Dear Mr Bachchan: A Bollywood Story by Saurav Dutt is an interesting and unique fictional tale that seems like a work of non-fiction. The story features a twelve-year-old boy from the slums of Dharavi, Mumbai. Being in Mumbai, he is fascinated by the charm of legendary actor Amitabh Bachchan. The boy is Vikram ‘Don’ Chopra. He is so much awed by the movie Don (of Mr. Bachchan) that he uses Don as his middle name. As father, as son, he learnt watching Mr Bachchan’s movies from his father, who died in a car accident in Mumbai. He misses his father and finds solace while watching Bachchan movies. As one delves deeper, it is evident that the boy had great bonding with his father. It was his father who talked about dreams, their source emanated from movies.
The backdrop of the novel is fascinating. To make it more surreal and optimistic, the author deliberately chose Mumbai as the major city in the novel. Vikram spends his time watching movies of Mr Bachchan and also works in a salon and polish shoes to earn for his family which comprises of his mother, sister, and an elder brother Rajan, who is always involved into bad and suspicious actitivities to make money.
The story chugs ahead like a Bollywood movie. It hardly distinguishes itself from it. At the façade, one can make out as the small poor boy wanted to meet Mr Bachchan and become an actor like that. But the thing that is missing at large is guidance. His father is dead and he is at his own in many ways.
The book is neither a semi-biography nor a tribute to the legendary actor; well it shows how the mass of India is connected to him, through his movies. One fact stands tall that the people of India draw courage and hope from the movies of Mr Bachchan. The characterization of the boy Vikram is intriguing; he is rather shuttling between his dreams and his fondness for the actor. He dreams big, and that is not a sin. But conflicts rise up when his mother, sister, uncle, and elder brother, in fact the whole of the slum mocks him. He tries to rise up, he wants to move ahead, but something distracts him.
Other than deep underlying messages, the story side is also good. Readers will be fascinated to see how the small boy learns to write letters to Mr Bachchan and waits every Sunday at the Darshan to get a glimpse of the actor. His encounters with the security guards are really funny and worth noting his mettle.
The novel captures the journey of this boy from the slums who strives hard to get noticed by the actor. He writes, he attends Darshans, and one day an opportunity strikes when his farmer uncle is being invited to Mr Bachchan’s house. This boy gets his break in one of the movies of Mr Bachchan as an extra. However, things go awry – why and how – that’s another story within the story. In fact, all aspects of this novel are fascinating. Humour, heartbreak, and hope runs like banter in the backdrop.
For Bollywood and Amitabh Bachchan fans, this novel is more than an introduction to the legend. They can relate the story as how the actor reacts and behaves when confronted with one of his super fans. It is a lovely story with a positive ending. A highly recommended novel. Saurav Dutt’s flair for balanced narration shines throughout the novel. A great work!