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)

Credits: Booker Prize Foundation

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)

Credits: Booker Prize Foundation

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)

Credits: Booker Prize Foundation

“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)

Credits: Booker Prize Foundation

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)

Credits: Booker Prize Foundation

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)

Credits: Booker Prize Foundation

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.”
Photo Source: The JCB Prize For Literature Twitter

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.

Photo Source: https://penguin.co.in/newsroom/brand-new-edition-of-best-selling-exam-warriors-by-narendra-modi-to-release-this-march/

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.

Credits: Netflix

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.   

Credits: David Lee/Netflix

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.  

Credits: David Lee/Netflix

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
Credits: Rotten Tomatoes

 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)
Credits: Warner Bros. Television

 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)
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Credit: Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock

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)
Credits: Warner Bros.

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.

Sharon Stone Says She Was Tricked Into Shooting Controversial Scene in ‘Basic Instinct’ in Her Memoir

Sharon Stone, who shot to stardom with the 1992 film Basic Instinct, said she was tricked into shooting the infamous scene where she flashed her private parts in the film in an exclusive excerpt from her upcoming memoir The Beauty of Living Twice.

Directed by Paul Verhoeven, a scene from Basic Instinct briefly bares Stone’s privates.

“There are several versions to the story but since I’m the one with the vagina in question, let me say: The other points of view are bullshit,” Stone writes in her book.

She said she was made to attend the film’s screening with Verhoeven, and lawyers and agents, most of whom had nothing to do with the film.

She wrote, “That was how I saw my vagina-shot for the first time, long after I’d been told ‘We can’t see anything—I just need you to remove your panties, as the white is reflecting the light, so we know you have panties on’. Now, here is the issue. It didn’t matter anymore. It was me and my parts up there. I had decisions to make.”

The 63-year-old actor recalls slapping Verhoeven after the screening and contacting her lawyer Marty Singer.

She wrote, “I went to the projection booth, slapped Paul across the face, left, went to my car, and called my lawyer, Marty Singer. Marty told me that they could not release this film as it was… And, Marty said, per the Screen Actors Guild, my union, it wasn’t legal to shoot up my dress in this fashion. ‘Whew,’ I thought. Well, that was my first thought.”

She added, “Then I thought some more. What if I were the director? What if I had gotten that shot? What if I had gotten it on purpose? Or by accident? What if it just existed? That was a lot to think about. I knew what film I was doing. For heaven’s sake, I fought for that part, and all that time, only this director had stood up for me.”

The Golden Globe Award winning actor, who is one of the first female actors to be paid higher than the usual pay, reflected on being called a “difficult” woman in Hollywood. She said that she was pressured to maintain sexual relations with her male co-stars by white male executive producers to achieve a better on-screen chemistry.

Despite having actor approval in her contract, her opinion was never taken while casting the male lead, she wrote. “No one cared. They cast who they wanted. To my dismay, sometimes. To the detriment of the picture, sometimes.”

The Beauty of Living Twice will release on March 30 and is expected to be an extensive account of how Stone made her way up after getting her break with Basic Instinct, her 18th film by then.

Sulwe: Netflix to Adapt Lupita Nyong’o’s Book Into a Musical

Lupita Nyong’o, the Hollywood actor who won an Academy Award for 12 Years a Slave, will have her New York Times bestselling book, Sulwe, adapted as a musical by Netflix, the streaming giant announced on Thursday.

Sulwe is based on the actor’s own experiences while growing up as a Black woman. It is about a young-girl named Sulwe, who has skin the colour of midnight. She is darker than everyone in her family and anyone else in her school. Sulwe just wants to be beautiful and bright, like her mother and sister. Then a magical journey in the night sky opens her eyes and changes everything. The picture book deals with the issues of colourism, self-esteem, and the idea of self-love that comes associated with beauty.

Sulwe means star in the actor and author’s native language Luo.

It is published by the Simon & Schuster Books and released on October 15, 2019. The illustrations are done by artist and author Vashti Harrison, known for her bestselling book Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History.

Sulwe featured on the OTT platform’s original show Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices! and comes as a part of Netflix’s aim for inclusivity, beginning 2020. It is also the recipient of the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Award and the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Children’s Literary Work, among others.

Netflix released its first Inclusivity Report in January, that offered a peek into the workforce diversity and trends since 2017, when the idea was first conceived. It urges each employee to look at every decision and idea in mind, in terms of inclusion. Calling it the “inclusion lens”, the report states certain steps towards representation that goes beyond the screen. These include recruiting from the under-represented communities such as the Latinos, veteran employees, and Hispanics, hiring more women in the upper ranks, creating accessibility, providing equitable pay and inclusive benefits across genders, and building networks, to name a few.

In terms of content representation, Netflix released a range of both films and series including Blood and Water, Selena: The Series, Da 5 Bloods and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, which became two of the major contenders at the awards, and Never Have I Ever, with non-white protagonists in the lead roles.

“The pandemic disproportionately impacted employees from Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities. Asian folks around the world endured xenophobic hate incidents. The killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others brought inequality and allyship to the forefront of our minds,” Netflix’s Inclusivity Report stated.

The OTT giant has also dipped its feet in queer inclusion with its 2019 series Special, that deals with a gay man suffering from cerebral palsy, a first for the digital streaming platform.

Unfinished: Actor Priyanka Chopra Jonas Opens Up About Botched Nose Surgery in Her Memoir 

Priyanka Chopra Jonas, the actor and producer whose latest film The White Tiger premiered on Netflix on January 22, released her memoir Unfinished on Tuesday.

In the book she has taken her fans through her childhood, two decades in the entertainment industry, finding love, overcoming hardships, and much more.

The actor opened up about a botched nose surgery in the memoir and said how “devastated and hopeless” she felt after that. According to People, Chopra Jonas began to develop a “lingering head cold” in 2001, a year after she won the Miss World title, which she believed was simply a “very bad sinus infection”.

She wrote that she required surgery to remove a polyp, a benign growth, from her nasal cavity.

According to People, she wrote, “While shaving off the polyp, the doctor also accidentally shaved the bridge of my nose and the bridge collapsed. When it was time to remove the bandages and the condition of my nose was revealed, Mom and I were horrified. My original nose was gone. My face looked completely different. I wasn’t me anymore. I felt devastated and hopeless. Every time I looked in the mirror, a stranger looked back at me, and I didn’t think my sense of self or my self-esteem would ever recover from the blow.”

She wrote that while she was “dared” to give an explanation for her “obviously different nose”, she chose to “draw a line” and not speak about it publicly.

“Now when I look in the mirror, I am no longer surprised; I’ve made peace with this slightly different me,” she wrote.

The actor has starred in several Hindi films and was lauded for her performances in films like Kaminey, 7 Khoon Maaf, Barfi, etc.

According to the Independent, Chopra Jonas wrote that soon after winning the Miss World title, she was asked to go under the knife when she met a filmmaker.

“After a few minutes of small talk, the director/producer told me to stand up and twirl for him. I did. He stared at me long and hard, assessing me, and then suggested that I get a boob job, fix my jaw, and add a little more cushioning to my butt. If I wanted to be an actress, he said, I’d need to have my proportions ‘fixed’, and he knew a great doctor in LA he could send me to. My then-manager voiced his agreement with the assessment,” she wrote in her book, according to the Independent. 

Asked whether she needed to clarify this in the book, in an interview with Asian Style magazine the Quantico actor had said, “I didn’t write about these things now to clarify anything to anyone. I was in a place in my life where I sat down and wrote about the milestones in my life. These happened to be those things, that I’d kept personal in my heart, things I’ve been affected by.”

According to the Guardian, Chopra Jonas is currently shooting in London.

Tamil Poet Pramil Inspires Realtor to Build Library in Tirunelveli

Pramil, the prominent Tamil poet who authored several short stories, novellas, and poems, inspired  a realtor to build a library in Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli district on the occasion of the author’s 24th death anniversary.

Mayan Ramesh Raja, a realtor and owner of Mayan Constructions opened a library under Pramil’s name in Thiruppani Karisalkulam village in Tirunelveli, on January 6.

Pramil, who hailed from Sivaramalingam in Trincomalee in Sri Lanka, spent most of his life in Chennai. In the 1970s, he began to write for magazines. Apart from his literary works, he was also known for his paintings and sculptures. He had an inclination towards spirituality and worked in the areas of astronomy and astrology.

The library was inaugurated by Kala Subramaniam, who was a close friend of the late poet, and several other poets, including Devadevan, Devendra Bhupathi, Jeevalakshmi, environmentalist RR Srinivasan, Mayan.

Pramil Library. Photo source: Mayan Ramesh Raja

The library houses more than 5,000 books on Tamil literature and philosophical works at present.

“I was inclined towards reading Tamil literature since childhood and had interacted with Pramil during my college days. I, along with a group of friends, ran a magazine in 1988 where Pramil contributed poems. Since then, I have read his works and got exposed more to Tamil literature through him. So, when I started a library, I kept his name,” Mayan told Silverscreen India.

He said that they were gathering more books across genres to cater to the needs of all age groups and genders. “Pramil was also a good translator and had translated books to Tamil from English. He had also written for a Tamil magazine run by Kala Subramaniam.”

Speaking to Silverscreen India, Devendra who has also contributed books to the library, said, “As a writer, I have always been drawn towards Pramil’s works. He has written more on philosophy in Tamil. I admire his style. His poetry mainly deals with philosophy and orientalism. He is known for symbolism in his poetry. He is incomparable and has a unique style of poetry.

Devendra said that Pramil was a multi-faceted person, who has written poetry, drama, essays, reviews, and also painted.

“His unique feature is that he had the ability to bring the meaning of sentences by using just a couple of words. Opening this library will help initiate the reading in the village that houses more than 500 homes. The population will definitely benefit from it,” Devendra said.

Penguin To Release “When the World Went Dark” A Book About Death and Healing For Children

Penguin Random House, the publishing house, is releasing a children’s fiction book that aims to help children cope with death and loss, When the World Went Dark by author Jane De Suza on January 25, 2021.

According to a press release, When the World Went Dark is set against the backdrop of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown. It aims to help children adjust to the new normal and heal in the aftermath of losing a loved one.

The book will carry illustrations, and bring humor into its storytelling.

According to the publishing house, the book will also offer advice to caregivers from mental health specialists on how to identify signs of unexplained changes in a child’s behaviour when they go through loss, and what can be done to help the child cope and heal. It also aims to help young readers process the loss of a loved one, communicate with adults in order to cope, and help their voices and feelings be heard.

“To help Swara, you’d have to dive into her world during the lockdown. Feel the almost-nine-year-old’s heart break as she loses her favourite person ever, Pitter Paati. Swara pursues clues to find her, but stumbles upon a crime instead. Expectedly, no one believes her,” reads the book’s press note.

When the World Went Dark also aims to help parents explain death, loss, and acceptance to their children.

The book’s author, Jane De Suza, is a management graduate and creative director based out in Singapore where she lives with her family. She has authored a number of books, including the SuperZero series, Uncool, Happily Never After, and The Spy Who Lost Her Head. She also writes columns for newspapers and magazines.

The current death toll from the Covid-19 pandemic, which began in late 2019, has crossed 2 million according to the United Nations secretary general, António Guterres.

Netflix Partners With Antiracist Author Ibram X Kendi to Adapt Three Bestsellers

Netflix announced on Friday that it will partner with antiracist scholar and acclaimed author Dr Ibram X Kendi to adapt three of his bestselling books for the screen.

Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You, and Antiracist Baby will be developed by Netflix across “several different formats and genres, offering a timely and thoughtful examination of racism for audiences of all ages”.

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America is about the existence of racism in American society and the need to understand how those racist ideas developed. Kendi won the National Book Award for nonfiction for this book, making him the youngest winner of the award. Netflix will be creating Stamped from the Beginning, a hybrid documentary/scripted feature, based on this book. The film will be produced and directed by Roger Ross Williams under the banner One Story Up and executive produced by Mara Brock Akil along with Kendi.

Netflix’s second film, titled Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You, will be a companion documentary targeting a younger audience. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You will be based on Kendi’s book of the same name (co-authored by Jason Reynolds), a New York Times bestseller.  This film will also be directed and produced by Roger Ross Williams and executive produced by Kendi. The film will explore the history of racist ideas in the United States, and will take the audience through time to the present.

Netflis will also make Antiracist Baby, an adaptation in the form of a series of animated vignettes targeting pre-schoolers. The series will be based on Kendi’s bestselling children’s book of the same name and will be executive produced by Peabody, Humanitas University, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and Chris Nee and Kendi. The series will lay out short music videos that go through the steps to becoming an antiracist individual.

Following the announcement, Kendi said in a press release, “They are such ambitious, innovative, and passionate creators who are committed to racial justice. But I’m really elated for the viewers, for the adults and children who will be captivated, informed, and transformed by these projects.”

Netflix has actively been working to create inclusive content as well as a more inclusive workspace since 2017.

Kendi is the founding director of BU Center for Antiracist Research and also contributes to the magazine, The Atlantic. His next book is titled Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019 which will be co-edited by Keisha Blain. Kendi was listed as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME magazine in 2020.

‘The Great Gatsby’ and Other Classic Works Copyrighted in 1925 Enter Public Domain in 2021

On January 1, a host of classic books, music, and films created in 1925 became free for anyone to use without licensing or getting permission from a copyright holder. Books such as F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, Ernest Hemingway’s In Our Time, Sinclair Lewis’ Arrowsmith, Aldous Huxley’s Those Barren Leaves, Agatha Christie’s The Secret of Chimneys, and The New Negro have all come on the public domain.

Copyright on films like Buster Keaton’s Go West, Harold Lloyd’s The FreshmanThe Merry Widow, and Lovers in Quarantine have lifted, while songs like Always by Irving Berlin, Yes Sir, That’s My Baby by Gus Kahn and Walter Donaldson, and songs by Gertrude “Ma” Rainey’s and Bessi Smith can be used for free as well.

What does coming under the public domain mean?

In the USA, copyright terms are set by the Congress. According to the Duke University Law School’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain, “when Congress passed the first copyright law in 1790, the copyright term lasted for 14 years, with the option to renew for another 14 years if the copyright holder was still living”.

In an amendment in 1998, the copyright term was increased to 70 years after the author’s death. Later, the term was changed to 95 years since a work was published. After a gap of two-decades of no new works being free from copyright, in 2019 works of 1923 came under the public domain.

The year 2021 marks the third time since copyrights have expired and the works brought under the public domain.

What’s coming in 2021?

“It’s a blockbuster list from 1925,” says Jennifer Jenkins, director of Duke University Law School’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain in an article about this year’s Public Domain Day.

“1925 brought us some incredible culture. The Harlem Renaissance was in full swing. The New Yorker magazine was founded. The literature reflected both a booming economy, whose fruits were unevenly distributed, and the lingering upheaval and tragedy of World War I. The culture of the time reflected all of those contradictory tendencies. The BBC’s Culture website suggested that 1925 might be “the greatest year for books ever”, and with good reason. It is not simply the vast array of famous titles. The stylistic innovations produced by books, such as Gatsby, or The Trial, or Mrs. Dalloway, marked a change in both the tone and the substance of our literary culture, a broadening of the range of possibilities available to writers, while characters such as Jay Gatsby, Hemingway’s Nick Adams, and Clarissa Dalloway still resonate today,” writes Jenkins.

Here are some of the works from 1925 that will be available from this year:

Books

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
Mrs. Dalloway 
by Virginia Woolf
In Our Time 
by Ernest Hemingway
The Trial
 (in German) by Franz Kafka
An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
Manhattan Transfer by John Dos Passos

Films

Harold Lloyd’s The Freshman
The Merry Widow
Stella Dallas
Buster Keaton’s Go West

Music

Always by Irving Berlin
Sweet Georgia Brown by Ben Bernie, Maceo Pinkard and Kenneth Casey
Works by Gertrude “Ma” Rainey
Looking for a Boy by George and Ira Gershwin (from the musical Tip-Toes)
Manhattan by Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers
Ukulele Lady by Gus Kahn and Richard Whiting
Yes Sir, That’s My Baby by Gus Kahn and Walter Donaldson

You can find the complete list on the website of the Center for the Study of the Public Domain, a Duke University project that tracks copyright expirations.

Shamsur Rahman Faruqi, Legendary Urdu Poet, Dies at 85

Shamsur Rahman Faruqi, the legendary Urdu poet and critic, died on Friday at his residence in Allahabad a month after recovering from Covid-19. He was 85.

Faruqi had been admitted to a hospital in Delhi after testing positive for Covid-19. He was discharged on November 26 after recovering from the virus. “But due to steroids, he developed a fungal infection, mycosis, which further worsened his condition,” Faruqi’s nephew, Mahmood Farooqui, told PTI.

According to Mahmood, Faruqi had been insisting on returning to his home in Allahabad. “We reached here only this morning and within half an hour he passed away at around 11,” he said.

Faruqi was born on September 30, 1935, in Uttar Pradesh. In his five decade-long literary journey, he has written many books including, Ghalib Afsaney Ki Himayat Mein (1989), Kai Chaand The Sar-e-Aasmaan (2006) and The Sun That Rose From The Earth (2014).

Faruqi, along with his nephew Mahmood, notably revived the Dastangoi, a 16th-century Urdu oral storytelling art form. Dastangoi in Persian means to tell a Dastan, which were types of epics, usually oral in nature.

In 1996, Faruqi was awarded the Saraswati Samman for his work, She’r-e Shor-Angez, a four-volume study of the 18th-century poet Mir Taqi Mir. In 2009, the government of India conferred the Padma Shri on him.

Many took to social media to pay their tribute to the late poet, including Scottish historian and writer William Dalrymple, who called him, “one of the last great Padshahs of the Urdu literary world.”

Vivek Tejuja, the culture editor of lifestyle magazine Verve, wrote, “Shamsur Rahman Faruqi will be and should be read by one and all.”

Poet Ranjith Hoskote wrote, “Faruqi-sahab’s work has enriched – and will long continue to enrich – many of us.”

The social media handle of Dastangoi Collective, founded by Faruqi and managed by Mahmood, announced that Faruqi’s last rites were performed at Ashoknagar Nevada Qabristan at 6 pm on Friday, next to “his beloved Jamila”. Jamila was his late wife.

Sugathakumari, Renowned Malayalam Poet and Activist, Dies From Covid-19 Complications

Sugathakumari, the eminent Malayalam poet and activist, died on Wednesday from Covid-19 related complications. She was 86.

Sugathakumar, who had tested positive for Covid-19, had been hospitalised with severe pneumonia for the past week at the Medical College Hospital in Thiruvananthapuram. After her body stopped responding to medication, she was placed on ventilator support.

Fondly called ‘Sugatha Teacher’, Sugathakumari was one of the most celebrated Malayalam poets of the contemporary era. Her poems, written over six decades, are known for their empathy, sensitivity and philosophical inquiry. She was at the forefront of the environmental and feminist movements in Kerala and a former chairperson of the Kerala State Women’s Commission.

She was one of the main activists behind the social campaign, Save Silent Valley Movement, which began in 1973. The campaign aimed to save the Silent Valley in Palakkad, Kerala from being flooded due to a hydroelectric dam proposed by the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB).

Her poem Marathinu Stuthi (“Ode to a Tree”) became a symbol of the protest and was later adopted as the opening song of the ‘Save the Silent Valley’ campaign meetings. After years of campaigning, the project was later abandoned by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1983.

Sugathakumari and a few others also converted a barren land site in Attappady to a natural forest, which was named Krishnavanam.

In 2006, Sugathakumari was conferred with the Padma Shri for her contributions to the field of literature. She was awarded the Saraswati Samman in 2013 for her poetry collection, Manalezhuth (“The Writing on the Sand”). She has also been awarded the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award, the Ezhuthachan Puraskaram, the Vayalar Award, the Odakkuzhal Award, and the Ashan Prize.

Recalling moments with the late poet, writer and politician Shashi Tharoor wrote on social media:

Calling her a “doyenne of Malayalam literature”, Kerala Chief Minister wrote that Sugathakumari “left an indelible mark on Kerala’s cultural life”.

Many celebrities from the Malayalam film industry also posted tributes.

Sugathakumari’s husband Velayudhan Nair, an educationist and writer, died in 2003. She is survived by her daughter, Lakshmi.

John Le Carré, British Spy Novelist, Dies at 89

John Le Carré, the best-selling British espionage novelist and author of The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, died from pneumonia at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro on Saturday. He was 89. 

On Sunday, the CEO of Curtis Brown, Carré’s literary agency, announced that the author had died after “a short illness (not COVID-19 related).” His family said it was pneumonia. 

Born David John Moore Cornwell in a coastal town in Dorset, England in 1931, John Le Carré left the UK’s foreign intelligence agency MI6 to become a novelist. His best known work, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, in set during the Cold War and was adapted into a film in 1965 by director Martin Ritt.

Tributes for Le Carré poured in from fellow authors, including Stephen King, who called him a “literary giant and a humanitarian spirit”.

Throughout his life though, Le Carré, steered clear of awards. In 2011, he withdrew from the Man Booker shortlist saying he was “enormously flattered” but did not “compete for literary awards”. He did however accept the Olof Palmes Prize in 2020, an award that few authors have received. Le Carré donated the $100,000 prize money to the international humanitarian NGO Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders). 

Le Carré is the author of 25 novels, including Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1974), The Honourable Schoolboy (1977), The Secret Pilgrim (1990), Smiley’s People (1979), and A Legacy of Spies (2017). His final book, the spy novel Agent Running In The Field, was published in October 2019. The book narrated a story of “love and compromises” revolving around a 49-year-old spy named “Nat”.

His memoir, The Pigeon Tunnel (2016), has sold more than sixty million copies worldwide.

Many of his works were also adapted into films, including The Deadly Affair (1967), The Looking Glass War (1970), The Little Drummer Girl (1984), The Russia House (1990), The Tailor of Panama (2001), The Constant Gardener (2005), Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011), A Most Wanted Man (2014), and Our Kind of Traitor (2016).

Le Carré is survived by his wife, Valérie Jane Eustace, and four sons ,Simon, Stephen, Timothy, and Nicholas.

Amit Ahuja and Jairam Ramesh Awarded Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay NIF Book Prize 2020

The Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay New India Foundation (NIF) Book Prize 2020 has been jointly bagged by Amit Ahuja for Mobilizing the Marginalised: Ethnic Parties without Ethnic Movements and Jairam Ramesh for A Chequered Brilliance: The Many Lives of VK Krishna Menon, the jury announced on Thursday.

According to a press release from NIF, the winners were selected by a six-member jury panel, including political scientist and author Niraja Gopal Jayal (Jury Chair), historian and critically acclaimed author Ramachandra Guha, entrepreneur and author Nandan Nilekani, historian and author Srinath Raghavan, historian and author Nayanjot Lahir, and Manish Sabharwal, chairman of Teamlease Services.

This year’s winners will share the prize money of Rs 15 lakhs and will each receive the Book Prize trophy.

The jury citation for Ahuja, who is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Santa Barbara, reads, “It is an outstanding first book by a young scholar. Through extensive field research in four states, Ahuja unravels an intriguing puzzle: why is it that Dalit ethnic parties perform poorly in states where their social mobilization has historically been strong, yet perform well in states where such mobilization has historically been weak?” The jury also said that the piece was “elegantly written and accessible work of scholarship that richly illuminates the relationship between social movements and political parties.”

The jury citation for Jairam Ramesh, who is a Rajya Sabha MP and former Union minister between 2006 and 2014, reads “It is an engaging biography of an important supporting player in Indian politics, whose career spanned decades of political work, first in Britain and later in India. The book provides fascinating insights into the personal and public life of Krishna Menon: his friendships and animosities, his foibles and strengths, and the multiple facets of his life as editor, publisher, lawyer, councillor, propagandist, diplomat, and cabinet minister.”

The winners were selected from among the shortlist of six works that covered a century of modern Indian history across several genres. The works that were shortlisted were Midnight’s Machines: A Political History of Technology in India by Arun Mohan Sukumar, The Unquiet River: A Biography of the Brahmaputra by Arupjyoti Saikia, Bottle of Lies: Ranbaxy and the Dark Side of Indian Pharma by Katherine Eban, and Wild Himalaya: A Natural History of the Greatest Mountain Range on Earth by Stephen Alter.

Previous winners of the award include Ornit Shani for her scholarly work in How India Became Democratic in 2019 and Milan Vaishnav for his debut work in When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics in 2018.

The Kamaladevi NIF Book Prize is named after Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, patriot, and institution-builder, who had contributed to the freedom struggle, women’s movement, refugee rehabilitation, and renewal of handicrafts.

The Invisible Man : Whannell Adaptation Makes HG Wells’ Monster-Hero a Monster-Villain

H. G. Wells’ 1897 The Invisible Man, the story of a reckless scientist who discovers the secret to invisibility, has been adapted so many times since its first 1933 adaptation, that the floating sunglasses and bandages are now iconic. Director Leigh Whannell (the Insidious series) who directed the latest adaptation, told Variety that his goal was to strip away the iconography around the character, and find “what would make it scary for a modern audience”.

The answer for Invisible Man lay in a perspective shift – from sociopath-scientist invisible man to sociopath-scientist invisible man’s wife.

Released in theatres this year in February, The Invisible Man stars Elisabeth Moss and Oliver Cohen-Jackson. Whannell, who retains the title of the book, has taken sweeping liberties with almost everything else. New plotlines make the story closer to a realistic thriller than a cautionary tale about scientific inventions.

In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, Whannel says, “The idea of an invisible man playing games with someone, torturing them, wrapped perfectly around the idea of a toxic relationship, somebody trying to escape from someone who was gaslighting them and emotionally abusing them. It was a good metaphor.”

 The Context

In the HG Wells novel, the main character is an optics scientist named Griffin, who turns himself invisible. After some disruptive behaviour, his landlady accuses him of being a thief and he reveals his invisibility and runs away. After a series of events, he becomes a criminal and commits murder. Eventually, an angry mob get together and kill him. As they beat him to death, he slowly regains his visibility and cries for mercy.

In the book, the whole story revolves around him.

In Leigh Whannell’s adaptation, however, the invisible man is the antagonist and the story is from the point-of-view of a woman named Cecilia Kass (Elisabeth Moss).

Cecilia is in an abusive relationship with an optics tech genius, Adrian Griffin (Oliver Cohen-Jackson). The film begins with her planning an elaborate escape that narrowly succeeds. Distraught and traumatised by the abuse that she has endured, she goes to live with her sister’s friend, a police officer, and his daughter.

Soon, she finds out that Adrian committed suicide and left her a hefty inheritance. Just when things seem to get better for her, Cecilia feels that somebody is stalking her and jeopardising her relationship with her friends and family. At the end, she is alienated from everyone and caught in a full-blown fight with an invisible entity. When she discovers Adrian’s invisible suit, her suspicions of his malicious intent are confirmed.

The Deviations

In the book Griffin’s invisibility gives him the power to bypass society and drives him to crime and anarchy. Here the same invisibility creates an atmosphere of horror. As a Guardian critic points out, the figure of the invisible tormentor allows the filmmaker to depict a very real fear for victims of abuse. The ex-husband, writes the critic, “paws through her room and touches her things; he strips the covers as she sleeps and photographs her without her knowledge. Waking up, she can sense something is wrong and yet, she has no idea how bad it is.”

Whannell, who conducted interviewed counsellors at LA domestic abuse shelters, says while physical abuse has been depicted on screen, “psychological abuse and being manipulated by someone is maybe harder to photograph.”

Whannell says the figure of the invisible man worked especially well to portray gaslighting. He says, “Somebody who is losing their mind because someone else was manipulating them. It just fits with the idea of the invisible man. If you think about the character as a metaphor- an unseen man that’s in your space- who can do anything he wants, can mess with you in these ways and you’re defenceless. That fit well with the idea of this woman being gaslit and manipulated to the point of madness.”

The character of the wife, Cecilia, is absent in Wells’ story. Here, Adrian creates this suit voluntarily and uses it to torment her. He is a genius, and unlike the Wells’ hero, isn’t anti-social. Instead, he is portrayed as a charming and good-looking man who is in reality a controlling and manipulative sociopath. He utilises the suit to get everyone out of the way so that Cecilia will come back to him.

Credits: Universal Pictures

How the invisible man is discovered marks another difference. In the book, Wells shows Griffin hiding his invisibility by wearing clothes and covering his face. He unveils his true self in a fit of rage, people recognise what is happening. In the movie, people simply do not believe Cecilia and instead, start to question her sanity. When Adrian begins to abuse and kill people, Celia is blamed for it, then taken to an asylum.

People only begin to believe her after she attacks Adrian and damages his suit.

A Major Change

Thus, the invisibility depicted in the film is really a metaphor for what victims of domestic abuse go through. Adrian is invisible and hence, no one believes Cecilia. Even as she spins out of control because of Adrian’s antics, everyone just shuts her out. He goes as far as tampering with her birth control pills in order to make sure that she does not leave him. The Invisible Man showcases horror not only through its jump scares but also through the trauma that abuse victims go through.

The book, on the other hand, revolved around an asocial man ability to gain power through science; power that is ultimately destructive. At the end, the invisible man’s death is also tragic, and the people around him see him as a victim of his circumstances. His invisibility had driven and controlled him. It was not something that he desired. This is not reflected in the movie, as Whannell makes sure that Adrian has no redeeming arc. When Cecilia kills him in the end, it can only be seen as triumphant.

Whannell’s explanation for this shift is simple. Speaking to the Sydney Movie Herald, he says the idea came from a small conversation, ‘These movies can be hard to write because if the monster is the hero then who’s the bad guy?’ And so I quite innocently said, ‘Well, of course he’s not the hero, he’s the bad guy.’

The Invisible Man thus successfully takes HG Well’s story and turns it into a thrilling and terrifying story that resonates with the modern audience.

The Queen’s Gambit: Netflix Series Breaks Viewership Record While the Book Becomes a Bestseller 

The Queen’s Gambit, Netflix’s latest series, has become its “biggest scripted limited series to date”, the streaming major announced on Twitter on Monday.

As the series hit a viewership record of 62 million views within 28 days of its release, the book by the same title that it is based on featured on The New York Times best seller list, 37 years after its publication in 1983.

The show made it to the top 10 in 92 countries and ranked No. 1 in 63 countries, including in the UK, Argentina, Israel, and South Africa. The seven-episode series written and directed by Scott Frank premiered on the streaming service on October 23.

While Silverscreen India earlier wrote about the precision with which the novel was adapted as a series by creators Frank and Allan Scott, it is noteworthy that the book climbed the bestseller chart only after the series premiered on the streaming platform.

Written by Walter Tevis, the novel revolves around the life of a fictional orphaned chess prodigy, Beth Harmon, who conquers the male-dominated world of chess in America in the 1960s. The book traverses through the troubled life of the protagonist whose claim-to-fame goes hand-in-hand with her addiction to drugs.

While the series is being lauded for the performances by the cast, comprising, Anya Taylor-Joy, Marielle Heller, Allston Wheatley, and others, as per a report by The New York Times, the series has resulted in a resurgence in the board game and more people have taken to playing the game both in the traditional way as well as online.

David Llada, spokesman of the International Chess Federation told The New York Times, “The chess community fell in love with the series because it successfully portrays different aspects of chess in all its richness: It’s easy enough to be fun to play, but also complex enough to pose a challenge,” he said. “It is nerdy, but also cool and fashionable. It is intensively competitive, but full of interesting, creative and colorful characters.”

The New York Times further reported that since the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic began, viewership on live chess games soared and saw participation quadruple over a couple of months. Moreover, a Twitter thread by Netflix stated that Google searches for ‘How To Play Chess’ hit a nine-year peak.

The series has a rating of 8.8 on IMDB, an online film database. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics’ score of 100% and an average audience score of 96%.