Satyajit Ray, The Author: Some Lesser-Known Books Written by the Master Filmmaker

Although most people around the world know Satyajit Ray for his award-winning films, he was more than just a director. While Ray scripted, wrote, directed, and even designed the sets for his films, he was also a master author, graphic designer, cartoonist, and music composer. People who grew up reading Ray had a different perspective of the auteur and the incredibly realistic stories he made into motion pictures. A fan of crime, magic, robots, the supernatural, and aliens, Ray explored it all in his books.

Ray wrote in both English and Bengali. His books have also been translated into German, Polish, French, Spanish, Italian, and other Indian languages. On the master’s death anniversary, Silverscreen India brings you a list of lesser-known books written by Ray.

Phatik Chand

Made into a film by Ray’s son, Sandip Ray, Phatik Chand is the story of a 12-year-old child, who loses his memory after being kidnapped and having an accident, and the juggler Harun, who helps him finally return to his home and parents. The relationship which develops between the boy and the juggler is the central theme of the novel.

Indigo

Ray’s love for the supernatural is best seen in this book which has stories like Big BillKhagam, and The Magical Mystery. Translated from Bengali by the author and Gopa Majumdar, the stories may be in the dark horror genre but they carry an impeccable sense of humour. These stories place ordinary people in extraordinary situations and show the brilliance of Ray’s storytelling.

Twenty Stories

Vivid imaginations and Satyajit Ray went hand-in-hand as we have witnessed in his many films. In his books too, this could be seen. Twenty Stories features stories of magicians, giant man-eating plants, hypochondriacs, and a host of other entertaining characters. This collection of short stories is translated by Gopa Majumdar.

The Unicorn Expedition and other Stories

While Feluda took all the limelight, Professor Shonku is undoubtedly one of the most noteworthy characters created by Ray. This book talks about Professor Shonku’s journey to look for unicorns and find out whether they exist or not. Shonku travels from Tibet to Sahara and other exotic places in these stories by Ray.

Childhood Days

Originally written for the Bengali children’s magazine Sandesh, the stories in this book talk about Ray’s early days, the places where he grew up and the people he grew up around. It talks about most of his first experiences and also the difficulties he went through shooting for his first feature film Pather Panchali. 

International Booker Prize 2022: ‘Tomb of Sand’ Makes Shortlist; 1st Book Translated from Hindi to Achieve the Feat

Tomb of Sand, Daisy Rockwell’s English translation of author Geetanjali Shree’s Ret Samadhi, has become the first book translated from Hindi to make the International Booker prize shortlist.

The book narrates the story of an 80-year-old woman who struggles to cope with her husband’s death. After dealing with her depression, she goes on to visit Pakistan, to confront the past she left behind at the time of the Partition.

Shree’s book is one of six shortlisted for the prestigious award for translated fiction. These books will compete for the GBP 50,000 prize, which will be split evenly between the writer and the translator. The winners will be revealed on May 26.

Winner of the English Pen Award, Tomb of Sand first came out in Hindi as Ret Samadhi in 2018; the English translation was published by Penguin India in March 2022.

The International Booker Prize shortlist this year is dominated by women. The other five titles on the shortlist, which was announced at the London Book Fair, are Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung, translated by Anton Hur from Korean; A New Name: Septology VI-VII by Jon Fosse, translated by Damion Searls from Norwegian; Heaven by Mieko Kawakami, translated by Samuel Bett and David Boyd from Japanese; Elena Knows by Claudia Piñeiro, translated by Frances Riddle from Spanish; and The Books of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Jennifer Croft from Polish.

Born in Mainpuri, Uttar Pradesh in 1957, Shree currently lives in New Delhi. The author has received and been shortlisted for a number of awards and fellowships. Tomb of Sand is the first of her books to be published in the UK (by Tilted Axis).

The International Booker Prize was established in 2005 to honour an author and translator equally for a single work of fiction translated into English and published in the UK. It was previously known as the Man Booker Prize. Last year’s winner was At Night All Blood Is Black, written by French novelist David Diop and translated by Anna Moschovakis.

International Booker Prize 2022: ‘Tomb of Sand’ Becomes 1st Book Translated from Hindi to Make the Longlist

Tomb of Sand, Daisy Rockwell’s English translation of author Geetanjali Shree’s Ret Samadhi, has become the first book translated from Hindi to make the International Booker prize longlist.

The book narrates the story of an 80-year-old woman who struggles to cope with her husband’s death. After dealing with her depression, she goes on to visit Pakistan, to confront the past she left behind at the time of the Partition.

Penguin is releasing the English translation in India in March 2022.

Shree’s book is one of 13 titles to make the longlist for the prestigious award for translated fiction. Six of these books will be shortlisted to compete for the GBP 50000 prize, which will be split evenly between the writer and the translator. The shortlist will be announced on April 7 and the winners will be revealed on May 26.

Born in Mainpuri, Uttar Pradesh in 1957, Shree currently lives in New Delhi. The author has received and been shortlisted for a number of awards and fellowships. Tomb of Sand is the first of her books to be published in the UK. The book has been published in the country by Tilted Axis.

Two more titles from Tilted Axis have also been selected for the International Booker prize 2022 longlist: Happy Stories, written by Norman Erikson Pasaribu and translated by Tiffany Tsao, and Love in the Big City, written by Sang Young Park and translated by Anton Hur.

Other titles in the longlist are: Paradais, written by Fernanda Melchor and translated by Sophie Hughes; Heaven, written by Mieko Kawakami and translated by Samuel Bett and David Boyd; Elena Knows, written by Claudia Piñeiro and translated by Frances Riddle; The Book of Mother by Violaine Huisman and translated by Leslie Camhi; More Than I Love My Life by David Grossman and translated by Jessica Cohen; Phenotypes by Paulo Scott and translated by Daniel Hahn; A New Name: Septology VI-VII by Jon Fosse and translated by Damion Searls; After the Sun by Jonas Eika and translated by Sherilyn Hellberg; The Books of Jacob, written by Olga Tokarczuk and translated by Jennifer Croft; and Cursed Bunny, which is written by Bora Chung and translated by Anton Hur.

The International Booker Prize was established in 2005 to honour an author and translator equally for a single work of fiction translated into English and published in the UK. It was previously known as the Man Booker Prize. Last year’s winner was At Night All Blood Is Black, written by French novelist David Diop and translated by Anna Moschovakis.

Gangubai Kathiawadi: Who was the Matriarch of Kamathipura?

With the Alia Bhatt-starrer Gangubai Kathiawadi out in theatres, you may be wondering who this person was. Here is the story behind the real Gangubai. Author Hussain Zaidi, in his book Mafia Queens of Mumbai (on which the film is based), says she rose from being Ganga Harjeevandas Kathiawadi, a helpless young girl, to become one of the most powerful women of her time. A matriarch who was known for her gold-bordered sarees, her golden tooth, her black Bentley car, and the power of her words.

As per Zaidi’s account, Ganga was brought up in the Kathiawad village of Gujarat in a wealthy and well-educated family. Her family shared strong ties with the royal Kathiawadi family and Ganga’s father and brothers were strict disciplinarians who insisted on sending her to school, which was unusual in the 1940s. However, Ganga’s dream was to go to Mumbai and become an actor. She was enthralled by the stories she heard about the city and “its buildings, the cars, the men and the movies.”

Even as her desire to visit the city became stronger, she also found herself falling for her father’s new accountant, 28-year-old Ramnik Laal. The couple went sneaking around the village and their love blossomed as the days passed. One day, Ramnik asked Ganga to marry him and flee to Mumbai with him. It was something Ganga had never thought of doing, but since it meant getting both the things her heart desired, she agreed. The two eloped, taking with them cash and jewellery from Ganga’s parents.

When Ganga stepped onto the Mumbai platform, her eyes filled with tears as she realised she did not have any friends there to talk to about her new experiences. Assuring her that she would make new friends, Ramnik took Ganga around Mumbai but soon, the two ran out of money. Under the false pretext of leaving her with his aunt, Ramnik sold Ganga to a brothel and was never seen again.

And this is where Ganga’s actual journey in Mumbai began. The girl who came to the city to become a movie star, gave in to circumstances and soon became one of the most sought-after sex workers. She attracted customers from all over the city and the surroundings. Ganga became Gangu.

One of the first incidents that shook Gangu at the brothel was when she encountered Shaukat Khan who raped and bruised her. Their second encounter left Gangu hospitalised. She decided to take the matter in her own hands and get the problem of Shaukat Khan sorted. Bruised all over, Gangu went to the don of the area, Abdul Karim Khan aka Karim Lala, and pleaded with him to take care of Shaukat Khan and keep him from perpetuating more violence on women. When Karim Lala agreed, Gangu even tied a rakhi around his wrist and made him promise that he would keep her safe.

That was the beginning of the matriarch Gangu. Once Karim Lala dealt with Shaukat Khan, women in the brothels started trusting Gangu and looking up to her. She even stood in the Gharwali elections, wherein one woman who gets appointed as a gharwali takes care of a certain house in a brothel, and won. Gangu thus became Gangubai Kathiawadi – a woman who was treated with respect and even feared for her connections with the police and the local gangster Karim Lala.

However, one of the instances quoted in Zaidi’s book shows the compassion Gangubai had for women in the brothels. It was about the time she met a teenager who was sold off to a brothel by her lover. The girl refused to stay and cooperate. As she heard the girl’s story and remembered her own, Gangubai tried to convince her that her family would call her a disgrace and never take her back. But, the girl insisted that she wanted to go home and try. Gangubai ordered that the girl be allowed to leave. She did this often. Several women would come to her and ask for permission to leave, and if the reasons were valid, Gangubai let them go and start their lives again.

As news of her goodwill towards women spread, Gangubai became politically more prominent in Kamathipura and she vowed to protect the children and women there. One of her speeches during a women’s conference at Azad Maidan was remembered by many. In it, she advocated for every city to have brothel belts. “We are only second to the legitimately married gharwalis (housewives). By giving ourselves to the carnal pursuits of men, we are doing a big favour to all the women in society. A few handful of women who cater to the physical needs of men are actually protecting all of you from being attacked. These women help blunt the bestial male aggression, which is something that cannot be done in my hometown in Gujarat,” she said and went on to ask the audience why, when army men are respected for saving the country, sex workers could not be treated with respect for keeping the streets safe? The speech earned her cheers, applause and fame.

Gangubai was often approached by the press, politicians and other high profile people for interviews and meetings. Zaidi writes that Gangubai was, in fact, the only ‘local brothel madam’ who met the then Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, at his residence in New Delhi to discuss the plight of sex workers. She fought for the rights of sex workers when there was a call for shutting down a brothel that was near a school. Needless to say, she won and the brothel remained. And Gangubai earned even more respect after that.

In her later life, she adopted several children and often spent her days playing cards and buying gold. “Most people remember her for her gold-bordered white sarees and gold-buttoned blouses. Gangubai loved flaunting her collection of gold jewellery. She also wore gold-rimmed glasses and had an artificial gold tooth,” Zaidi writes.

When she died, a statue was erected in her honour in Kamathipura, almost every house there had a photo of her hanging on the wall, and Gangubai Kathiawadi’s name remained etched in the hearts of the locals.

Anup Singh Interview: Filmmaker on His Book ‘Irrfan: Dialogues with the Wind’ and Memories of His Late Friend

Anup Singh’s book on Irrfan Khan, Irrfan: Dialogues with the Wind, is neither a mere collection of facts, nor a map that traces the trajectory of the late actor’s life. It is a treasure trove of memories and, as he calls it, future memories.

Khan lost his battle with cancer two years ago. The National Award-winning actor succumbed to a colon infection on April 29, 2020.

Singh reminisces about his old friend in this conversation with Silverscreen India and talks about his new book. “Everyone has a different Irrfan for them. In this book, I have given you a finished picture of Irrfan. I am very happy that I have given you a large and comprehensive vision of Irrfan as I saw him,” he says.

Irrfan: Dialogues with the Wind was announced on the occasion of Khan’s 54th birth anniversary. According to the official description, it offers an intimate glimpse into the working relationship between Singh and Khan “as they trudge through mutual wariness, uncertainties, and blunders to a friendship founded firmly in creativity. As we travel with them to Punjab and Rajasthan and watch them at work on their films, we see in minute detail the devotion to hard work and the openness to uncertainty that make Irrfan’s performances so hypnotising.”

Published by Copper Coin, the book hit the stands on February 14. You can read an excerpt of the book here.

How random notes of loss and grief turned into a book

Even though Singh and Khan collaborated on just two films, namely Qissa: The Tale of a Lonely Ghost (2014) and The Song of Scorpions (2017), a bond was woven between them through mutual interests such as Sufism, poetry, different kinds of performances, stories, and music.

The book documents such rare and personal accounts of Khan, which go beyond his identity as an international actor. It shows him as someone who flew kites wherever he went, which, as Singh puts it, “was his dialogue with the universe.”

He saw every little pull or release of the string that holds the kite in the air, as almost an understanding of life and death. It is this affirmation of life in all its mystery that is his true gift to us; it is reflected in his performances. At its core, this is the Irrfan that my book aspires to celebrate,” the filmmaker says.

Singh started penning down thoughts about his friend a month or two after the latter’s demise. What started out as a personal journey, soon turned into therapy and culminated in the book.

“I wouldn’t say it was a diary at all, in any sense of the word. Or a journal. These were just random notes – something that you do because you are so full with emotions that you don’t know what else to do. I just wrote it down because I had to remember my friend,” says Singh.

Even though others acquainted with Khan told Singh that these notes were worth sharing with the world, Singh did not, at first, paid any heed to them. It was only after his friend and acclaimed Punjabi poet Abhijeet Chandan gave him the nod, that he decided to start working on it as a manuscript.

Despite the sense of grief that Singh felt, which could not help but be reflected in his writing, he says that he did not want the book to be consumed by it.

“There’s a great grief in the writing. But I felt that that was not a complete picture. I did not want only the last part of Irrfan’s life to inform all of his life. So, I was a little more careful, even in the language that I used. Sometimes, I had to get away from the grief to celebrate the joyous moments that we had together.”

Precious validation for Singh came from Khan’s wife, Sutapa Sikdar. She said that the book made her laugh, cry, and see Irrfan alive again.

Dialogues with the wind, universe, and himself

According to Singh, the book will open the imagination of all who read it, and they will see their own ideas of life, of Irrfan, of acting, of directing, of making films, of simply living day to day with curiosity.

Khan did not take life at face value, says Singh. “His performances were never premeditated. He was sensitive to the rhythms of nature and read into everything from a bird’s call to the wind touching his face, and the rising of a co-actor’s dupatta in the air.”

“And his dialogues, thus, took on a living quality of a relationship that is happening right there. To give us a sense not only of the story of the film but a sense of what it means to live at this very moment, in our lives.”

It is because of this that a difference can be noticed in almost all of Khan’s films, in terms of how he walks, how he speaks, the filmmaker adds. In addition to Indian films, the late actor also appeared in several international movies like Life of Pi (2012), Jurassic World (2015), Inferno (2016), and the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionnaire (2008).

“He also grew as a human being from film to film,” says Singh. “And therefore, something inside him was also turning and changing. This rhythm that he takes from nature, is a rhythm that actually relates to all of us.”

“Everything eventually came down to humanity for Khan,” he adds.

Singh explains that one reason for his fondness for Khan was because the actor would be ready to go into the darkest aspects of what it means to be a human being without trying to justify it. “Or, sometimes, even without trying to balance it.”

Khan’s love for acting, Singh says, emerged from this space that allowed him to look into the numerous aspects of himself.

For instance, in Singh’s Qissa, Khan plays a father who is so obsessed with having a son that when his fourth daughter is born, he declares her a boy and brings her up as one. The film follows the tragic consequences of this decision.

 

Upcoming works – a second book and an unfinished film

Singh and Khan had a third film that was in the works before the actor’s sudden death. The untitled film, which would have been their last collaboration, is extensively discussed in Irrfan: Dialogues with the Wind.

The film’s story revolves around a folk dancer within the rasleela tradition in Vrindavan. Khan was set to play the dancer, who is torn between his devotion for Radha and Krishna and the expectations of the modern world, where even his family does not want to see him dressed as a woman.

When Singh had first approached Khan with the idea, the actor had told Singh, “You are the only one who comes to me with these kinds of ideas. First of all, I hate dancing. And secondly, you want me to play a woman. You know, these are the kind of roles that I should never do, but I know that I have to do them.”

Singh says he did not specifically write the role for Khan. But he felt the actor would be a good fit. “Irrfan has a great sense of rhythm in relationship with everything happening in nature. And I wanted to see if we could extend this rhythm of his into a full film. That would have been the basis of the film.”

The film’s development has reached a roadblock with the actor gone, he adds.

But, the filmmaker has completed the script. In Khan’s absence, the three to five months he spent writing the script was like working with the actor again, Singh says.

In addition to the film, Singh has also started work on his second book, a novel. Currently, he says he is just putting down thoughts and calls the shift from a memoir to a novel, “a part of growing up.”

He views neither the book nor his next venture as a closure of his memories of his friend.

“In fact, it’s the opposite. You begin to see different aspects of the memories – different moments in the memory. This is unending, and I think this happens with all of us. Quite honestly, it’s a joy.”

Britney Spears Lands $15 Million Deal for Tell-All Memoir

Britney Spears is set to write a tell-all memoir and the pop singer has signed a $15 million book deal with publishing house Simon & Schuster, according to a Page Six report.

The book will trace her rise to fame and her relationship with her family. The latter has come under heavy scrutiny lately owing to the pop star’s fight to end her 13-year long conservatorship under her father, which was terminated in November 2021.

According to the report, Simon & Schuster acquired the deal after a bidding war among multiple publishers. An insider told Page Six that the deal is “one of the biggest of all time, behind the Obamas.”

The rights to Barack and Michelle Obama’s books were acquired by Penguin Random House in 2017, and the publishing house reportedly bid over $65 million for the two books.

Neither Spears nor the publishing house have confirmed the deal for her memoir.

However, the singer posted the photo of a typewriter in January, and captioned it, “Shall I start from THE BEGINNING???”

It is notable that news of Spears’ book comes a month after the singer and her sister Jamie Lynn Spears were embroiled in a spat over the latter’s book Things I Should Have Said, in which Lynn had opened up about their relationship as well as her sister’s conservatorship.

The singer had sent her sister, a cease-and-desist letter after the book’s release. Stating that she will not be bullied in her sister’s memoir, the letter read, “Although Britney has not read and does not intend to read your book, she and millions of her fans were shocked to see how you have exploited her for monetary gain.”

“Having endured a 13-year conservatorship that stripped her of civil rights and fundamental liberties, Britney will no longer be bullied by her father or anyone else. Britney was the family’s breadwinner and she also otherwise supported you. Publicly airing false or fantastical grievances is wrong, especially when designed to sell books. It is also potentially unlawful and defamatory,” the letter added.

Lynn had responded to Spears in a lengthy Instagram post. She wrote, “I hate to burst my sister’s bubble, but my book is not about her. I can’t help that I was born a Spears too, and that some of my experiences involve my sister. I’ve worked hard since before even I was a teenager, and I’ve built my career in spite of just being someone’s little sister.”

Book Excerpt: ‘Irrfan: Dialogues with the Wind’: Anup Singh’s Book on Memories of Irrfan Khan, Real and Imagined

Irrfan: Dialogues with the Wind is filmmaker Anup Singh’s debut book. Singh’s association with late actor Irrfan Khan dates back to their first film together, Qissa: The Tale of a Lonely Ghost. The book is neither a mere collection of facts, nor a map that traces the trajectory of the late actor’s life. It is a treasure trove of memories and, as Singh calls it, future memories. The following are excerpts from the book.

*****

I hear the muted calls of the birds outside as I raise my head from the pillow in the dark room. My wife, Catherine, is lying beside me. Her eyes are wide open. I stare at her, my brain a blur of dream- images and foreboding.

“Your phone,” she whispers.

My mobile phone vibrates again on the chair next to the bed. And again. It keeps pulsing in my hand as I grab it and hurry out of the room.

I see the date and time as I click my phone on: April 29, 2020, 4:54 a.m. I read the first message and I cross quickly to the back-door of the house, turn the key and stumble out into the garden. Birds rise from the cherry trees and there are swallows in the air. I hear the stir of the three poplar trees in the distance. They emerge and fade in the early-morning mist.

I walk to the big cherry tree and stoop under its branches. I search and find a plump cherry and hold it in my hand. I sit down at the base of the tree and the words of the messages keep reverberating in my head.

‘Irrfan Khan dead.’ ‘Irrfan Khan passes away.’ ‘Admitted to Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital in Mumbai yesterday, Irrfan passed away this morning.’

It was on February 16, 2018, that I received this message from Irrfan: “Baat ho sakti hai? Kuch ajab hi safar ki tayyari shuru ho gayi hai. Aapko batana chah raha tha.” I called him immediately and he told me about his being diagnosed with malignant endocrine tumours  in his gastrointestinal system. A cancer. He asked me to find out about doctors and hospitals in Switzerland, where I live, who might have some experience with this particular kind of cancer. His voice was a little hushed, but calm. I held on to my own emotions and tried to speak as pragmatically as possible.

I started calling various doctors in Switzerland that very day, but hardly a week later Irrfan called to tell me that they had probably found the best doctor for him in London.

It was just after a year now and he was gone. Under the cherry tree, I hear the swirl and flutter of the birds and I remember Irrfan’s words to me from a long time ago when he was introduced to a hunting falcon at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival. He was invited to the beach outside the hotel where we were staying, and then led to a large white tent set up for him. Irrfan sat down on a rug inside the open tent, his back against a cushion. The falconer carried in the bird perched on his glove-covered hand and settled it on Irrfan’s knee.

Irrfan and the falcon sat watching each other for a long time. Later, I had asked him, “What did the falcon say to you? And what did you say to the falcon?”

Irrfan wrote back to me, “The falcon, it said, ‘Even though I miss you, I don’t miss you, I’m too busy with myself.’ I asked the falcon, ‘Are you sure?’ At this he turned his head and looked at the bright, glittering sea and went silent. After a while, the sound of birds around started echoing in my head and they kept growing.”

*****

And I, sitting under the tree, bite into the cherry I’ve been holding in my hand and listen to the birds, and among them, I hope to hear Irrfan’s voice. Catherine finds me under the low-hanging branches of the tree. She sits down beside me. “I want to call Sutapa,” I say to her.

She nods. I look at the phone in my hands.

“I can’t,” I say after a while.

“Write to her,” Catherine suggests.

I wait. I want the birds to say something to me, give me a message from Irrfan. The birds keep chattering but they have nothing to share with me.

I type out a word on my phone and then another and then a few more and press ‘Send’. It is a long, desolate moment before the phone buzzes in my hand. Sutapa’s reply brings tears to my eyes. It’s a confirmation. Deep down somewhere, I had kept saying to myself that, perhaps, it was all a mistake. They got it wrong.

I cannot even bear to imagine all that would be steadily disintegrating in Sutapa’s soul. She and Irrfan had met when they were students at the National School of Drama, Delhi. They have been together for 30 years and have two sons together, Babil and Ayaan.

*****

I spend the rest of the day wandering through the house. Every hour or so I walk up the stairs to the first floor, returning to the room we had done up for Irrfan and Sutapa’s visit. Just about a month ago, while in London again for a check-up at the hospital, Irrfan had said that they would come and stay with us for a couple of weeks.

We had chosen a fine white cotton bedspread with delicate, handstitched motifs of elephants, also in white. The curtains over the window, which opens onto the garden below and the village beyond, were also of the same material.

On this hot, summer day, I watch a ray of sunlight slip in through the window and fall in a sparkling rectangle on the bedspread and the hazel-coloured wooden floor. The lines and textures on the pale amber wall across from the window is alive with flickers of reflected light. The rest of the room lies in a lustrous shadow.

Leaning against the doorway to the room, there is a moment of respite. For a while, I imagine Irrfan at the window, still unable to stop himself from rolling a cigarette. I see him pick up a date. He nibbles at it. It takes him a long time to finish it. He holds on to the edge of the seed and studies it, turning it slowly in the sunlight, enchanted by the grainy weave of the seed’s skin and its shape. He looks towards me. Perhaps we could play a game of carom? He hunches forward over the board resting on the bed, his deep hazel irises flash in the hooded folds of his eyes. His middle finger tensed in the clasp of his thumb, ready to send the striker slithering across the powdered surface to nudge the ruby-red queen into one of the board’s pockets.

For a few moments, I live the consolation of a stream of events and exchanges that would never occur.

There are so many memories, and now, so many more imagined memories. The film flows, gets stuck, stutters, starts again. Gets stuck again, palpitates, melts and everything goes black. Then, it starts again. Irrfan, as I’ve seen him, imagined him, thought about him — Heer, Shams, Majnun, grass, not tree, earth, less fire, and becoming more and more water in the time I knew him. Neither man nor woman, a tumult of questions unencumbered by answers. A rhythm, a touch, a gaze that acknowledges and excites play. Buoyant behind masks, his diverse disguises allowed him security, entertainment and participation in social rituals. But it was clear to all who knew him that his yearning was for the ineffable, the unfathomable, the terrifying and life-galvanising unknown — not only within himself but in all that whirled around him in the universe. I see him, with the string of a kite in his hands — unruffled, vulnerable, eager for the unpredictable change.

Still the surge of memories, soothing, harrowing, continues: I enter the room and see Irrfan stretched like a tattered marionette across a large white bed, his feet hanging above the floor. This was in the same hospital where he would finally die three months later. This was the last time I saw him. When he awakes a few minutes later, he laughs so hard that he has tears rolling down his cheeks as I describe to him the character he’ll play in the new film we’re going to do together. Still later, resting back against the pillows, he looks at me and says: “I can hear it call, Anup Saab. Bulawa aa gaya hai (I’ve been summoned). Beautiful voice. It’s so tempting to let go.”

And I want this torrent of memories to stop. Yet I am relieved when they don’t. The horror in his eyes during the shoot of Qissa: The Tale of a Lonely Ghost (2014), our first film together, , when I spring a scene on him in which he has to dance. During the shoot of The Song of Scorpions (2017), our second film together, he holds up a scorpion by its tail and caresses its head. At the film’s premiere at Locarno, hesitant, but, finally, with a cigarette in his mouth, he joins me and Golshifteh Farahani, the Iranian actor and the female protagonist of the film, in the blue, storm-rippled Lake Como. He keeps on a t-shirt to elude all questions anyone might have about his arm, which he twisted when he fell in his childhood from a rooftop in Jaipur while chasing a kite. A herd of camels in the Thar Desert. Irrfan is playing a camel trader in this film. He calls out, “Baba!” And Patang trots over to him and lowers his head. Irrfan’s hand on Patang’s face.

This ferocious flow of memories — is this the final savour and succour of friendship? It’s a celebration and an elegy. But what’s the source? Is it my grief that opens the dam? Is it a gift or a curse? It flows, spills, answers. There are no answers. Nothing is lost and yet everything is lost. I do not remember the before and the after. Forgetting is with every word. Chairs, couches, the floor, the sand, the grass that we sat on, the drinks that we shared, they fade. Yes, the flow shimmers with some memories and wipes out other moments. If that’s it, then so be it. I’m convinced, though, that the undulations of the time lost remain.

This flow of memories, I’ll hold on to it like a talisman, caress it, breathe on it, speak to it. If only it will keep Irrfan alive. For a while longer with me.

*****

Excerpted with permission from Irrfan: Dialogues With the Wind, Anup Singh, Copper Coin. The book hit the stands on February 14.

Here’s Why Author Noah Hawley’s New Book ‘Anthem’ is Relevant in Today’s World

Published earlier this month, Anthem: A Novel by author Noah Hawley has been touted as the first big book of the new year. Since its release, it has been noted that its contents paint a frightening picture of what is to come for us, as members of the human race. Its uncanny resemblance and relevance to a post-pandemic world are striking.

The basic premise of the book is simple – a group of teenagers break out of a mental facility to save one of their own and they encounter many evils along the way.

Hawley is not just an author; he is a renowned screenwriter who has created and written several series such as Fargo and Legion. He also directed Natalie Portman in the 2019 science-fiction film Lucy in the Sky. While each work’s themes are diametrically different, their tone is the same: dark.

This darkness spills into Hawley’s latest novel, which can be described as a combination of science, psychological and dystopian fiction. Its prologue is set in 2009 where a centrist-right judge Margot Nadir sits with her second husband, Remy, and watches her 9-year-old daughter perform the American national anthem during a school recital. Margot is white and Remy is black; both identify as conservative.

As the author sets the mood for the book, the political landscape and heaviness cannot be ignored. He mentions the financial precariousness of the United States in 2009, taps into what it means to be a conservative black man through the eyes of Remy, and also looks into the political ideals of Margot, who takes pride in her position as a judge.

The book skips forward to an apocalyptic world which the author fills with issues that are familiar in the real world. Thousands of teenagers in America begin to die by suicide and no one seems to know why; Hawley describes the events in a manner that sounds similar to our own ongoing crisis with the coronavirus pandemic.

While the book is set in a post-Covid world, the government’s handling of teenage suicides seems like a callback to the current real-world political situation. As seen in the present, deaths become mere statistics and politicians are preoccupied with their own agendas.

Hawley writes, “Liberals pointed to elevated environmental toxins, to algae blooms in the Atlantic, to leaching plastics, even as the talking heads of right-wing media denied that suicide was a problem.”

Blurred Lines

Hawley takes all the evils that the world is witnessing today and puts them in his 500-page fictional book. He not only uses actual events that have happened but also paints a picture of what the future could hold.

While most of the action takes place in the United States, the problems and the resemblance to reality are universal.

In Anthem, adolescent mental health has taken a serious hit and teenagers are struggling with anxiety. There are adults with opulent wealth who run pharmaceutical companies that trigger and profit off people’s addictions.

At the same time, the world is getting hotter and environmental calamities are the order of the day. But none of the adults seem to be doing anything about this and the children are only getting more anxious.

To make it even more realistic, the author introduces a megalomaniac sex offender who preys on minors – a character who is disturbingly similar to Jeffrey Epstein. Recently, Epstein’s associate Ghislaine Maxwell was convicted for trafficking underage girls.

The parallels do not end there, as there is vigilantism, warfare, and characters who have survived shootings. For instance, one of the characters in the book is a survivor of the Parkland school shooting that took place in Florida in 2018.

Anthem brings up questions of morality, mortality, and the reparations that are required for the world to become habitable again. It is a hard-hitting existential novel that continually blurs the lines between current reality and fiction to the point where one wonders if the world is truly headed this way.

‘Irrfan: Dialogues with the Wind’: Anup Singh’s Book is a Tribute to the Late Actor

Anup Singh, who directed Irrfan Khan in Qissa: The Tale of a Lonely Ghost and The Song of Scorpions, announced a book on the late actor, on Friday, titled Irrfan: Dialogues with the Wind.

Khan, the National Award-winning actor, died on April 29, 2020, fighting a colon infection. The upcoming book is a tribute to Khan’s craft and his friendship with Singh. It will officially hit the stands on February 14, and is available here for pre-order.

The book was unveiled on the occasion of Khan’s 54th birth anniversary. According to the official description of the book, it will offer an intimate glimpse into the working relationship between Singh and Khan “as they trudge through mutual wariness, uncertainties, and blunders to a friendship founded firmly in creativity. As we travel with them to Punjab and Rajasthan and watch them at work on their films, we see in minute detail the devotion to hard work and the openness to uncertainty that make Irrfan’s performances so hypnotising.”

A foreword by Amitabh Bachchan, who co-starred with Khan in the 2015 Shoojit Sircar film Piku, will accompany the text that is published by Copper Coin.

In his words, Bachchan described Khan as “The intensity. The responsibility of the intensity. The silent righteousness of the responsibility. The eloquent eyes of his silent righteousness. If I were to present an actor whose mere appearance could speak its mind with sophisticated elegance, I’d instantly point to Irrfan Khan.”

Khan who was diagnosed with a rare neuro endocrine tumour in 2018, has appeared in a multitude of films, both Indian and international, inculding, Maqbool (2004), The Name Sake (2006), Paan Singh Tomar (2011), Talvar (2015), and more, with his final appearance in the 2020 film Angrezi Medium. Some of his international ventures are, namely, The Amazing Spider-Man (2012), Life of Pi (2012), Jurassic World (2015), and Inferno (2016).

Singh said in a statement, “But in the remembering and in the writing what ultimately affirmed itself are the joy of having known and worked with such a singular man and actor. The book is a celebration of this amazing man, a devoted friend, and an artiste who took us into the soul of what it means to be a human being in our world today.”

Khan is survived by wife Sutapa Sikdar and son Babil I Khan, who is yet to make his screen debut with the upcoming Netflix film Qala.

Sikdar called the book the best birthday gift for Khan, and said, “Anup’s book is poignant, lyrical and soulful. It resonated with me so much that I could actually see Anup and Irrfan’s interaction.”

Five Things that Will Smith Recounted in his New Memoir ‘Will’

Earlier this month, Will Smith released his autobiography Will that he co-wrote with author Mark Manson. This 432-page memoir has it all. From stories about his childhood in West Philadelphia to his first Grammy award and successful career in Hollywood, Smith does not hold back on the details.

The book is filled with anecdotes and intimate details of his trauma, his insecurities, and his thirst for attention and performance. He mentions the day he made up his mind not to go to college, his complicated relationship with his father “Daddio,” and even the influence his imaginary friend Magicker has had on his life.

Will is written as if it were a movie. As Smith recounts fights, long-lasting friendships, and his various relationships, there is a sense of drama. He sets the scene, describes the mood, and with a sense of finality, he steers you towards the outcome.

For instance, he writes in his introduction, “My father gave me my name, he gave me his name, and he gave me my greatest advantage in life: my ability to weather adversity. He gave me will.”

His storytelling style is a reminder of the kind of creative artist Smith is today.

Here, Silverscreen India picks five revelations and anecdotes from Will that give us an insight into the life of Will Smith:

1. Will Smith felt insecure about not being able to protect his mother from domestic abuse

Throughout his autobiography, Smith talks about his parents’ tumultuous relationship in great detail. His father was known for his anger issues and was physically abusive towards his mother, Caroline. Smith, who often witnessed the abuse, thought of himself as a coward for not being able to stand up for his mother.

“It became encased in a hard sediment, an unshakable feeling that no matter what I have done, and no matter how successful I have become, no matter how much money I’ve made or how many #1 hits I’ve had or how many box office records I’ve broken, there is that subtle and silent feeling always pulsating in the back of my mind: that I am a coward; that I have failed; that I am sorry, Mom, so sorry,” he writes.

When Smith was 13 years old, his mother made the decision to leave his father and moved in with her mother, Gigi.

2. He hit rock-bottom shortly after winning a Grammy award

After bagging a Grammy award in 1989 in the Best Rap Performance category for the song Parents Just Don’t Understand, Smith (known as Fresh Prince) and his friend DJ Jazzy Jeff were on a career-high. However, the hip-hop duo lost most of the money from their record deal by partying in the Bahamas and not focusing on writing their next album. Consequently, DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince’s following album turned out not so good and their tours drew fewer people. At the same time, Smith failed to pay his taxes and with no money left, the IRS took away his cars and other assets. Shortly after this, Smith also went to jail after his friend/bodyguard got into a fight after a performance.

 

3. He likens himself to Shah Jahan

It is no secret that Will Smith is a huge fan of India and his daughter Willow has talked about her fascination with Hinduism. Throughout the book, Smith references the Taj Mahal. In one particular chapter, he talks about the time he wanted to buy his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, a 256-acre ranch. He wanted to buy it as a token of his love for her and their family. He compares it to the Taj Mahal, which was a representation of Shah Jahan’s love for his wife, Mumtaz.

“I related to Emperor Shah Jahan – I wanted anything I was involved with to stand the test of time. I wanted everything around me to be the grandest and most magnificent that anyone had ever seen,” he writes.

4. His first romantic relationship began when he was 14

Smith was in a long-term relationship with his high school girlfriend Melanie Parker that began when he was 14. During the initial stages of his music career, Parker was a constant presence in his life. However, their relationship deteriorated after he came back from tour to discover that she had cheated on him. Despite reconciling, things only took a turn for the worse and it culminated in Smith burning all her belongings outside their house. Smith admits that he acted out and reveals that his attempts to reach out to Parker since have been futile.

5. Will Smith felt that his son had lost faith in him after the failure of their film After Earth

Jaden Smith, who was only 15 at the time, asked his parents for emancipation shortly after the release of the 2013 film After Earth. Directed by M Night Shyamalan, the movie which starred both Jaden and Will Smith, was critically panned. Following this, Will recounts, Jaden felt betrayed by his father as he had done everything that he was coached to do only to see fans and critics tear him apart for the film’s failure. Speaking of this experience, Will wrote, “But at fifteen years old, when Jaden asked about being an emancipated minor, my heart shattered. He ultimately decided against it, but it sucks when you hurt your kids.”

Penguin Random House Stalls Varavara Rao’s Book Indefinitely

Penguin Random House, one of the largest English-language publishers, have stalled the publishing of 81-year-old incarcerated Telugu poet and activist Varavara Rao‘s collection of poems citing the “nature of charges” against him.

In a report by The Quint, the book titled Varavara Rao: The Revolutionary Poet with 65 poems was initially scheduled to be published between June and July 2021.  Penguin decided to stall the publishing the book after the ongoing court case against Rao.

In January 2018, violence broke out during an annual celebration at Bhima Koregaon, a panchayat village in Maharashtra, to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon.

Rao and 15 other activists and scholars, who backed the event, were accused of having Maoist links and arrested under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. They have been awaiting trial for the last three years.

Rao was first arrested in August 2018, later kept under house arrest and was again arrested in November of the same year.

After testing positive for Covid-19 in July 2020, the poet was admitted to the State-run JJ Hospital and since then, his health had deteriorated rapidly. He has been suffering from dementia as well. On grounds of medical concern, his wife had filed a bail petition at the Bombay High Court and he was granted interim bail of six months in March. After this, he was supposed to either surrender or apply for an extension. His bail has been twice extended. Raoneed not surrender until November 18.

Since it is still unclear when the trial in the case would commence, Penguin Random House legal team’s recommendation suggested that Rao’s book should be stalled indefinitely, The Quint reported. The report also stated that prior to delaying the publication, the publishing house began selecting poems from the collection which were “less controversial”.

From a bulk of 100 poems, Penguin had decided to publish 65 of them. Three of the poems were written after Rao’s arrest. According the report, the publishing house first dropped the poems that Rao had written from the Yerwada Central Prison where he was initially kept.

Penguin’s commissioning editor Elizabeth Kuruvilla said to The Quint that “Varavara Rao’s book is very much in our publication schedule. It is not the only book in our list whose publication has been delayed in the past pandemic year, as it is undergoing the same rigorous processes we follow for all the books we publish.”

Recently in May, acclaimed Indian authors Arundhati Roy and Pankaj Mishra slammed Penguin Random House India after it announced the reissuing and publishing of a “new and enhanced” edition of Exam Warriors written by Prime Minister Narendra Modi even “as smoke from mass funeral pyres rose across India” referring to the thousand of death during the second wave of Covid-19 in the country at the time.

Before DC’s Jon Kent, 5 Famous Superheroes Who Belong to the LGBTQIA+ Spectrum

Jon Kent aka the latest Superman is bisexual, DC Comics announced on Monday. The new identity of the son of original Superman Clark Kent and Lois Lane will be introduced in the upcoming comic book Superman: Son of Kal-El #5.

Written by Tom Taylor, the comic will hit the stands on November 9. In it, Jon Kent develops a bond with reporter Jay Nakamura. The cover has been sketched by John Timms.

“I’ve always said everyone needs heroes and everyone deserves to see themselves in their heroes and I’m very grateful DC and Warner Bros share this idea,” said Taylor. “Superman’s symbol has always stood for hope, for truth and for justice. Today, that symbol represents something more. Today, more people can see themselves in the most powerful superhero in comics.”

Jon Kent debuted in the comic world with the 2015 series Convergence: Superman #2. However, his sexual identity was under wraps.

DC Chief Creative Officer and Publisher Jim Lee said that in the new series, Jon explores his identity as well as learns the secrets about his family.

He is the second major DC superhero to have a non-heterosexual identity.

Earlier in August, Tim Drake, who took on the identity of Robin, the sidekick to Batman, came out as a gay in Batman: Urban Legends #6. The three-part story is written by Meghan Fitzmartin, with art by Belen Ortega.

While Tim Drake aka Robin was first introduced in the comics in 1940 and rumours surrounding his sexuality had been doing the rounds for long, it was not until 2021 that the curtain on his identity was lifted.

With Jon Kent now joining Tim Drake as an openly non-heterosexual superhero, Silverscreen India brings to you five other famous superheroes from across Marvel and DC, who belong to the LGBTQIA+ community.

Loki

Loki became Marvel’s first ever queer character after the superhero came out as a bisexual in Disney’s web series Loki. Known as the God of Mischief, Loki is the son of Odin and brother to Thor. In June, director Kate Herron confirmed the character’s sexuality after the release of the third episode of the series featuring Tom Hiddleston. Loki’s bisexuality comes out in selective comic books like Young Avengers and Loki: Agent of Asgard, although not in a specific manner. Marvel too does not specify Loki’s sexuality and leaves it open for readers to interpret. Loki is also usually termed gender-fluid. The gender-fluidity association may have something to do with his powers that include shape-shifting, hypnotizing, sorcery, and black magic.

Harley Quinn

Harley Quinn, the DC super-villain and member of the Suicide Squad, has been bisexual for a while. Harleen Quinzel was a psychologist who fell for her subject, the Joker, and helped him escape the asylum. Her obsession with Joker inspired her to adopt a new identity, that of Harley Quinn, the Joker’s sidekick-slash-love interest. After they split, Quinn went her own way to become a part of teams like Suicide Squad and Gotham City Sirens. While Harley Quinn’s sexuality is not mentioned explicitly in either the comics or the films, in 2017, Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner confirmed that she is bisexual, through Harley Quinn #25, where she and Poison Ivy share a comic book kiss. Moreover, the 2019 animated series Harley Quinn, that is available on DC Universe, fleshes out the relationship between the two. However, DC mentions that there is no coming-out story.

Batwoman

Kate Kane aka Batwoman has undergone several character transitions since her inception in the 1950s. While she initially started out as Batman’s love-interest, she was soon given an independent identity that rendered her a lesbian since day one. She is one of the few openly gay superheroes. Batwoman struggles for respect in her personal life as she protects all of Gotham City’s citizens, whether they respect her or not, as per DC. The television adaptation of the superhero sees Kate Kane’s successor, Ryan Wilder, take over the mantle of Batwoman. The third season of the HBO Max series will see a Black gay Batwoman, played by Javicia Leslie, thereby expanding DC’s blanket of inclusion.

Wonder Woman

Princess Diana aka Wonder Woman, like Harley Quinn, has been queer her whole life, but DC Comics has never made the character come out. Until 2016, when writer Greg Rucka, with the release of comics like Wonder Woman: Earth One and DC Comics Bomshells, confirmed the Amazonian’s sexuality. The very simple reason behind her sexuality, Rucka told Comicosity, is the place Themyscira. “It’s supposed to be paradise. You’re supposed to be able to live happily. You’re supposed to be able to have a fulfilling, romantic and sexual relationship. And the only options are women.” However, while her sexuality has been hinted at since her inception, the films have only portrayed Wonder Woman’s relationship with Steve Trevor, with hardly any queer traits.

Aqualad

Originally created in 2010 for the Young Justice television series, as the half-Atlantean Kaldur’ahm, Jackson Hyde in the comics instead grew up on land and did not explore his sexuality until his membership in the 2016 Teen Titans, as per DC Comics. Jackson’s animated counterpart followed suit in Season 3 of Young Justice, with a new boyfriend by his side. Aqualad is a hybrid who trains under Aquaman and features in the recent Aquaman, written by Kelly Sue DeConnick and drawn largely by Robson Rocha.

Nobel Prize in Literature 2021 Awarded to Abdulrazak Gurnah

Tanzanian novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah has been awarded the 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature “for his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents.”

Gurnah is the author of 10 novels including Paradise (shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the Whitbread Award) and By the Sea (longlisted for the Booker Prize and shortlisted for the Los Angeles Times Book Award). He has also authored several short stories. A professor of English and the director of graduate studies at the University of Kent, Gurnah was also a Booker Prize judge in 2016.

As per the Swedish Academy, Gurnah, born in 1948, grew up on the island of Zanzibar in the Indian Ocean but arrived in England as a refugee in the end of the 1960s. “The theme of the refugee’s disruption runs throughout his work,” the academy noted.

Annie Ernaux, Margaret Atwood, Jamaica Kincaid, Maryse Condé, Dubravka Ugresic and Nuruddin Farah were among the other top contenders for the 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature. Other authors who were predicted to win this year included Haruki Murakami, Anne Carson, Lyudmila Ulitskaya, Peter Nadas, Jon Fosse, Don DeLillo, Dubravka Ugrešić, Hélène Cixous, Javier Marías, Mircea Cărtărescu and Can Xue.

Nominations of the Nobel Prize are a closely guarded secret. According to the Nobel Prize Organisation, the statutes of the Nobel Foundation restrict the disclosure of information about the nominations, whether publicly or privately, for 50 years.

Since 1901, the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded 113 times to 117 Nobel Prize laureates, majorly dominated by Europeans and North Americans with only 16 women winning the prize.

Louise Glück, the New York-based writer, bagged the prize in 2020 for “her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal”. Failing all predictions, Glück won the prize last year. The Nobel Prize in Literature for 2019 was awarded to Austrian author Peter Handke, a decision that prompted severe backlash and criticism due to Handke’s alleged denial of crimes committed by the Serbs during the 1990 war in erstwhile Yugoslavia.

While the Nobel Prize for Peace will be announced on Friday, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was announced on Monday and has been awarded jointly to David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian.

Booker Prize 2021: The Six Novels That Are On This Year’s Shortlist

An unfulfilled promise, the wrongful hanging of a man, the collision of the real world and the internet, an ambitious aviation journey, a single parent to a gifted child, and the devastation of a thirty-year civil war -these are the themes of the six books in the 2021 Booker Prize shortlist. Well on their way to feature on almost all reading lists this year, the six books were chosen out of the 13 that were longlisted in August.

The winning book will be announced on November 3. This year’s judges include Harvard professor Maya Jasanoff, editor of the Financial Times Weekend, Horatia Harrod and actor Natascha McElhone. Theological writer Dr. Rowan Williams and previously shortlisted author Chigozie Obioma are also on the panel.

Here are the novels from the Booker Prize shortlist:

A Passage North (Anuk Arudpragasam)

Written by Sri Lankan author Anuk Arudpragasam, this book, much like his first book, The Story of a Brief Marriage, is also heavily political and revolves around the three-decade-long Sri Lankan civil war.

The book follows Krishan, who takes a train journey from Colombo to the war-torn Northern Province to attend his grandmother’s caretaker’s funeral. The late caretaker Rani is a woman haunted by the deaths of her sons in the war. The story’s central themes include the devastation and trauma of war, that Krishan discovers during his journey.

In an interview with the Booker Prize Foundation, Arudpragasam said, “I didn’t set out to write about war when I began writing fiction, but after witnessing the government’s systematic destruction of Tamil society during the final phase of fighting, I have been unable, like many Tamils outside the war zone, to stop thinking about it.”

The Promise (Damon Galgut)

Galgut, who has been previously shortlisted for his books The Good Doctor and In a Strange Room, is back on this year’s shortlist for his latest work set during the final years of the Apartheid.

On a small farm in Pretoria, South Africa, the matriarch, Rachel, dies and her husband goes back on their promise of giving their black domestic worker the land that she lives on. Spanning over several decades, the promise continues to remain unfulfilled.

Through The Promise, the author traces the history of South Africa by weaving a story about racism and justice.

No One Is Talking About This (Patricia Lockwood)

“The internet – in the form of social media, at least – is much more like fiction than it is anything else,” said Patricia Lockwood in her interview with the Booker Prize Foundation.

Lockwood, who is known for her poetry and memoirs, takes on the internet in her debut novel. It follows the life of an influencer, who calls the internet “the portal”. She is famous for her posts on Twitter and spends her time travelling around the world to give talks. However, a personal tragedy involving a close relative causes her to come back to reality.

Partly written as if one were tweeting, the novel is very relevant and captures the essence of human relationships and connections.

Great Circle (Maggie Shipstead)

In 1950, Marian Graves embarks on an aviation journey called the Great Circle- a flight around the world. However, she and her navigator vanish. Fifty years later, controversial actress Hadley Baxter whose parents died in a plane crash, is drawn to Marian’s story. By taking up the role, Baxter not only finds herself relating to Marian’s character but also is close to uncovering the truth behind her mysterious disappearance.

Stringing together two narratives, the New York Times Bestselling author’s historical novel is ambitious and tackles the issue of women’s rights and liberation.

The Fortune Men (Nadifa Mohamed)

The only British author to feature on this year’s shortlist, Mohamed’s novel is based on true events that took place in Cardiff, Wales in the 1950s. Through The Fortune Men, she tells the story of a Somalian petty thief and father Mahmood Mattan who was the last man to be hanged in the country. After his Welsh wife leaves him, he begins to get into trouble. However, his life completely changes when he is wrongfully accused of murdering a shopkeeper.

As the story delves into the horrors of racial profiling, injustice, and fabricated evidence, Mattan realizes that there may be no way out of the situation.

Bewilderment (Richard Powers)

Known for his stories about the natural world, Powers once again tackles the topic in this novel about a father-son duo. While astrobiologist Theo Byrnes searches for life on other planets, his nine-year-old son Robin thinks of ways to save the world. Theo has to cope with his wife’s death and his son’s expulsion from school for smashing a boy’s face. As his son grows more troubled, Theo decides to keep him off psychoactive drugs and focus on homeschooling and experimental neural feedback instead.

Bewilderment marks the author’s third time being shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

 

6 Debutant Authors, 3 Malayalam Translations in JCB Prize For Literature 2021 Longlist

The longlist for the JCB Prize for Literature, which honours “a distinguished work of fiction by an Indian author” each year, has been announced for 2021. Six works by debutant authors and three Malayalam translations feature in the list of 10 novels drawn from a wide range of submissions, in multiple languages, by writers from 16 states.

Books published between August 1, 2020, and July 31, 2021 are eligible for this year’s award.

The five-member jury that selected the list of 10 novels comprises of author and literary translator Sara Rai (Chair), designer and art historian Dr Annapurna Garimella, author and translator Shahnaz Habib, journalist Prem Panicker, and writer Amit Varma. In drawing up the list, Rai said the jury looked for “cohesiveness of plot and narrative, of structure and texture, metaphor, point of view, and acute angles of invention.”

“We looked for the focused gaze and the unique voice, one in tune with the setting and situation in the book that despite rough edges was particular and at the same time universal. We were after well-written and well-edited books, those that transformed you in subtle ways by providing a new perspective on contemporary Indian reality even if the work was one of historical fiction,” she further said, adding that the novels that made the final list were unforgettable and stayed with them long after they had finished reading them.

The six debutant novelists who made the list are Rijula Das (A Death in Sonagachhi, Pan Macmillan), Krupa Ge (What We Know About Her, Westland), Daribha Lyndem (Name Place Animal Thing, Zubaan Publishers Pvt Ltd), Shabir Ahmed Mir (The Plage Upon Us, Hachette India), Lindsay Pereira (Gods and Ends, Penguin Random House India), and Keerthik Sasidharan (The Dharma Forest, Penguin Random House India).

Speaking to Silverscreen India, Lyndem said, “I am absolutely ecstatic about having made the longlist! It is an honour to be nominated alongside so many talented writers. As a first time author, my only hope was that a few people read my book. To actually be longlisted is something out of a dream.”

Talking about her first novelLyndem said, “Name Place Animal Thing is a coming-of-age novel set in Shillong in the 90s and early 2000s. I was inspired by my own experiences growing up in a small town – experiences that are personal, but also largely universal. The novella is a way to re-enter childhood, showing how sensitive and astute children are, while also revealing how vulnerable adults can be. It is an interconnected series of stories, vignettes that span the breadth of childhood and move into the precarious awareness of adulthood.”

The three translations in the longlist are Delhi: A Soliloquy by M Mukundan translated from Malayalam by Fathima EV and Nandakumar K (Westland), The Man Who Learnt to Fly but Could Not Land by Thachom Poyil Rajeevan translated from Malayalam by PJ Mathew (Hachette India),  Anti-Clock by VJ James translated from Malayalam by Ministhy S (Penguin Random House India).

Irwin Allan Sealy’s Asoca (Penguin Random House India) rounded out the list.

The five shortlisted titles will be announced on October 4 by the jury. The winner, who will be awarded a prize of Rs 25 lakh, will be announced on November 13. If the winning work is a translation, the translator will receive an additional Rs 10 lakh.

Each of the five shortlisted authors will also be awarded Rs 1 lakh and in the case of a translation, the translator will receive Rs 50,000.

The JCB Prize for Literature has so far been dominated by Malayalam translations, which have won two of the three awards since its launch in 2018. The 2018 winner was Jasmine Days by Benyamin translated from the Malayalam by Shahnaz Habib and the 2020 winner was Moustache by S Hareesh translated from the Malayalam by Jayasree Kalathil. The 2019 winner was The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay.

Emmy Award-winning American Comedian Jackie Mason dies at 93

Jackie Mason, who was renowned for lending his voice to the character Rabbi Hyman Krustofski for the show The Simpsons, died on Saturday at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. He was 93.

The death was confirmed by Mason’s friend, lawyer Raoul Felder, as per The Hollywood Reporter. Mason and Felder have co-authored reports and books including ‘The Jackie Mason, Raoul Felder Survival Guide to New York’, that released in 1997, and ‘Schmucks!: Our Favorite Fakes, Frauds, Lowlifes, Liars’.

The two-time Emmy Award winning comedian hailed from a family of rabbis and was ordained as one at the age of 25. Born to Jewish parents in 1928, Mason began his tryst with comedy by cracking jokes at the synagogue, and quit his job three years later, as, “Somebody in the family had to make a living”, according to his website.

Mason debuted as a stand-up comedian at The Ed Sullivan Show “only to fall into Sullivan’s disfavor over the interpretation of a now legendary hand gesture during a live performance in 1962, an incident which cast a shadow over Mason’s career for more than a decade”, as per his website. While Sullivan fired Mason from the show, the Tony Award winning performer filed a libel suit on the grounds that Sullivan had defamed him.

Moreover, because of Sullivan’s towering hold in the industry, Mason was unable to get substantial work in the television and film industry for two decades. Sullivan later invited him back and apologized himself.

He went on to feature on the Broadway show The World According to Me for two-and-a-half years, and began in 1986. The show earned Jackie Mason a Tony Award, an Outer Critics Circle Award, an Ace Award, an
Emmy Award, and a Grammy nomination, and it toured successfully in America and Europe.

Mason returned to Broadway in 1990 with Jackie Mason: Brand New; in 1994 with Jackie Mason: Politically Incorrect; in 1996 with Love Thy Neighbor; in 1999 with Much Ado about Everything; in 2002 with Prune Danish; in 2005 with Freshly Squeezed; and in 2008 with The Ultimate Jew. His last show Fearless played for sell out crowds at the Wyndhams’s Theatre in London’s West End.

Mason also featured in films like Caddyshack II (1988), The Jerk (1979), and History of the World: Part I (1981).

Several members from the industry paid him tribute online.

Actor Henry Winkler tweeted, “Truly one of the funniest shows I have ever seen .. ever .. thank you Jackie and now you get to make heaven laugh.”

American actor and comedian Jason Alexander wrote, “I took my folks to see Jackie Mason on Broadway twice. I have never seen them laugh harder. A comic from a different time but one of the best. Mister. I’m takin’ to you.”

Television host Rita Cosby wrote, “Prayers and forever love for my dear friend #JackieMason. When we were together just a few weeks ago, he was as hilarious, irreverent and brilliant as ever! Truly one of a kind… who will be deeply missed. Love You So Jackie.”

Mason is survived by his wife and manager Jyll Rosenfeld and daughter Sheba Mason.

Prince Harry Is Working on an ‘Intimate’ Memoir

Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, will author an “intimate” memoir that will be published by Penguin Random House in 2022, the publishing house announced on Monday.

In the memoir, Prince Harry will share “experiences, adventures, losses, and life lessons that have helped shape him”. Proceeds from the yet-to-be-titled book will be donated to charity.

“I’m writing this not as the prince I was born but as the man I have become,” he said in a statement, adding that the memoir will comprise “the highs and lows, the mistakes, the lessons learned”.

“Covering his lifetime in the public eye from childhood to the present day, including his dedication to service, the military duty that twice took him to the frontlines of Afghanistan, and the joy he has found in being a husband and father, Prince Harry will offer an honest and captivating personal portrait, one that shows readers that behind everything they think they know lies an inspiring, courageous, and uplifting human story,” the publishing house said in a statement.

An audio-book edition of the memoir will be released simultaneously by Penguin Random House Audio.

While the book will be published by Random House in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, it is unclear as to which publishing houses will be taking the text to other parts of the world, including India.

Suits actor and Harry’s wife Meghan Markle released her first her children’s book in June, titled The Bench. The couple that welcomed their second-born, daughter Lilibet ‘Lili’ Diana, in June, have also signed a multi-year deal with Netflix to produce documentaries, feature films, scripted television shows and children’s series. The Duchess of Sussex announced on July 16 that an animated kids’ show, tentatively titled Pearl, is in works with Netflix. She will executive produce the series that will be the first animated series to be produced by their banner Archewell Pictures.

Harry announced Heart of Invictus in April, their first docu-series for Netflix. He also recently served as the executive producer on Apple TV’s show on mental health, The Me You Can’t See, along with Oprah Winfrey recently.

Shortly after the couple announced their separation from the Royal family in February, in an interview with Winfrey in March, Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle revealed that she battled suicidal thoughts and expressed their disappointment with the British Royal family.

Authors Arundhati Roy, Pankaj Mishra Slam Penguin Random House for Publishing “Enhanced” Edition of PM Modi’s Book ‘Exam Warriors’ 

Acclaimed Indian authors Arundhati Roy and Pankaj Mishra slammed Penguin Random House India, the British publishing house, after it announced the reissuing and publishing of a “new and enhanced” edition of Exam Warriors written by Prime Minister Narendra Modi even “as smoke from mass funeral pyres rose across India”.

To understand if the decision taken by Penguin Random House India was “preceded by any internal discussion about the company’s role in defending the moral and intellectual values of their society”, Mishra wrote a letter to Penguin Random House India CEO Gaurav Shrinagesh, which was published in the London Review of Books

Mishra wrote that though publishers with international owners and affiliations were “relatively immune to the government’s coercive tactics”, in this “bleak” moment, Penguin Random House India chose to “enlist in a flailing politician’s propaganda campaign by publishing and promoting Exam Warriors“.

“I am sure you know of the desperation with which parents and children have been beseeching the government to postpone exams. Nor do I need to tell you of Modi’s recent record in office: the list is long, from his brutal crackdown in Kashmir to his super-spreading election rallies,” Mishra wrote.

“I am more concerned in this context, since Modi is now a Penguin ‘author’, with his government’s violent persecution of writers and journalists. The media organisation, Reporters without Borders, is not exaggerating when it describes India as one of ‘the most dangerous countries in the world’ for people who write and publish for a living.”

Relying to Mishra’s letter, Shrinagesh wrote that with Penguin’s presence in India for over 30 years, they publish a “diverse range of voices across genres” while leading a team where editors make “independent” publishing decisions.

“During these difficult times we continue to endeavour to make all our books available to our readers. We value every author’s views and opinions, as diverse as they may be and very much appreciate your note,” he wrote.

Roy, who is a vocal critic of the Modi-led Central government, told The Guardian that she would “like Modi and all his sayings and books to retreat into a Himalayan cave and never re-emerge”.

“Publishing Modi’s Exam Warriors is a similar form of self-abasement, made more ridiculous by the unresolved mystery about Modi’s degrees – a BA by correspondence taken at the age of 28 and an MA in ‘Entire Political Science’ from a university in Gujarat that never offered such a course,” said Roy.

Roy spoke about the “authenticity” of the claims of Modi’s degrees “that he has made on oath before he stood for the 2014 elections has been blocked by the universities, the election commission and the courts”.

“So we don’t know what (if any) exams this Exam Warrior took,” she added.

Over the last few years, publishers and literary events have been put under “massive pressure” by the Modi regime and its Hindu nationalist supporters, Roy said.

“Having bent and bullied almost every institution to their will, they now seek the respectability of being ‘mainstream’ authors invited to mainstream events. Many publishers and litfests have succumbed,” she said.

Initially released in 2018, Exam Warriors was described as a handy guide for students in India as well as across the globe that “will be a friend not only in acing exams but also in facing life”.

Keeping in mind the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic that led to a “new normal” with all the uncertainties, the publishers claimed that the revised and updated version of Exam Warriors will “prepare readers not only for exams but also for life as a whole”.

The second edition, as claimed by Penguin Random House, proposes a “systematic approach to tackling challenges students face outside and inside classrooms, touching upon diverse themes such as competing with oneself, discovering oneself, time management, technology, gratitude and goal setting”.

Calling Modi “an inspirational leader for the youth”, Penguin Random House mentioned that the book will have a special “impactful” address from Modi for educators and teachers, “thanking them for their service and sharing some insights that will lead them to give their students an immersive and enriching learning experience”.

“The pandemic gave me the opportunity to take out some time to add new mantras in the new edition of Exam Warrior. Now it has few mantras for parents, as well as a lot of interesting activities related to the Narendra Modi App, which will help ignite the Exam Warrior in students,” said Modi in the statement issued by Penguin Random House India.

Actor Neena Gupta’s Autobiography ‘Sach Kahun Toh’ to Release on June 14

Neena Gupta, the veteran Hindi actor, announced on Instagram on Friday that her autobiography Sach Kahun Toh will release on June 14.

The book, published by Penguin Random House India, will narrate her journey from her time at the National School of Drama to moving to Mumbai in the 80s and her single parenthood, according to a report in PTI.

In a video shared on her social media handle, the actor shared that that the book, which she wrote during the Covid-19 induced lockdown in 2020, is available for pre-order. “I thought in these very difficult and gloomy times when we are stuck at home, we are sad and anxious, maybe my book will help you tide some of the tough days,” Gupta said in the video.

The book addresses issues like casting couch, film industry politics, and also talks about what it takes for a young actor to survive without a godfather or guide, the PTI report stated.

Sach Kahun Toh is a candid, self-deprecating portrait of the person behind the persona, detailing her life’s many choices, her battles against stereotypes, then and now, and how she may not be as unconventional as people think her to be,” the publisher said in a statement.

In 2017, Gupta made headlines when she asked for work in an Instagram post. She later revealed that she had received five offers after the post. Since then, she has acted in films like Badhaai HoShubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan, and Panga. In her latest film, Sardar Ka Grandson, Gupta played the role of a 90-year-old grumpy matriarch who wishes to see her home in Lahore one last time. The film, which also starred Arjun Kapoor and Rakul Preet Singh, released on Netflix on May 18.

Gupta started her career in 1982 and since then has won several awards for her performances in Indian and international films. She won the National Film Award for Best Supporting Actress for playing a young widow in Woh Chokri (1994).

Ki Rajanarayanan, Tamil Writer and Sahitya Akademi Winner, Dies at 98

Ki Rajanarayanan, the veteran Tamil writer and Sahitya Akademi winner popularly known as Ki Ra, died due to age-related issues at Puducherry on Monday.

He was 98.

Born on September 16, 1923, in Idaiseval, near Kovilpatti in Tamil Nadu, Rajanarayanan dropped out of school in seventh grade. In 1958, at the age of 35, he published his first short story titled Mayamaan which became a success. He moved to Puducherry, where he was appointed as professor of folklore at the Pondicherry University in 1989.

While he continued writing stories based on karisal kaadu (arid and drought-hit lands near Kovilpatti), his stories focused on their folklores, hardships, and beliefs. His most noted works include Gopalla Grammam and its sequel Gopallapurathu Makkal that talked about the people and village Gopalla.

Rajanarayanan won the Sahitya Akademi award in 1991 for Gopallapurathu Makkal. His works dealt with the migration of people in south India. Ranging from essays to novels and short stories, he had over 30 literary works to his credit.

In 2003, filmmaker Amshan Kumar directed the Tamil film Oruththi which is based on Rajanarayanan’s short story Kidai. The film was subsequently screened at the International Film Festival of India.

Speaking to Silverscreen India, writer Stalin Rajangam said, “He had a big role in democratising Tamil literature. The writing was unilateral, which focussed on certain upper communities and regions, and majorly centred around Thanjavur or Tirunelveli regions. In that backdrop, Ki Ra’s writing was the key to bring the different colours of the Tamil lands in literature. Though there were writers who tried to establish different voices, Ki Ra diluted the rigidity of one voice and brought in many.”

According to Stalin, Rajanarayanan democratised Tamil literature in terms of “language and life”. “Even an uneducated man would be able to understand his works. They were simple. Ki Ra’s success was to show simplicity in a grand way. There was depth in his writing. His works made others believe that they can also write their experiences,” he said.

Rajanarayanan was known for candidly writing on sex instead of stigmatising it.

“His style of writing was also simple and his stories would include matters that were considered taboo. He explored sexual relationships in villages and working classes, took a comical take on sex, which are very common in rural areas. Ki Ra took such elements of villages and wrote how entwined such matters were with human lives,” Stalin said.

Rajanarayanan was a follower of the Communist Party of India.

Stalin added that Rajanarayanan curated a dictionary called Karisal Vattaram Sol Agaradi, which compiled “unique words, phrases and proverbs”. The dictionary paved the way for similar ones to be made for other regions as well, he added.

“Something that no one knows is that the hit Tamil film Muthal Mariyathai (1985), is said to be inspired from a story written by Ki Ra. Though it is not completely based on his story, the film credits’ thanks Ki Ra. The film is said to be inspired from a point about the human sexual relationships in villages, that is taken from his story,” Stalin said.

Many took to social media to condole the death of the writer.

DMK MP Kanimozhi wrote that the death of the writer was a great loss to Tamil Nadu.

On Tuesday, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin announced that Rajanarayanan’s last rites would be conducted with state honours. In addition, Stalin also announced that a statue of Ki Ra will be erected in Kovilpatti on behalf of the state government and the Panchayat Union Middle School at the late writer’s native place, Idaiseval, will be renovated with an auditorium that will feature Ki Ra’s pictures and works.

The late writer is survived by two sons.

The Woman in the Window Review: An Insipid Thriller that Wastes its Star-Studded Cast

Within the first few minutes of The Woman in the Window, it becomes clear that this film is an ode to the 1954 classic thriller Rear Window. The problem with the movie is not just with its poor attempt to emulate Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece, but also with its inability to excite or shock as thrillers are usually supposed to.

The movie is the latest installment in the recent trend of adapting the stories of famous unreliable narrators like Amy Dunne in Gone Girl and Rachel in The Girl on the Train to screen. However, the film’s success in doing so is questionable.

The Woman in the Window is an adaptation of novelist AJ Finn’s best-selling 2018 book of the same name. The elements of suspense and intrigue coupled with the protagonist Anna’s unreliable narration are the driving forces in Finn’s story. However, director Joe Wright strings together a rushed plot and weak screenplay reducing it to an uninspiring and tedious adaption of the novel.

An agoraphobic child psychologist Anna Fox (Amy Adams) lives alone in one of New York City’s famed brownstone houses. Her tenant David (Wyatt Russell) is a handyman who frequently oscillates between friendly and volatile.

Separated from her husband Ed (Anthony Mackie) and their eight-year-old daughter Olivia, she spends her time watching black-and-white thrillers and spying on her next-door neighbours. In the manner of James Stewart in Rear Window, she silently observes the various happenings in their lives while the neighbours have no clue.

Her latest obsession is the Russells, a family that has just moved in across the street. She strikes a friendship with the 15-year-old Ethan Russell (Fred Hechinger), who stops by her home with a gift. Taken by his friendly but silent and troubled demeanour, Anna begins to suspect that his father Alistair (Gary Oldman) is abusive and controlling. Soon after, Ethan’s mother Jane (Julianne Moore) drops in and the two women strike up a friendship over wine.

A lonely and frequently drunk Anna, who uses her Nikon camera to spy on her neighbours, wakes up one night to witness the ghastly murder of Jane by an unseen assailant. When the police arrive, they question Anna’s grasp over reality. She is known for being an alcoholic and consuming medication that can make her hallucinate. To make matters more sinister, Alistair shows up and refutes Anna’s theory by bringing a different woman and claiming that she is Jane Russell (Jennifer Jason Leigh).

Shook by this revelation and unable to move on from what she witnessed, Anna delves deeper into the conspiracy as she is simultaneously forced to come to terms with her own realities.

While this plot is promising on paper, the film adaptation is underwhelming.

The creators spend very little time establishing the characters and setting. For instance, the reasons for David’s volatile nature, Alistair’s cold and seemingly cruel nature are introduced hurriedly but they are never fully explained or resolved. Anna’s friendship with Jane and her relationship with Ethan is also established very poorly and inorganically.

The film’s deviation from the source material only aids in making an already shallow story more unconvincing. For instance, in the novel, Finn takes his time to establish Anna’s agoraphobia. She is part of an online forum for people who share her disorder and she frequently chats with them. She is also an avid chess player. While these seem like small details, they help propel the story forward and tie up loose ends.

Characters like Bina (Anna’s physical therapist), William, and ‘Granny Lizzie’ (another Agora forum member) play their part in making the story interesting and the twists delectable but they are notoriously absent in the movie version.

By skipping these important sequences, the film’s mystery is stripped off its charm. The subsequent revelations (which are not totally unexpected) simply fall flat.

The film, much like the novel, has two important twists that it executes poorly. Finn, who relies heavily on misdirecting and confusing his readers, manages to achieve the shock value that he was going for while making the big reveals.

The screen adaptation does neither of those things. While making the first reveal, the creators dramatise it to the extent where it feels like a soap opera rather than a murder mystery. All the characters surround Anna as they confront her to face an inconvenient truth about herself. An important part of the movie, this scene is let down heavily by poor dialogue delivery and forced acting by a cast that has no chemistry.

Despite having a stellar cast, the plot makes it very difficult for them to deliver noteworthy performances. The film underutilises the capabilities of seasoned actors like Gary Oldman, Julianne Moore, and Wyatt Russell.

It is Adams’ rendition of Anna and Brian Tyree Henry’s likable character Detective Little (who is empathetic to Anna’s plight) that stand out.

The Woman in the Window could have been a good homage to all the thrillers that it consciously references and praises. However, it is let down by its shallow reveals, unnecessary deviations, and a frustrating climatic ending that is ultimately, a disservice to its viewers.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom: Netflix Adaptation of August Wilson’s Play Gets Thoughtful Changes and Additions

When Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom released on Netflix in December 2020, it generated a lot of buzz. After all, it was Black Panther actor Chadwick Boseman’s last film after he died following a silent battle with cancer in August 2020. The film was soon nominated in the Best Actor, Best Actress, Production Design, Makeup, and Costume Design categories at the 93rd Academy Awards. Boseman even won the Golden Globe Award and Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actor posthumously.   

Directed by George C Wolfe, the film is an adaptation of popular African-American playwright August Wilson’s 1982 play of the same name. Written as part of his 10-play series titled Pittsburgh Cycle, this play chronicles the tumultuous journey of legendary blues singer Ma Rainey and her band during a recording session in Chicago in the 1920s. 

The film is largely faithful to the play with a few changes to bring out the play’s themes of Black exploitation, racism and interpersonal conflicts better. With captivating and convincing performances by the ensemble cast, the movie manages to make its point: the existing white power structures stripping them off their power in the guise of helping them.  

The context  

The story takes place over an afternoon at a recording studio in Chicago when the band, having arrived earlier than Ma (Viola Davis), begins to discuss racism, music, God, and their life experiences.   

Boseman plays Levee, a hot-headed and ambitious trumpet player who dreams of having his own band someday. He gives his original compositions to Ma’s apathetic white producer Mel Sturdyvant (Johnny Coyn), in the hope of recording his own creations. Leeve, along with Cutler (Colman Domingo), Toledo (Gylnn Turman) and Slow Drag (Michael Potts) form Ma Rainey’s band. Faithful to Ma, the rest of the band tries their best to discourage Levee from rubbing her the wrong way.  

Ma and the rest of the bandespecially Toledo, do not get along with Levee, whom they find arrogant and wayward. Director Wolfe shows how they frequently lock horns with Levee over his flippant attitude and inability to take his role in the band seriously. Ma is also wary of his interest in her girlfriend Dussie Mae.   

While the band has their own conflicts, the way Ma’s manager, Irvin (Jeremy Shamos) uses and tries to exploit her for her music forms a parallel plot.   

Despite seemingly giving into Ma’s demands in terms of music, pay, and order of things, Irvin and Sturdyvant’s indifference and contempt for her cannot be overlooked. Ma’s strong and standoffish attitude towards them highlights how she deals with the poor treatment of Black artists.   

The deviations  

The first scene of the film shows Ma Rainey performing at a crowded tent. The scene then quickly shifts to her performing in Chicago, where Levee steps into the spotlight and improvises the song. A visibly annoyed Ma instructs for the spotlight to be focused on her alone. While this scene does not feature in the original play, it helps establish Ma’s discontentment and insecurity with Levee’s dynamic stage presence. In Wilson’s rendition, the first scene opens with Ma’s band directly arriving at the studio to record her songs.  

Wolfe incorporates some changes to the source material. Some of the dialogues from the play have been cut while being adapted to the screen. For instance, when Levee narrates the incident of his mother being raped by white men when he was a child, Slow Drag sings If I had my way…I would tear this old building down. However, in the film, Levee’s narration of the horrific incident is followed by silence, while Toledo sombrely plays a few keys on the piano.

This change coincides with the creator’s conscious choice to omit the playwright’s characterisation of Slow Drag. A lot of his dialogues and his friendly relationship with Cutler does not feature in the movie. Perhaps, this deviation assists in giving Toledo more screen time in order to establish his brewing confrontation with Levee that culminates in the film’s tragic ending.   

The film fleshes out Levee’s volatile state of mind. Throughout the film, he is obsessed with a locked door in the green room. As he gets increasingly frustrated with the band and his current situation, he eventually takes it out on the door. What starts off as curiosity results in him breaking down the door down to see what lies behind it. While this scene is absent in the play, this scene highlights his frustrations and helplessness.   

 

The flirtatious relationship between Dussie Mae (Taylour Paige) and Levee is explored more in the film. In the play, their flirtation does not go beyond kissing while in the movie, they have a sexual encounter.   

Speaking about this particular change, the film’s writer Ruben Santiago-Hudson told Fast Company“I didn’t want Dussie Mae to be some silly little girl that’s following around Ma. I wanted Dussie Mae to be smart and cunning. She doesn’t have a tremendous amount of lines. I empowered her by making her take over in that scene.”  

The ending  

The story ends with Ma firing Levee and Sturdyvant refusing to record his songs. The music producer, instead, offers to purchase Levee’s songs. Levee suffers a mental breakdown. Devastated and frustrated, he returns to the green room and stabs Toledo after the latter steps on his brand-new expensive leather shoes. The other band members are horrified and rush to find the manager.   

The scene signifies the death of Levee’s ambitions and his trampled-upon hopes. 

While the play ends here, the film has an added an additional scene where they show Sturdyvant recording Levee’s original compositions with an all-white band. This scene enhances the story’s running theme: the exploitation of Black people’s creativity and talent. 

Ma’s cold attitude towards her white manager and music producer then becomes increasingly justified. In an earlier scene, she tells Cutler that Irvin only needs her for her music and does not treat her like an equal. It is apparent that Ma is careful to ensure that she is not exploited by her white producer.  

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is a significant film. The slight tweaks enable the creators to effortlessly adapt the play for the big screen, at a time when several American award shows have been accused of snubbing Black artists. Some of the underlying themes of the film become relevant in contemporary American society.

7 Lesser-Known Stephen King Adaptations to Watch this Weekend

As a selection of 25 unreleased Stephen King films will be streamed at the Stephen King Rules Dollar Baby Festival between April 23-25, the question about the horror author’s undying legacy crops up once again. Recently, Netflix picked up the rights to adapt the acclaimed author’s novel Talisman and Apple Tv+’s upcoming show Lisey’s Story starring Julianne Moore is based on his 2006 novel of the same name.

For decades, King’s works have been highly celebrated and adapted to the big screens in Oscar-winning performances like Kathy Bates in Misery. From Kubrick’s The Shining to the recent two-part adaptation of IT, featuring Hollywood’s most infamous clown Pennywise, Stephen King’s domination of the horror genre has been widely appreciated.

The author has written over 55 books but not all his adaptations have gone on to become big-budget movies warranting countless pop culture references like his classic films Cujo and Carrie. Some of them, despite being good films, have not received dizzying recognition. So, Silverscreen India brings you a list of seven lesser-known Stephen King adaptations for viewers to enjoy.

  1.   Dolores Claiborne

 This 1995 psychological horror film is the second Stephen King adaptation that features actor Kathy Bates. In the movie, the titular character is accused of murdering her old wealthy employer forcing her estranged daughter Selena to come back home. Soon after Selena’s arrival, the reason for their estrangement is unravelled causing old family secrets to spill out.

Despite Dolores Claiborne not being a typical Stephen King horror tale, the movie delves into horrors that are not only realistic but perhaps even more terrifying than dancing clowns and creepy pet cemeteries. Touching upon domestic abuse, trauma, and repression, Dolores Claiborne is a compelling movie with a great cast.

  1.   IT Miniseries (1990)

 At a time when horror movies were seldom made into direct-to-TV movies, broadcasting network ABC adapted King’s IT into a two-part series. The series focuses on a group of children who realise that a clown called Pennywise is terrorising their town, Derry. When kids and adults go missing, they realise that Pennywise is not a clown but a demonic being that feeds off people’s fears.

 The 1990 adaptation is delightful and horrifying in equal parts. Curry’s performance carries the film through and makes it an unmissable adaptation.  His take on Pennywise the Dancing Clown even served as an inspiration for Bill Skarsgard’s rendition of the character in the 2017 film.

With new adaptations of classic King novels like Misery, Green Mile coming to the forefront in the late 90s, IT remains an underrated horror classic.

  1.   Stand by Me (1986)

Stand by Me is adapted from King’s novella The Body. Starring Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O’Connell, the film is about four teenagers, who in the hopes of garnering fame, venture into the woods to find the body of a schoolboy who was hit by a train. Despite having a well-known cast and a refreshing storyline, Stand by Me remains relatively unknown to the mainstream audience.

 In a rare shift from the horror genre, this Stephen King adaptation is a coming-of-age story that uses the boys’ quest to become famous to tell a story of self-discovery and maturity. With ace direction and poignant storytelling, Stand by Me is a compelling, funny, and equally emotional story about angst and friendship. 

  1.   Doctor Sleep (2019)

 

The late 2010s saw King’s works once again being adapted to the big screen. Andres Muschietti directed the successful IT and IT 2, Netflix produced Gerald’s Game and even Pet Semetary got a remake. Around this time, ace horror film director Mike Flanagan directed Doctor Sleep. A sequel to The Shining, the story follows an adult Danny Torrance, an alcoholic who is traumatised by the events that took place in his childhood. He still possesses his shining abilities (telepathic communication) that he mostly keeps locked away. However, he is forced to fight his demons and embrace his powers to save a young girl Abra from a murderous cult that survives on consuming people’s shining abilities.

 It is no secret that Stephen King disapproved of Kubrick’s The Shining. The 2019 sequel not only got Kings’ approval but also received good reviews from critics. Despite being a relatively unknown film, Doctor Sleep has all the elements that make it a successful horror sequel. Terror is the all-encompassing theme of the film; Danny’s trauma, the gruesome murder of young children and well-placed jump scares make this one of King’s better adaptations.

  1.   The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

 

Considered one of the greatest movies of all time, The Shawshank Redemption stars Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman in lead roles. Set in Shawshank maximum security prison, new inmate Andy Dufresne who is serving two life imprisonments meets Red, a smuggler who deals prison contraband.

While the movie is well-known, the fact that it is based on Stephen King’s short story Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption is often forgotten. In a career filled with writing horror and thriller tales, King wrote this story of redemption and friendship in his 1982 collection of novellas Different Seasons.

 Andy is accused of killing his wife and her lover but he continues to claim that he is innocent. Depicting the lives and various brutalities (rape, abuse, and betrayal) that take place inside the prison, this film is about hope. Despite the harrowing life that Andy is forced to live, he still has hope that he will make it out there one day. 

  1.   The Dead Zone (1983)

This 1983 science fiction thriller film features Christopher Walken as Johnny Smith, a former high school teacher who wakes up from a coma and discovers that he is clairvoyant. The Dead Zone is based on King’s 1979 novel of the same name.

 The lead is initially terrified and unsure of his powers but he resolves to utilise them to help those in need as his visions can alter the future. The supernatural thriller quickly ventures into the vigilante genre as Smith eventually takes on a power-hungry politician after seeing his true intentions. An unsettling film interspersed with heartbreaking moments, The Dead Zone is a well-executed and classic Stephen King adaptation.

  1.   Creepshow (1982)

Creepshow is an anthology film series that saw King come on board as a screenwriter for the first time. It is a mixture of stories that were written exclusively for the film and a couple of short stories that King had previously published. The series has five films with an unconnected prologue and epilogue.

It is not a typical horror film filled with jump scares. Rather, the film is a tribute to old horror comics that featured grisly and creepy characters as seen in E.C. Comics. Creepshow is an unnerving and satirical take on the comic book genre whose storylines echo R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series which also debuted in the early 80s.

 The movie might be left out of contemporary horror movie lists, but it is filled with gory scenes and bizarre horror tropes like alien plants, a cruel germaphobe who ends up with roaches coming out of his body, and a mysterious crate containing an ape-like monster that can make viewers squirm in disgust and horror at the same time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

George RR Martin to Create ‘Game of Thrones’ Play for Broadway

George RR Martin, the writer of A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy novels, is developing a Game of Thrones series prequel play for Broadway, the West End, and Australia, The Hollywood Reporter stated in an exclusive report. The first show will premiere in 2023.

Martin will work with playwright Duncan Macmillan (1984) and theatre director Dominic Cooke on the project. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the play will revolve around the Great Tourney at Harrenhal, a historical event in the world of Westeros, that happened 16 years before the events of the first book and episode.

“The play will for the first time take audiences deeper behind the scenes of a landmark event that previously was shrouded in mystery. Featuring many of the most iconic and well-known characters from the series, the production will boast a story centred around love, vengeance, madness, and the dangers of dealing in prophecy, in the process revealing secrets and lies that have only been hinted at until now,” The Hollywood Reporter stated.

“The seeds of war are often planted in times of peace,” Martin said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “Few in Westeros knew the carnage to come when highborn and smallfolk alike gathered at Harrenhal to watch the finest knights of the realm compete in a great tourney, during the Year of the False Spring. It is a tourney oft referred during HBO’s Game of Thrones, and in my novels, A Song of Ice & Fire … and now, at last, we can tell the whole story … on the stage.”

According to A Wiki of Ice and Fire, the tourney went on for 10 days and at the end of it, Prince Rhaegar Targaryen won the tourney and crowned Lyanna Stark the queen of love and beauty, placing a crown in her lap. This became a scandal since Rhaegar was married to Elia Martell at the time and Lyanna was betrothed to Robert Baratheon. Targaryen and Stark absconded to Dorne not long after this, directly setting off Robert’s rebellion.

The news of the play comes after the announcement that Martin signed a five-year deal with HBO. The first project after the end of Game of Thrones, which ended in 2019, will be a prequel called House of the Dragon, starring Olivia Cooke and Matt Smith. It’s set to air in 2022.

George RR Martin, ‘A Game of Thrones’ Author, Signs 5-Year Deal with HBO

George RR Martin, the author of  A Game of Thrones, signed a five-year deal with the television network HBO, under which he will be creating content for both HBO and HBO Max.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the author’s contract is worth eight-figures.

Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice book series spawned off the successful TV series Game of Thrones, which ran for eight seasons between 2011- 2019. Currently, there are multiple series in the works at HBO and HBO Max that are set in the Game of Thrones universe.

The network is working on a new series House of Dragons, which is set a few hundred years before Game of Thrones. Martin is the co-creator and executive producer of the show. It is set to launch in 2022.

According to Variety, Martin’s Tales of Dunk and Eggs is also being adapted for television. The series serves as a prequel for Game of Thrones and it is in early development. The author will serve as the show’s executive producer.

Martin is also set to develop Who Fears Death, a series based on author Nnedi Okorafor’s award-winning 2011 postapocalyptic novel, and Roadmarks, a show that will be adapted from Roger Zelazny’s 1979 fantasy novel.

He is also the executive producer of both the shows.

Apart from HBO, Martin is working on a project for the streaming service Peacock. Based on the anthology novels Wild Cards, the series was originally supposed to be developed by Hulu before moving to Peacock. His story, In the Lost Lands, is also being adapted into a feature film which will be directed by Paul WS Anderson. The film will star Milla Jovovich and Dave Bautista.

The four-time Emmy award-winning author is currently writing the sixth novel The Winds of Winter in the A Song of Fire and Ice series.