Priyanka Sinha Jha is one of the most reputed and respected names in the Indian journalism space. She’s been associated with some of the biggest brands as a journalist and no wonder, the entire entertainment fraternity respects her. She’s also a famous author who’s earlier written the critically-acclaimed book “Supertraits of Superstars: Success Secrets Of Bollywood’s Brightest”. Right now, she’s gaining all the love and appreciation from the industry regarding her latest book titled ‘Folk Tales From Bollywood: Adventures In Tinsel. During an exclusive conversation with IWMBuzz, she got candid about her experience. Read to know more –

When was the first time the idea of writing this book came into your mind?

I had earlier written Supertraits of Superstars, which was a non-fiction, self-help book based on the inspirational traits of some key Bollywood stars. It was quite well received. And then I had been toying with the idea of writing fictional stories set in Bollywood for some time, but I never could find the time. Then it was during the Lockdown this journey began with me regaling friends and family with anecdotes about celebrities to lighten the mood during the Pandemic and then, I thought, to myself–why not use real life as a springboard to spin fictional stories about imagined characters who live in the world of show business. So since there were no distractions, I started writing these stories down. And thus was born Folk Tales From Bollywood.

What was the main inspiration behind writing this?

As Editor of Society magazine and then HT Cafe followed by being the Editor of Screen and curator of the Star Screen Awards, I have had the opportunity to interact with and observe celebrities from different fields–artists, musicians, businessmen, politicians, socialites and so on. And in all these years, the popularity of actors, Bollywood stars in particular is unmatched. That race to be the most popular, controls practically everything in their lives. The book was inspired by people’s constant curiosity about knowing what goes on behind the scenes in this glamorous world of movies and of course the fact that even the smallest, most mundane detail becomes such a dramatic revelation when it concerns film celebrities. For instance a minor bruise sustained by an actor or actress will play out as a grave gym injury. It was quite fascinating (for me) to observe these kinds of things closely and in many ways it forms the basis of Folk Tales From Bollywood.

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Bollywood is said to be a world of mystery and hence there’s an element of curiosity always around it. During your initial days in the industry, were you taken aback or shocked by any of the stories?

I have always been fascinated by the contradictory nature of Bollywood fame–on the one hand, people worship actors/actresses, and on the other hand, they can imagine the wildest things to be true about them because well, they are actors! And this is rarely true of celebrities from other fields such as say politics or business or even sports. This dichotomy can be quite amusing to experience for an inside observer such as myself. I was not taken aback or shocked. Instead, I gathered many nuggets throughout my career that I nurtured as seeds for a work of fiction to let them bloom into stories in my book, Folk Tales From Bollywood.

There are 10 such tales in your book. Which one among them has been the most surprising?

The one that while writing it was most fascinating for me was Love Bungalow about a veteran star and his shenanigans because it is the only story that has a touch of Retro Bollywood, the romantic yesteryears of cinema when stars were Larger-Than-Life. The others like Baby Boon, Arty Smarty are more in the here and now, working industrial complex Bollywood. They are charming too, albeit in a more contemporary setting when stars see themselves more as brands than real people. And I believe that the stories, R.I.P , Baby Boon and Thappad Ki Goonj, are perhaps ones that will surprise readers the most.

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You have been a successful journalist and well, when it comes to information, many times, you have had it before anyone else. Has anyone ever tried to intimidate you for the same because they had a threat that it would disrupt their narrative?

There have been occasions when as the Editor of Screen, one had information of some big deals being signed before the world knew or of a potential break-up waiting to happen but one has to be judicious and also compassionate with other people’s lives. Sometimes the rush to publish something about a star’s life before anyone else to get more views can be terribly misleading and tragic –something we saw after Sushant Singh Rajput’s death. People may have requested to not be critical of a movie or a new talent–their son or daughter but I have not faced any intimidation as such. Although yes, actors would be upset when they were not given awards and on a few occasions they’d sulk and not speak with me/or members of the team for a long time. But, then that is the nature of showbusiness.

When you decided to write the stories and put them out in public, were you ever in two minds regarding any of the stories?

When it comes to factual reporting, most often celebrity related news writes itself and it is impossible to not run a big story. However, with fiction, one can go anywhere. So that aspect was very liberating when writing Folk Tales From Bollywood. However, since all 10 stories are rooted in showbiz reality, I had to ensure that they stood on their own as works of fiction. Meray Paas Maa Hai, Baby Boon, Arty Smarty, R.I.P, Director Bhola Bhala, Sibling Saga, Pyar, PR Aur Purana Chawal, Love Bungalow, Papa Kehte Hain or Thappad Ki Goonj are all works of fiction that using reality as a springboard. So I didn’t really have second thoughts about any of them. They explore the universal human emotions eg Arty Smarty is about a director making a work choice that he is not very happy with, or Thappad Ki Goonj is about avenging humiliation, Meray Pass Maa Hai is about a star who puts his love for his mother to good use-to help him out of a tough situation. So for me the challenge was to keep it all very familiar and relatable while fictionalising reality.

Lastly, tell us about some of the interesting reactions that you have already received for your book?

Some members from the fraternity who have glanced through the book have all agreed that such instances do happen in Bollywood. But the funny thing is that even many Bollywood people are surprised when I tell them that I have created fictional stories. They are taken aback as it seems almost real to them. So for me, that reaction was a great validation of sorts. The book reviews so far have been positive, again a validation that I have been able to recreate the world of showbusiness with authenticity.

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