Book Review | BOMBAY DUCK IS A FISH | Kanika Dhillon

Non Review Rant

Book Details

Title: Bombay Duck Is A Fish

Length: 315 pages

Published: 30 June, 2011

Price: 102 (Free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers)

Link to buy from Amazon:


When Neki Brar moves to Mumbai to make it as a film-maker in Bollywood, little does she suspect that she will find herself standing on the terrace of her building, a bottle of wine and her diary in hand, plotting how best to jump.

A small town girl, Neki has one ambition: to live in Mumbai and make it big as a film-maker. As she comes closer to her dream, she is also faced with a new reality. The make-believe sets of Bollywood, the cramped existence with her three roommates and the battle for power on the sets of her debut film as an assistant director force her to understand the ground rules here if you don t learn the art of survival, the train back home is your only option.

Falling in love with the second lead actor, the charming Ranvir Khanna, further complicates her life, along with the realisation that she seems to have a unique ability to be at the wrong place at the wrong time and in the middle of every disaster that happens on the film sets.

Battling political games, rivalry, love, betrayal and burning egos of film stars, she discovers the beauty of her own ambition and the ugliness of true love.

The stakes are high. The dreams are big. The pressure is tremendous.

If unfulfilled dreams keep you alive, can broken dreams push you to end it all?

Author Profile

Kanika Dhillon was born in Amritsar and studied at St Stephens College, New Delhi and the London School of Economics. She started out working as an assistant director in Bollywood. She is a screenwriter by profession and currently resides in Mumbai.

Plot Summary

The Team

Neki Brar: Our protagonist, she joins the team as last one the in the chain and finishes as third AD.

Fiza Kareem: The director

Karan: First AD

Shivani: Second AD, devil-slash-angel mode with Neki

PJ: Third AD and has a crush on Neki

Sameer aka Sam: Fourth AD

Kriti Kapoor: Fifth AD

Neki Chopra: New 5th AD after Neki Brar moves up the ladder

Aslam: Line Producer

Dharmesh: DOP

The Actors

Ahmed Khan: Main lead


Ranvir Khanna: The second lead

Minty: Second female lead

Prateekhsha Devi

The Friends

Shikha: Roommate, Sam’s girlfriend, through him Neki gets her dream job

Roshani: Roommate, an unfortunate confusion at a New Year Eve’s party messes up her entire life.

Zoya: Roommate, has an affair with Sam when Shikha is gone. This subplot works as another shit that Neki has to deal with. As if she hasn’t had enough.

Neki joins the team, struggled her way to make it to third AD and falls for the second lead in the process. Their relationship has a rocky foundation and yet she continues to put her heart and soul into it.

And, then she calls it quits.


Initial Thoughts

When I started reading this novel, it seemed like a thinly veiled memoir. I have heard Kanika Dhillon‘s name during Manmarziyan‘s review and have read a few gossip columns that falsely implicated her in an extra-marital affair.

So, coming from her, I thought that this shit must be real. 

And, it might just be. Who am I to judge it is not? I ain’t got no connection in Bollywood. 

Second Thoughts

She has not attempted to mask her first boss’s identity. India’s top choreographer directing a movie, hmmm, wonder who would that be? Fiza Kareem is Farah Khan. 

She kept me guessing who’s who.

Which leading actor these days had a politian’s wife who backed him?

Which producer’s daughter worked as an AD before debuting as an actress?

Who was Ahmed Khan? SRK had a cameo appearance so that can’t be him.

I did not get how the roommates become the BFFs. Perhaps, because I could not relate to it. I have lived many years with three other girls, and I do not call them friends. I don’t even have them in my life anymore, except for some bittersweet bitter memories.

I don’t understand why Prateekhsha Devi did not have a line, or why Aslam was constantly after Neki. There were typos in a few places. Two that I remember are “Mirny” instead of “Minty” and “Brst” instead of “First”.

She also seemed fixated on Freud. Her own words were not any short of philosophy, I must admit.

And More Thoughts

It kept me awake until I finished that book. If it wasn’t for the book, I would have had some other reason to be awake.

I can’t say it was her powerful writing because there were places I felt I should just mark it unfinished. But that’s so unlike me, right.

I can’t say it was the story because at one point several points it felt dragged and a bit repetitive.

I would say it was my fascination with the Bollywood that made this book and this story so intriguing. I stayed awake long after the I finished the book. The end haunted me, even though I had predicted it around two thirds of the book. And, no, the fact that she begins narrating the story when she’s ready to jump off a building is not a clue.

I loved how the romantic angle is woven into the whole new girl in a big city narrative. And I couldn’t help but root for both Ranvir and PJ. Weird, that.

It isn’t just an ugly face of Bollywood. It is  just another story about a workplace where friendship and betrayal go hand in hand, where you question people’s morale and the next moment take a monstrous step yourself because you want to stay in the game.

From Savitra the maid to Aslam the line producer, every character stays with you after the book is over so I guess that’s good writing. 

A very nice read especially since previous bazillion books I read were fluff contract marriage novels. I do like them, and I do like the bitter taste of this tragedy one, but I ain’t gonna read another English novel for a while now.

Shabana Mukhtar