When bestselling author Nicola Marsh wrote me a note about her new novel, Busted in Bollywood, she had me at “Bollywood” because I’ve been a Bollywood movie fan for years. I agreed to read it and review it if I felt it was something you guys would like. I was only a few pages into the book when I realized I was going to love it and so were you, whether you know anything about Bollywood or Indian culture. It’s a laugh-out-loud funny, universal story that I’m delighted to share with you!
Shari Jones and her best friend Amrita (Rita) live typical lives as 20-somethings in Manhattan. Shari is in the process of trying to get over a disastrous love affair that left her with no place to live and no job, so she’s been crashing with Rita for months while she tries to get her life back together. They obsess over the latest fashions, celebrities, trends, and their favorite tradition of Monday Mojitos. They’re convinced Monday Mojitos can solve any crisis and are the perfect way to celebrate any accomplishment.
Rita is really worried about Shari because she’s floundering and having a hard time figuring out what to do next with her life. Just now, however, Rita is more worried about Rita because she just learned her traditional Hindu parents have arranged a marriage for her with some guy she’s never seen who lives in India for God’s sake. What century do they think she’s living in?
“Rita stuck two fingers down her throat and made gagging noises. ‘Bet he’s a real prince. Probably expects the prospective good little Hindu wife he’s never seen to bow, kiss his ass, and bear him a dozen brats. Like that’s going to happen.’”
As Rita and Shari discuss possible options for dealing with this whole sticky arranged marriage catastrophe over Monday Mojitos, Rita comes up with an excellent alcohol-fueled plan. Since she and Shari look very much alike, and this guy has never seen Rita, Shari will travel to India posed as Rita and do whatever it takes to get Rita’s arranged groom to break the marriage contract. That way Rita won’t disappoint her parents but she’ll be off the hook until she can figure out how to drag her parents kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
“Could I pull this off? Posing as an arranged fiancée, using a smattering of my rusty Hindi, immersing in a culture I hadn’t been a part of since my family had moved to the States when I was three. Though I was half-Indian, spending the bulk of my life in New York had erased my childhood memories of the exotic continent that held little fascination for me…it all seemed so remote, so distant.”
So Shari, who knows almost nothing about India, flies off to Mumbai determined to save her best friend. No big deal for someone who can handle Manhattan, right? Wrong! She is immediately overwhelmed by what appears to her at first to be utter chaos – sights, sounds, smells – this is definitely not Manhattan. As someone who is very much a big city American, she feels like a fish out of water. Her first thought is to hop a plane back to the U.S. but she promised Rita and can’t let her down.
“Cars, diesel-streaming buses, motorbikes, bicycles, and autorickshaws battled with a swarming horde of people on the clogged roads in a frightening free-for-all where it was every man, woman, and rickshaw driver for themselves. The subway on a bad day had nothing on this…Anjali – immune to the near-death experiences occurring before our eyes – prattled on…”
Luckily Rita’s Aunt Anjali is in on the plot for her own complicated reasons and promises to help prepare Shari for her dinner with Rita’s future in-laws, the Ramas, and groom, Rakesh. Unfortunately Shari and Rita failed to consider that the owner of the most successful Internet company in India might research them on the Internet. Yep, Rakesh is wise to the masquerade. Although he doesn’t want an arranged marriage either, he only agrees to not spill the beans and ruin Rita’s parents’ reputation in the Hindu community if Shari will agree to set up something in New York so he can meet Rita. If they don’t like each other then he’ll call off the wedding.
Among all the other things that happen, and a LOT happens – On a trip to a Bollywood movie studio, Shari gets to watch a large Bollywood movie production number featuring traditional dress. Even though the video below is a music video, it seems to have a lot of the same production values (Indian followers, please let me know if I’m wrong). I thought you might like to see what those look like.
All of the above is just the tip of the iceberg. Shari is mistaken for a Bollywood star, is stalked by an Indian in Western cowboy attire who’s fallen for her, develops an intense craving for Indian food, is hounded by Rakesh’s best friend who is wickedly handsome but is sure she’s a gold digger, and on and on and on. The cross-cultural misunderstandings alone are hysterically funny. The complex plots of Bollywood movies have nothing over this novel.
Think of your favorite I Love Lucy episode, mix it in with Sex in the City, and you might start to get an idea of how funny Busted in Bollywood is. It’s sexy and delicious, madcap and zany, touching and sweet – and it’s a non-stop rollercoaster ride. What more could you want? Oh yes, and you’ll also get to learn about India’s wonderful culture. If you’re looking for a fun book to read that also has a lot of heart, this is the one for you!
Busted in Bollywood was released on December 6, 2011, so it should be available at your favorite bookseller below.
I’d love to get your comments on Busted in Bollywood, Nicola Marsh or her other novels, and/or this review!
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