Notes on Books: Leela: A Patchwork Life by Leela Naidu with Jerry Pinto

Last week, I borrowed this book from my dad to read; I was not disappointed. I have many unread books lined up but I wanted something that took me to another era. Leela Naidu is famous for her beauty and her astonishingly lean Hindi film career. I remember her from Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Anuradha. Her talent for the piano in the film continues to be a scene that haunts me.

Reading this book gives you an idea about how Leela Naidu is not just a ‘yesteryear actor’ or ‘beauty queen’ as the newspapers proclaimed when she passed away last year but that she is a completely individual person, witty and charming to the core whom we would love to have as a friend. Someone who would sparkle in any situation in life. The peek into her life however is not chronological. It’s almost as if she is inviting us into her life but on her terms. This is no biography. It’s a string of anecdotes that speckled her life from that of a scientist’s daughter in Europe to her film career in India followed by her television production career in Hong Kong and then back to India. All the careers she dabbled in her life seem more like accidents, but they are happy accidents. Some of the anecdotes she narrates can be quite scathing to a few people but that seems consistent with the kind of person she was, fearless. Some of the best minds make their guest appearance in this book thanks to her supernova wide circle of friends and acquaintances including the who’s who of art, science and culture in the second half of the 20th century—Madame Curie, Salvador Dali, Jean Renoir, Eugene Ionesco, Monsieur Cartier, J.R.D. Tata, J.Krishnamurti, Raj Kapoor, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Shyam Benegal, Ismail Merchant, Satyajit Ray, Mother Teresa, Dom Moraes, Arundhati Roy, et al.        

Read the book to know about Leela, the person. If you want to read a biography, use the Internet.

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