My Unbelievable Journey with Indian Cinema by Indian Movie News editor SA Nathan takes you behind-the-scenes for a insider's personal views of the Bollywood film industry.
Few can tell you what it's like to have an evening ritual of drinks and conversation with South Indian superstar Rajnikanth, or take the public bus home with Kamal Hassan after a long day of shopping in Singapore. These are exactly the kinds of anecdotes found in My Unbelievable Journey with Indian Cinema, the memoirs of SA Nathan, the managing editor of the Singapore-based magazine Indian Movie News (IMN) magazine.
Launched in 1952, IMN is the top-selling Indian movie magazine in Southeast Asia, and it's estimated to be the oldest continuously published Tamil cinema magazine in the world. Having helmed the publication for 25 years, Nathan has been in the perfect position to learn the ins and outs of the South Indian film industry, and also build close relationships with its biggest stars.
What’s more, his friendship with these renowned actors paved the way for him to organise a series of much talked about concerts in Singapore in the 1990s, featuring the likes of Indian screen legend Sivaji Ganesan and Kamal Hassan, not to mention the only show in which Rajnikanth has performed onstage.
Born in Klang, Selangor, Nathan, now 57, has spent much of his life in Singapore, making a name for himself regionally and in India. Speaking at the KL launch of his book, Nathan shared that his motivation for writing was twofold: first, to tell the story of Tamil cinema, and second, to share his treasured memories of his friendships with India’s biggest celebrities.
“I am very proud to have been with IMN all these years, but I wanted to be remembered for more than being an editor. I wanted to leave behind a legacy,” he said.
My Unbelievable Journey with Indian Cinema features chapters on the history of Indian and, specifically, Tamil cinema, highlighting some of the people who have been instrumental in building the industry over decades. Nathan touches not just on Bollywood or Hindi films, but also on various regional language movies such as Telugu, Malayalam, Marathi, Bengali, Bhojpuri and Oriya.
“I’ve delved into many aspects of Indian cinema in this book,” he said. “Very few people have written on Tamil cinema, so I wanted to make a difference. That is why I decided that the book wouldn’t just be about my experiences, but about the industry itself. It took me nearly a year to do the necessary research and then write the book, but I’m very glad that I did.”
On the personal front, the memoir details Nathan’s relationships with particular industry greats, with him sharing not just his experiences with them but also his professional and personal observations of them. This includes chapters dedicated to Sivaji, Kamal Hassan, Rajnikanth, composer Illaiyaraaja, veteran actress Padmini and singer SP Balasubrahmanyam.
Bringing Nathan’s stories to life is a large selection of photographs from over the years, depicting his various interactions with notable personalities in the Indian film scene. These include candid shots of him sharing a laugh with Sivaji, pictures of Rajnikanth and his wife Latha attending Nathan’s wedding anniversary party, and notably one of him with the revered MG Ramachandran (MGR) where the actor and politician had playfully removed his trademark sunglasses and placed them on Nathan.
“In the course of my career, especially while doing the shows, I got to know these stars and moved around with them, so I saw a side of them that others rarely see,” Nathan explained. “I am very lucky to have had the opportunities I did. This book is my way of sharing those experiences with everyone else.”
"My Unbelievable Journey with Indian Cinema" is available at all major bookstores. For details, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.