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Book Review: My So-Called Bollywood Life, by Nisha Sharma

I never thought I'd see myself in a character so much--a little bit of a control freak, someone caught between destiny and choice, someone who has moments of grace but mostly moments of blurting out witty comments...Enter Winnie Mehta.

Winnie has dated a boy named Raj, who she believed was the man who would fulfill a prophecy about her love life...until they break up. Caught between what destiny has predicted for her and what she wants in life, the story explores the life of a high school senior as she navigates her life as a Bollywood movie, relates everything back to Bollywood, and lives out her own destiny.

Nisha Sharma knocks it out of the park, both with her descriptions of our culture and with the story itself. There's something so outlandish about Bollywood movies--the dancing, the songs, the melodrama, the overdone reactions, and the colors--and there's something so seamless about how she weaves it into the story. As she mentions time and again, the love of Bollywood isn't a love of melodrama--it's an admiration of the passion and full-hearted pursuit of desires that makes people relate.

Bollywood is a character, in and of itself, in Winnie's tale.

Winnie rates each movie she watches on a film blog, and makes constant references to movies I grew up with, eliciting both a warm reaction of familiarity and a chuckle at how these movies still impact our lives through a YA book or with the lessons concealed underneath the over-acting by veteran actors we still love despite their lack of subtlety. She frames her lessons and her failures within the context of these movies, which not only entertain the reader but enlighten them and give them more depth into the stress she's feeling. Bollywood and the context with which it is mentioned in the story act as a stabilizing force in an already solid story.

I love how driven Winnie is to succeed in a field (filmmaking) that South Asian women are making strides in now and hopefully will continue to in the future. We needed a strong, sassy, sarcastic, semi-nerdy, impetuous Bollywood heroine who knows where her head is and has a set of steady shoulders to wear it on.

More than anything, I loved the characterization of Winnie, her family, her friends and her loved ones. Each was flawed. Each was real. Each made me laugh, "aww" and anger at their actions. To see an Indian family not ripe with stereotypes (which even I am guilty of writing at times) was refreshing. Also, I needed a serious consultation with Pandit Ohmi (the astrologer) after reading this book!

If I had a starring system on this blog, I would rate this book 5/5 stars. But I'll leave that to Winnie Mehta and her rating of Amar, Akbar, Anthony instead.