Last Sunday as one attended a book release in leafy, lush Bandra (what a pretty picture that is) it felt like coming home. At least, as far as book releases go.
In the past, one has broached this issue, in this very same space, of how book releases have transformed into Page 3, red carpet affairs. At these events that have become weekly affairs — the celebrity chief guest — who (on most occasions) has no connection whatsoever with the title — and is likely to snatch the spotlight away from known author as well as the book’s content — however brilliant and path-breaking it might be.
For starters, a five-star hotel would be zeroed in as the venue, an assembly-line of guests would be invited, a glitzy after-release party would be thrown in, champagne, paparazzi including TV cameras and selfies would make up the high-brow event. The works, essentially. It might as well have been the engagement of one of Mumbai’s billion-dollar babies.
Flashback to a time when book releases were a quiet, warm affair filled with friends, well-wishers, chai, smiles, and an engaging post-release discussion on the hows and whys of penning the book. Well, last Sunday, as a bunch of Bandraites and others braced the downpour to support the release of a magnificent ode to their beloved suburb in the form of line drawings, the mood felt just right.
As a spectator watching the goings-on, it made for a heartwarming frame – everyone seemed to be genuinely glad to be in the space, catching up, backslapping, and laughter; there was chai too. The author and his wife mingled freely with the audience
There was an unmistakable connect between author, book and audience. The book was discussed, there were questions thrown at the author and a sense of bonhomie seemed to reflect a well-knit, committed, community. Now, how often does that happen? Your guess is as good as mine.
As we left the venue, after a thoroughly engaging session, it made one hope that such sights become more common. But that would be like wishful thinking. Ask anyone from the world of publishing and books, and they will admit that such kind of buzz is an obvious marketing ploy. Money talks, as the adage goes.
The pleasant ‘old-style’ book release added colour to an otherwise grey day in Mumbai, and the belief that deep down, the city still respects is books. Well, sort of.
The writer is Features Editor of mid-day