Dolly Singh, a Bollywood heroine takes centerstage in this hilarious story of eleven year old Dini, an Indian American girl from Maryland who is mad about “Fillums” and believes that not only a fantasy can come true but her Grand Plan can Fix Everything.
Kismat ki Baat hai which means what is meant to be will be is the lief motif in this nimble, adventure and romance book that takes us to Swapnagiri, a tea plantation in the South of India. The pages romp through diverse mishaps, encounters, misunderstandings, the highs and lows of friendship and connections between soulmates and strangers. All this in a tiny sleepy little town where nothing ever happens.
The book introduces us to Dini, short for Nandini, and her beloved American friend Maddie who have always been besotted with Bollywood films, music and dance. But it is Dolly, the star of many a Bollywood romantic film who has captured their heart with her “brown gold skin”, her amazing musical voice as well as dancing moves. They pore over past and present issues of Filmi Kumpnee magazine which fills them in with chunks of tidbits of gossip and watch Dolly’s films over and over again – after all language does not really get in the way of Hindi films, as box offices around the world have proved. And imagine Dolly’s first film came out the day Dini was born! What could be more fortuitous than that?
The two friends are very excited about going to a Bollywood dance camp for the summer when their world is turned upside down. Dini’s mother has been offered a grant for a rural project in Swapnagiri and the family has to move leaving Maddie behind.
On arriving at Swapnagiri Dini discovers to her delight that Dolly has left her Mumbai studio and the bright lights for a secret retreat in you guessed right – Swapnagiri. So Dini sets out to track down Dolly all the while keeping in touch with Maddie via email and phone. The friendship of Dini and Maddie is one of the highlights of the book as this bond connects various strands of the plot as well as the need for loyalty and support through the complexity of the growing years.
The fun is fast and furious as Dini and a new friend Priya wonder if life is full of coincidences, commonsense or is there something more to ponder about?
Dini is funny, sincere, confident and fuelled by energy, marvelously at ease with the diverse characters she meets. There’s Priya who sounds like a buzzy bird, irascible Sampy the local postman who entertains himself chewing on a strand of grass, Veeran the helpful driver who works at the garage aptly called Tune and Fix, Chikoo Dev a lovelorn tea planter, ambitious Soli Dustup of Mumbai Starlite Studios, and of course Dolly with dangly silver earrings and a Presence! What’s more, she has a love interest right there in Swapnagiri. Just like a Bollywood fillum! “Pyaar ki baat hai” ruminates Dini and so it is – a matter of love all round.
The language is delightful sprinkled with Hindi isms…look look listen is the English version of “suno suno, dekho dekho” , chan , chan chan go Dolly’s anklets and of course, Dolly’s latest movie is Mera Jeevan , tera jeevan, My life , Your life or MJTJ for short!
The author, Uma Krishnaswami, a prolific writer, works for the Vermont College of Fine Arts and lives in Aztec, New Mexico.
Abigail Halpin, the illustrator of the book adds an exuberant style to the very enjoyable book.