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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 



Color Me Rich: Fact, Fiction or ‘Faction’

Color Me Rich: Fact, Fiction or ‘Faction’

Mohan Deep Chandiramani, who never uses his last name, was in college during my time, only he was 3-4 years my senior. I do not recall meeting him then. We met some ten years after I had finished college, and both of us had become freelance journalists. I did not know even then that he was also a poet, short-story writer, novelist and playwright, both in Sindhi and English. Whereas I confined myself to writing mainly about the arts, he often came-up with sensational exposés about crime and most wanted criminals. Though I did not belong to the gossip/scandal/exposé bandwagon, I often wondered about the sources of these stories. But, somehow, I never got around to asking any Stardust (the monthly magazine known to break scandals) journo or Blitz (the weekly tabloid newspaper reincarnated in the film Bombay Velvet as Glitz) staffer where they got their stories from. Of course, we could all guess, but it would still be a guess. Mohan Deep did many such stories. Maybe one day, he will reveal his sources. Those were the 1970s and 80s. Jump to 2015.

Rich by all standards, writer, and now Feng Shui consultant too, Mohan Deep has just published what should be his 10th book in English, and his third novel, called Color Me Rich. It is about the ups and downs in the life of a struggling young artist, Akash Saigal, who is accused of killing his wife, Zen. Zen? Remember Feng Shui? It will be released this week in Mumbai by writer-director-producer Mahesh Bhatt, who was also in the same college at the same time as us. Color Me Rich comes after Five Foolish Virgins (2013, fiction), which itself came after a 12-year hiatus, Deep’s last publication before it being Feng Shui for the Rich and Famous (2001). The list includes biographies of Indian cinema’s Venus, Madhubala (1996), tragedy queen actress Meena Kumari (1998) and sultry seductress Rekha (1999). All three contained some unsavoury material, coupled with a lot of biographical details.

Mohan had edited a publication called Suvidha Express, and I had contributed some articles to it, at his invitation. When he was working on the Madhubala and Meena Kumari bios, he asked me if I had any info, and I did pass him some stuff. He duly acknowledged my contribution and gave me an autographed copy of each book, too. When he published the Rekha biography, I was based in Singapore and had no knowledge about it. After my return to India in 2004, over a bite, in suburban Mumbai restaurant, where he had invited me, he told me that the creatively titled ‘EuRekha’ had got him into a lot of trouble. He also mentioned that he had taken up Feng Shui as a vocation, and had almost totally given up journalism.

The late 90s, when EuRekha was published, was also the time when he wrote the historical fiction play, Nehru and the Tantrik Woman, based on Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s relationship with a godwoman, Sharada Mata, with a key element being Nehru having a son with her, and Sharada Mata giving the child up for adoption. Not surprisingly, the Stage Performances Scrutiny Board of the Government of Maharashtra refused to approve it for staging, though Mohan declares that he had his facts right, a result of in-depth research.  

One would have thought that after several brushes with censorship bodies, sensitive biography subjects and vociferous succeeding family members of those whose life-stories he chronicled, he would have kept away from such factual temptations and stuck to pure fiction. So, is Color Me Rich pure fiction?  Says Mohan, “The similarities between the real life murder case of Hema Upadhyay (née Hirani), and the plot of my novel, are increasingly uncanny. Hema's parents have openly accused their son-in-law, artist Chintan Upadhyay, of complicity, and he has been arrested. Akash, the central character of Color Me Rich, is a starving painter, who….”

To know more, you will have to buy the book. I, for my part, will probably get an autographed, complimentary copy.

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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