Since 1999

Obviously written by an erudite fan (he knows how to spell née! ) from the UK on the Amazon site. For my first book on Hindi films, biography of Edwina Violette

Edwina book


Dr. Vijay Kumar

5.0 out of 5 stars Hindi cinema in a nutshell!

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 31, 2015

Verified Purchase

First a qualifier: although I have never met Professor Singh, I feel I know him intimately through his website, which is a treasure trove of movie memorabilia and old Hindi film songs, and his writings on a Facebook group dedicated to Indian film music (RMIM). I have been aware of this book and had awaited its arrival eagerly. I have now received it and read it in one sitting.

Much like a Woody Allen film (they are all about 90 minutes long), it is a short book of 94 pages, including the index, but packed with entertainment, knowledge and value. It presents a biographical sketch of a background dancer of Hindi films, Edwina (Edu) Violette (née Lyons) who is one of many such unknown artists, but who has held a special fascination for Professor Singh for reasons that he explains in the very beginning of the book. The book then goes on to provide a very rich and surprisingly detailed description (for such a small book) of the origins of Hindi cinema, the traditions of dancing and singing and the longevity they have enjoyed in Hindi films. Author provides a touching narrative of the life story of Edu, who is in Anglo-Indian, and in so doing, informs us about the role Anglo-Indians played and continue to play in the cultural tapestry of India. He clearly holds her in much affection and this comes through quite clearly in his writing. He also talks at some considerable length about the big and small artists who Edu worked with during her times in Hindi cinema. The book comes alive when Professor Singh narrates anecdotes in her own 'voice'. At a personal level, I found the sections of the book dealing with Edu's 'relationship' with late Mehmood, a well known actor/director of Hindi cinema, particularly touching. The book has some priceless photos and in another iteration, it could very well be a hardbound, coffee table book.

The book ends on an interesting note. Writer invites people to contact him via email about any errata, of spelling or otherwise, and he will make necessary corrections in the subsequent editions of the book. More importantly, the person pointing out the errors will be given $1.00 for each verifiable correction. (If you are reading this, Professor Singh, you have written the word née without the necessary accent, in which form it is meaningless:-) I won't ask for the $1.00, but may be a cup of tea if we happen to meet at some point).

It was a stoic Greek philosopher who said, "If you want to be a writer, write!". Professor Singh has made an admirable start in this respect and if grapevine is to be believed, there is more in the offing. I too have been fascinated by background artists of Hindi cinema, specially the orchestral artists responsible for all the background strings, woodwinds and percussion instruments. Maybe one of his works can be on this group of artists. I recommend this book to all who are even remotely interested in Hindi cinema and its history and its workings. The bonus is that you will get all this in this concise book, the fulcrum of which is the life affirming story of a very courageous and dare I say, daring woman!


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