The Lives of Others

21 Mar, 2018, Yasser Usman | Open Magazine

Sanjay Dutt’s biographer Yasser Usman on the ennui of hagiographies and the challenge of writing unauthorised biographies

IN THE SMALL town in Uttar Pradesh where I grew up in the 1980s, the only source of entertainment was the escape Bollywood provided. My father and I would often skip into a nearby film hall in the late afternoon to catch the matinee, and later in the evening I would devour film magazines and read about that same movie, its actors, its making, the scandals and controversies surrounding it. I was obsessed. Every month, I would ask my father to borrow and bring home film journals and magazines from the library of the college he taught at. Stories of the magical successes, haunting downfalls and torrid romances of celebrities were part of our dinner table conversations. I was a starry-eyed teenager, and this world fascinated me no end.

Indian autobiographies simply do not have a culture of bare-all honesty. No one wants to fess up to mistakes and mottle their legacy

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