Book Review: Anusual – Memoir of a Girl Who Came Back from the Dead by Anu Aggarwal


Title: Anusual – Memoir of a Girl Who Came Back from the Dead

Author: Anu Aggarwal

Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers India

Genre: A gutsy and a confessional memoir

In One Line: The fiercely guarded life of this celebrity has been bared to all

Characterisation: I have always thought that I know a lot about various Bollywood celebrities. But Anusual surprised me. I was happy to know that there is so much more to Anu Aggarwal than ‘the girl who did Ashiqui’.

Here we have a humble lady with ‘dark skin’ who had an exotic journey into stardom. However, her first brush with fame was unexpected. What makes her special and human is that she is one who doesn’t take crap from anyone, is vulnerable, and who remains grounded even during her ascent to stardom. As she puts it, “And what stayed as a mystery was how, in a country that in the 1980s believed ‘fair’ was ‘lovely’, perhaps some complex hangover from the British Raj, my tanned skin colour had become such a rage. Later it would be used as a trump card to describe my uncanny success: In spite of her dark complexion, Anu has made it.”

As she confesses about her sexual encounters I couldn’t help but smile. In the glitterati world where everyone is just ‘good friends’, here we have a lady who dares to bare all the dark secrets of her life. It takes courage!

Even towards the end, where the Himalayas, the yoga, the guru, and the romantic tension occupies the pages; her honesty kept me turning the pages. However, it does turn a little tedious and monotonous in some parts.

Language: It is written in third person, where she refers to herself as ‘that girl’. The language is lucid and has an adequate dose of punch lines as well. For instance when she says, “I prefer the erotic. Sensuality in sexuality. Not just sexuality in sensuality.”

Her choice of words brings out her persona – her nonconformity, her chutzpah, her never-give-up attitude. Just like her life, her words are not shy either. It has the guts to break free from the norms of the society and express what she wants to express.

What adds flavour to the book is the Aggarwal’s sharp and candid words about the Hindi film world. She doesn’t mince or sugar coat her words. Thus the picture that is painted is a true one.

Plot Setting: Anu Aggarwal describes the three locations around which her life moved with vivid descriptions. Her life started with social work in Delhi. From there it moved to the tinsel town of Mumbai. This is when the Delhite starts exploring the new city – “During the day, I walked around Lion Gate, check out the Bombay Stock Exchange, marvelled at the lush green old trees, saw happy slum kids on the street playing ball. The Bombay suburban railway, with its more than seven million commuters each day, was fun. I felt a part of the bustling crowd, eager to strike a balance between desire and survival. I drove by the adorable Queen’s Necklace on Marine Drive; I could see the midnight blue heads of the queen decorated with glittering stars, her wearing the necklace of little bulbous drops, magical.” From here it moved to the Ashram in the Himalayas. It ‘ends’ with her accident when she returns to Mumbai after more than three years. But it is after ‘the end’ that the ‘new beginning’ happens for her. Her journey through these different locations have been amply described.

Book Cover Art: The picture of the lady herself on the cover of the book makes it interesting enough to pick it up from the shelf in a book store. But something about the only back and white disappointed me a bit. Isn’t the story of her life filled with a lot of colour? A single different colour either in the title or in the author name would have been a welcome addition.

Learning From The Story: When someone writes about his or her life, the number of pages is never enough. There is just too much to tell. The canvas is too vast and the paints too limited. So, too, with this book. Even though Anu Aggarwal has tried to tell us about her life, there will always be that bit which went untold. For instance, the book, very matter-of-factly tells of her high desirability quotient amongst men. To the extent, that the sex is a lot in the book. But is that a mask? Is it to conceal the fact that she was probably a lover of the woman’s body as well? Maybe, the mistake was mine. I was searching for what I wanted to read. But it’s her autobiography. The prerogative of telling the story of her life lies with her. This is not fiction. So I can’t complain. I have to read only as much as she tells me. And I have to stop wanting to know about what she doesn’t.

Areas Of Improvement: The gutsy lady that she is, one would have definitely wanted to know much more of the ‘truth’ that goes on ‘behind the screens’ from her. Some of the chapters that she has written makes promises to reveal but then goes quiet. Much like foreplay without any sex!

Also, the reader’s wait to know about the accident is too long. And when the point is reached, it gets wrapped up in a hurry. For an incident that broke the actress and also brought her back, it should definitely have been given more importance. I wish she had told us more about her recovery. After all, what happened is not anything short of a miracle.

What Is ‘Said By Not Saying’: It is easy to give up on life. Especially when one is going through a rough patch. But there is always a way out of it. Only if the person wants a way out. It reminds me of the dialogue from ‘The Sound of Music’ – “Where the Lord closes the door, somewhere he opens the window.” Belief, courage and determination of the self are three very important ingredients that one should never give up on in life.

My Reaction When I Finally Closed The Book: smiley - thumbsup

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