Star-crossed is a novel about the world of Tamil cinema minus the glamour. It takes a keen look at the lives of filmmakers, technicians, producers and actors. Turning the spotlight on the fringes of the entertainment world, Ashokamitran exposes the daily trials and tribulations of a cast of character none too familiar to those who equate the world of celluloid with the proverbial dream factory.
The story revolves around the several minor cogs in the wheels that make film production in the studios of Madras go round. An elaborate, albeit chaotic, machinery consisting of people, services and equipment, goes into action everyday, based on a flimsy foundation of ad hoc financing and superstitions peculiar to the industry. The whole situation is a tragicomedy of people with dreams in their eyes and hearts, and their manipulation by the forces of commerce and greed.
The novel starts with Natarajan, a production manager in a Kodambakkam studio, organising a team of people for a stint of outdoor shooting in the early hours of a typical Madras morning. Reddiar and Rama Iyengar, film producers both, Sampat, an errand boy; Rajgopal, a wannabe manager of sorts; Chitti, an editor's assistant; Manickaraj, a supplier of stock shots to film-makers and Somanathan, an aspiring screenplay writer are among several bit players whose ordinary lives provide a stark contrast from the magic they help create on scren.
The story abounds in action and we see people running about doing their jobs, but, as the novel proceeds, we realise all the sound and fury signify nothing in the lives of so many that depend on the film industry for their livelihood. We move from one climax to the next, one anticlimax to another. To quote one of the characters in the novel, "There are no permanent or temporary jobs in cinema. Every job is permanent. And temporary!" The hype, the uncertainties and the personality cult that surround Indian cinema are brought to life in this realistic tale laced with humour and compassion.
The original Tamil title, Karainda Nizhalgal, conveys the tragedy and uncertainty inherent in the lives of these providers of mass entertainment, whose fortunes rise and fall or sink altogether with the making of a film. Simply told, the novel provides poignant expression to Ashokamitran's empathy for his flesh and blood characters, based no doubt on his own experience in the film world of Madras.