Decoding a Bollywood icon: Cinema scholar Shoma A Chatterji launches her book on Amitabh Bachchan, alongside actor Prosenjit

An insightful and engaging new book on one of the giants of Indian cinema — Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan — was launched in Kolkata last night by veteran cinema scholar and author Dr Shoma A Chatterji, alongside superstar Prosenjit Chatterjee.

Film scholar Dr Shoma A Chatterji, with her book on Amitabh Bachchan
Film scholar Dr Shoma A Chatterji, with her new book Amitabh Bachchan – As The Other, released on March 19, 2024, in Kolkata. Photo: CtoI

The book, titled Amitabh Bachchan – As The Other, has its foreword written by Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, Founder-Director of the Film Heritage Foundation, who was present at the launch, held within the Starmark bookstore at South City Mall. Sudeshna Roy, filmmaker and actor, introduced the author and the book to the audience.

Chatterji, who is an award-winning journalist and author, read out a letter dated March 5, 2024, that Bachchan Sr sent as his participation in the book launch.

The letter was sent by Amitabh Bachchan instead of a video clip that the author had earlier requested. It read: “I commend your talent and efforts, and am genuinely humbled… My best wishes for the debut of your book. May it receive the acclaim and success it deserves. With best wishes, Amitabh Bachchan.”

Elaborating on what drove her to write this book, Chatterji said that she was 80 and Bachchan was 81, so this felt like the right time to capture his life’s work through a book that might be her own last work.

Incidentally, Chatterji has a career of nearly five decades associated with cinema, and is a nationally acknowledged scholar of the film industry.

She also said that she had dedicated the book to Prosenjit, “without informing him at all”, because she believed that under all that stardust, he was a “very, very good [and] grounded human being”, a conclusion based on 25 years of her friendship with the actor.

Prosenjit Chatterjee at book launch
Actor Prosenjit Chatterjee with author Dr Shoma A Chatterji, and renowned Bengali filmmaker Haranath Chakraborty (far right). Photo: CtoI

When he took the mic, Prosenjit said that this book “[will] inspire a lot of actors and it’s going to inspire me also”. The actor, whose interview on his 40-year film career was recently published on Connected to India, said that the subject of this book and its author were both “equally important and experienced” — one of them was an outstanding product of the film industry, and the other looked at cinema from the perspective of journalism.

Drawing a parallel between the careers of Amitabh Bachchan and Soumitra Chattopadhyay (aka Chatterjee), the legend of Bengali cinema who was a regular in Satyajit Ray films, Prosenjit said that both of them had worked across mediums of mass entertainment — radio, stage, screen — and were always among the best in what they did.

Shivendra Singh Dungarpur
Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, Founder-Director of the Film Heritage Foundation, who has written the foreword for the book, at the launch. Photo: CtoI

Books on their careers, for instance a book like Amitabh Bachchan – As The Other, were vital for understanding how they transitioned from one medium to another, adapting to new technologies and remaining at the top of their game, said the Bengali superstar, who has himself been a part of the landmark Hindi film Shanghai and the acclaimed OTT series Jubilee.