AUTHOR, BOLLYWOOD ACADEMY
Twelve-year-old Bela has always dreamed about becoming a famous Bollywood star, and now the opportunity might finally be within her grasp. When a reality TV show gives her the chance to dance in front of the nation, she knows that she is performing for a place at the most prestigious stage school in Mumbai.
Can Bela win the Dance Starz competition to score a place at the Bollywood Academy and move one step closer to her dreams of stardom? And will child star Monica, the most in girl at school, see her as a friend or a rival?
Twelve-year-old Simi’s life is set. First: graduate from the Bollywood Academy, school to future stars. Second: become a mega-famous actor, just like her showbiz parents.
There’s only one problem: Simi would rather make music than act, and music is a profession dominated by men. Can Simi navigate the gender barriers of the industry to prove she has what it takes to become Bollywood’s next big music producer?
A story of passion for music and courage in the face of overwhelming odds, this second book in the dazzling world of Bollywood is sure to get your toes tapping and head bopping to Simi’s beat.
Starlet Rivals: Bela dreams of Bollywood stardom – but can a girl from her less than privileged background have a chance of winning the national Dance Starz competition, and a place at a prestigious Mumbai stage school? A deliciously readable addition to the stage-school story canon for song-and-dance fans of 7+.
Melody Queen: Simi loves everything about music but especially making it. Yet, even at the tender age of 12, her path at Bollywood Academy near Mumbai has already been decided: She’s meant to be acting in Hindi films, a dream that she has inherited from her parents, who are part of Telugu cinema in South India. When the new school year starts, Simi finds herself caught between her own hopes and aspirations and the realities of her parents’ wishes. Even worse, she confronts the gender inequality that exists in the music industry. There’s also the virality of social media, the ardent friendships that are formed in boarding schools, and the petty jealousies and rivalries that manifest in this highly competitive field even if you’re a tweenager—not to mention the razzle-dazzle of stardom—all rolled up in one book. While keeping the spotlight firmly on Simi, the book manages to do justice to all the fairly privileged characters rattling about in a fairly privileged school that’s meant to get them ready to enter an often nepotistic industry, giving each of them space to develop and come into their own without the story feeling too cluttered. The problems facing child actors aside, the book highlights entrenched biases in the film industry while also being a fun, breezy read.
Much ado about Bollywood in this glamour-filled story featuring strong characterization. (Fiction. 9-13)
Starlet Rivals is a fast-paced, energetic tale that allows young readers to join the ups and downs of sudden fame and talent school life. From gasping at Monica’s dirty tricks to cheering Bela on as she grows in confidence, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the tale.
Not only is the book bursting with glamour and excitement, it also has thoughtful messages about the perils of the limelight and the importance of doing the right thing. A delightful page-turner.
Upcoming aUTHOR VISITS
I will be visiting schools, libraries and literary festivals with my Bollywood-themed book tour. See dates below and watch this space for more details!
★ I will share fun and fascinating stories about my work as a film journalist, giving a glimpse of Bollywood behind the scenes!
★ An introduction to Bollywood and what makes it so unique, fabulous and loved all over the world by sharing some of my favourite song clips.
★ I will read an exciting excerpt from Starlet Rivals and Melody Queen, and you can learn all about the inspiration behind the stories and lovable characters.
★ Ask me all your burning questions about writing, and of course, Bollywood!
About Puneet Bhandal
I'm a former Bollywood film journalist and a huge fan of Bollywood cinema. Starlet Rivals is my debut novel and Melody Queen was published in June 2023.
I am also the owner of an occasionwear boutique where I get to design red-carpet dresses. My gowns have been modelled by real-life stars including Miss World contestants. Click the button below to see some of my creations.