freedom. I think Mallika Sherawat would be good in the role of Monica. For Marc Fernandez, I think John Abraham would work.
UA: Double Take, your second book in the series, kept the reader guessing and constantly intrigued. (Without spoiling the ending) would you say you knew exactly what events you wanted in the story as you began writing, or did it evolve further as you wrote?
Puneet: I did know how I wanted Double Take to end, but I had to plot and plan the twists and turns the book takes as I went along. It was quite a tricky book to write!
UA: Your latest novel in the “Bollywood Series” is Stuntman. Why did you choose to write on the otherwise overlooked Bollywood stuntmen? Do you feel that they are the unsung heroes of Bollywood?
Puneet: I do a lot of work in schools with my books, and I wanted my third book to have a male character in the lead as the first two books got so much attention from the boys – to my surprise.
I opted for a stuntman because I thought it would be nice to focus on someone other than a hero. So many people work behind the scenes to make Bollywood films special, but only a handful of people get the praise. Stuntmen risk their lives for movies, but they get such little reward.
Puneet: I found it easier to write the second two. When I began writing Starlet Rivalry, I felt like I was stabbing in the dark – I had to start over about three times. By the time I began writing Double Take and Stuntman, I felt like I knew exactly what I was doing.
UA: Do you know if any of the Bollywood stars have had a chance to read your books? If yes, then what was their response? If no, then which actors do you wish would read the book?
Puneet: I am not sure if any Bollywood stars have read my books yet, but I would love to find out what the kings of Bollywood – Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan – would make of them.
UA: I know that you self-publish. Have you found that it is difficult and tedious work to not only write the books, but also to print and publish them? Or, do you prefer the benefits of self-publishing, such as having complete control over your work?
Puneet: I like the fact that I have complete control over my books – from storyline to the illustrations. However, I find that when I have done the hard work involved in writing the books, the hard work in fact is just about to begin!
Printing is the easy part since I have a lot of typesetting and design experience. But publishing them is tough. Marketing, sales and promotion are very time-consuming, I sometimes wish I could get others to do it all for me, or at least work with me.
UA: Can your readers look forward to more books in the series later this year? Any other message for your fans?
Puneet: I don’t aim to write any more books this year. Now that I have my trilogy, I am focusing on spreading the word and trying to make my books available in as many different countries as I can.
Thank you for letting me reach out to people in the US. I hope the books will be enjoyed by all those who love Bollywood.
UA: Aw, you’re welcome and thank you for taking the time to do this interview!
Books are available for purchase on Amazon.com