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Bollywood, a blonde & lots of ' deewangi'.

In this delightful novel inspired by Kuch Kuch Hota Hai ,kitsch is given asuper cool twist

IT'S all about loving your parents. And seeing mundane life in 70mm technicolor.

Not to mention having your life populated with sindoor, polyester saris and bangles, as you strive to be a good bahu, abstain from alcohol and never ever kiss your man. And having dollops of hysterics dished out by Karan Johar, Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol, and a procession of whining violins in your life.

Such deewanapan can perhaps only be expected to spill into your writing when you have internalised every nakhra and jhatka of Bollywood. Meredith McGuire, author of this hilarious blonde- meets- Bollywood story, runs the online forum BollyWHAT?: The Guide for Clueless Fans of Hindi Film, where film fanatics debate the meaning of deewanapan and other such matters of international importance . At other times, McGuire turns her energies to her doctoral studies in anthropology at the University of Chicago.

McGuire is no Jessica Hines trailing Amitabh Bachchan but she creates the very engaging, very eccentric Meg ( or Meghna, as the character likes to call herself), who has graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Columbia University and has watched Kuch Kuch Hota Hai 18 times.

She wears salwar s, bought from a trip to India, that still smell of stagnant Rajasthani stepwells where they were washed. She is no Gwen Stefani but loves her bindi. Calling Meg- Meghna a Bollywood buff would be a gross understatement.

She knows her Dev D from Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Devdas and Bimal Roy's original.

Meg- Meghna reaches the crushing realisation that her doppelganger is a Swiss girl, an extra she saw in a Bollywood film, who will always be on the sidelines. She is convinced she's destined to a life of geriatric obscurity. At 22, Meg- Meghna panics that if she ever does succeed in life, she will still be a late bloomer, going by the career trajectories of the likes of Drew Barrymore and Britney Spears.

After her magnum opus -- a Salman Rushdie- meets- Nora Jones romance novel called The Maharaja's Kiss -- only gets her rejection letters, Meg- Meghna moves to her parents' home, and spends her days watching movies rented from Lovely Lovely Videos.

But she fails to catch the stardust and remains the metaphorical Bollywood extra.

Throwing in plenty of kitsch and almost setting the novel to a Lata Mangeshkar soundtrack that you can hear as you grin your way through the pages, McGuire brings out the classic clash of stereotypes: ideal Indian values meeting the dysfunctional American family.

Meg- Meghna tries to be the adarsh beti , behen and wannabe bahu.

It's no easy task: Her tamasha kid sister is a telephone sex operator who won't call her didi like in Laga Chunari Mein Daag; her mother isn't quite like Simran's mother in DDLJ and could probably have done a better job playing Linda Hamilton in Terminator II, and her father is a closet Hershey's' eater, who is a curious mix of Homer Simpson and OJ Simpson.

Just then, accompanied by swelling violins, comes along Raj. Of airbrushed perfection, he looks more like Akshay Kumar out of Dhadkan than SRK out of KKHH. Meg - Meghna is hooked. That he is her Hindi professor is of minor consequence.

This is her Kuch Kuch Hota Hai moment. And she prepares for it by attempting to be the hybrid between Aditi in Jaane TuC* Ya Jaane Na and Geet in Jab We Met.

Except that it doesn't turn out to be something that ends in a suhaag raat. And this is where McGuire deconstructs the diasporic desi with flourish. Raj turns out to be a beefeating South African Indian, who, alas, drinks. There's no Pakeezah or Guide in his car, but Justin Timberlake and Lady Gaga. And he can't understand it when Meg- Meghna conforms to ' Indian customs' -- not just for him, but also for his mother's approval -- by not kissing him. He wants to watch Jackie Chan, not Jackie Shroff. Worse, he plagiarises the work he inspires her to write: Bollywood for Beginners.

Along comes the blue- eyed knight in shining armour: Dev, the heir of Lovely Lovely Videos, with peroxide blonde, and a Black Sab- of ' deewangi' bath T- shirt, who hates desis. But he doesn't have beef. He has the SRK- endorsed Pepsi. He likes Jackie Shroff. And gets to kiss Meg- Meghna ( who he calls Kinki ji ) by the time her steadfastness to be the non- drinking, nonkissing Indian girl, has worn off.

My favourite part? The boy who walks away with the girl is the one whose mother's feet she puked on, not the one whose mother's feet she dived coyly to touch. M CGUIRE'S is a coming- of- age novel on identity, what it means not to be fettered by ancient geographies in today's globalised world, the dumb American ( one of the characters refers to Gandhi as the guy who wore little glasses and the diaper) and the diasporic Indian who thinks India is all about dysentery, corruption and poverty, and Bollywood is melodramatic garbage. Most of all, it is a tribute to Karan Johar's Bollywood, which has helped Meg, and one has reason to believe, McGuire, let go of learned cynicism and see everything as ludicrously overstated, yet wonderfully human.

You will put down the book thinking -- will Karan Johar please give McGuire a call? If a Brazilian named Giselle Monteiro could pass for a Punjabi kudi, couldn't McGuire pass for an Anjali? Or perhaps, star is a film titled My Name is Meghna?

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Sep 20, 2009
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