Television

Two books to curl up and read on the weekend: Unfinished and StarStruck

Peter Mukerjea and Priyanka Chopra have penned very readable memoirs

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MUMBAI: Star India in 2000 — like Disney Star India of today — was like a fortress. Nothing got out until the team led by Peter Mukerjea (or Pete or Mukers), its CEO agreed to it. So when he himself pens down his experience working with the organisation for around a decade, you can be sure to get some insights into the Star of that day. 

The challenges the company faced in its formative years, the way he and his merry men got around them, the risks he took, the trust he put in the executives he hand picked, how it staggered around investing hundreds of millions of dollars in a bid to get its digital play right, and how Star India kickstarted its era of unfettered growth – something that continues to date – you will find nuggets of information in the tome. Yes, he just skims over what happened after he left Star, but that is understandable considering StarStruck: Confessions of an Executive is about his time at Star India.

The book is an easy read; written in typical Mukerjea style – pacy and conversational, with his tongue in cheek humour being  thrown in for good measure. Mukerjea has a very British sense of humour. He clarifies many things in the book, like how he regrets not being the one to hire Uday Shankar as his head of Star News; how NDTV and Star parted ways after partnering for a long time (Prannoy Roy wanted editorial control; that was the deal breaker).

How Murdoch himself told him to retain his now ex-wife Indrani as a HR consultant, when he wanted to terminate the professional relationship as he had got romantically linked with her. He also reveals that he gambled when agreeing to the  remuneration Kaun Banega Crorepati host and Indian superstar Amitabh Bachchan was asking for, even though it was way way above the budget that had been allotted. How James Murdoch always had his back. 

It is a must read for all media professionals and students who have taken up a media course. It gives a window to the world of television which has totally transformed today thanks to the increasing  spread of digitisation and of streaming services. It will take you back to a media and entertainment era where life was simpler, and gradually got more complicated with the passage of time. 

Star Struck: Confessions of a TV Executive; Peter Mukerjea, Westland Books pp 278, price Rs 699, hardbound edition)

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PeeCee. Chops. Mimi. Priyanka Chopra. Priyanka Chopra Jonas has been called many names through her life. Going through her recently released memoir Unfinished you will also learn that she had to go through a period in her school life as a sophomore in Newton in the US being labelled a brownie. That she was racially bullied and slurred at in that school. And don’t forget this is the girl who went on to win Miss World in 2000, then conquered Bollywood, working with the biggest stars, before breaking into the tough American music scene and finally making Hollywood her home.

What kept Ms Jonas going through all the ups and downs of her life was the nugget of wisdom her late father Ashok Chopra – whom she doted on – had shared with her when he wanted to shift her to a boarding school La Martiniere. “Be like water. Find the best situation wherever you are and make it work - ” are the words of Bruce Lee her dad had shared with her. 

Priyanka Chopra Jonas has been a bit of an enigma for many a fan of Indian cinema. For many she is Bollywood’s bad child, prone to playing edgy roles, something leading ladies would avoid, and being involved in many a dalliance in real life with folks in the industry. She accepts most of these as true in the book, without going into details of any of them. But what she details in her autobiography is her journey to stardom – first in India, and her struggle to make it big in Hollywood. 

What stands out is her easy writing style – the book is almost conversational, it talks to you. She highlights how she got rock solid family support throughout her career – even when she was not the star she is. How her brother and family forcibly made her enter the Miss Femina India and how against all odds she won in a year which saw others like Lara Datta and Dia Mirza going on to represent India in global beauty pageants. 

Did you know she was a trouble maker in her younger days and later, breaking rules whenever she could? Like keeping her skirt length shorter than permitted in school and sitting on the back bench to hide her legs. Like how she cut her chin badlly aping her father’s shaving ritual. Like how she put a beetle in her father’s ear, requiring a hospital visit. 

Unfinished is broadly divided into four parts; the first one is all about her father and her mother, and her growing up years in India and the US. The second portion is about her road to Miss World. The third part is about her Bollywood journey, and growth as an  international talent, both in music and Hollywood. The fourth one is about her Unicef work and romance with Nick Jonas and then her marriage to him. What she has glossed over are her relationships, her Bollywood experiences – something that many have gossiped about. 

The book is a good fast read. And it will inspire many. A definite buy. 

(Unfinished – A memoir, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Penguin Viking Books, 279 pp)

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