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.

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.

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%.

Late Actor Alan Rickman’s Diaries to be Published as a Book

Several diaries of late English actor Alan Rickman, widely known for playing the role of Professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series, will be compiled and published as a book, The Guardian reported on Saturday.

Publisher Canongate has acquired the rights of the actor’s 27 handwritten volumes that span across his 25 year-old career.

The late actor, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2016, started journalling during the 90s with the intention of publishing them.

After a long stint in English theatre, Rickman debuted on the big screen with the 1988 film Die Hard.

Apart from giving his fans an understanding of his private circles and interests in politics, the diaries also include behind-the-scene stories and tales from the Harry Potter sets that he was a part of for a decade, from 2001 to 2011.

“I’m delighted that Canongate will be publishing Alan’s diaries, and couldn’t have wished for a finer appointment of editor than Alan Taylor,” said Rima Horton, Rickman’s wife, who was with him since 1965, stated The Guardian.

“The diaries reveal not just Alan Rickman the actor, but the real Alan – his sense of humour, his sharp observation, his craftsmanship and his devotion to the arts,” she said.

To be titled The Diaries of Alan Rickman, the diary entries will be edited by Alan Taylor, editor of the Scottish Review of Books. He has also put together The Country Diaries, a treasury of pastoral journals by the likes of Beatrix Potter, Dorothy Wordsworth and John Fowles, for Canongate.

Taylor told The Guardian that Rickman’s diaries were “anecdotal, indiscreet, witty, gossipy and utterly candid” making it “compulsive reading” for people in both US and UK.

“More than anything though, the diaries reveal the real Alan Rickman, funny, passionate, occasionally provocative, and give fresh insight into his art,” Canongate told The Guardian.

“He wrote his diaries as if chatting with a close friend. They provide pitch-perfect vignettes: short, pithy paragraphs painting big pictures, and offering intriguing insights into himself, his peers and the world around him. They are intimate, perceptive and very funny.”

The book, once edited, will be published by Canongate across the world, and by Holt in the US.

Censorship? Noam Chomsky Questions Tata Literature Live After Abrupt Cancellation of Session

Political activist Noam Chomsky and journalist Vijay Prashad have questioned whether the abrupt cancellation of their session at the ongoing Tata Literature Live, The Mumbai LitFest, amounted to censorship. The duo were to speak on the dangers of nuclear war, climate catastrophe, and the erosion of democracy, and were expected to be critical of corporations like the Tatas. Tata LitLive Founder and Festival Director Anil Dharker subsequently responded by saying that there was no room for “agenda” at the event.

The session, titled ‘On the Edge of a Precipice – Tackling Climate Change and Nuclear War’ was about Chomsky’s new book, Internationalism or Extinction. The discussion was scheduled for Friday, 20 November at 9 pm IST.

However, the session was cancelled abruptly, on the day of the event, prompting Chomsky and Prasad to issue their statement. Dharker, in his defence of the decision, said the “expression of such an agenda – whether against a specific organisation, a corporation or an individual – is…misplaced in the discussions at our festival”.

Both Chomsky and Prashad had been invited to participate in the event in September 2020. The two had also confirmed their participation with the organisers of the literary festival on Friday morning, according to their statement.

“Out of nowhere, near 1 pm Indian Standard Time, we received an email which said, cryptically, ‘I am sorry to inform you that due to unforeseen circumstances, we have to cancel your talk today’. Further inquires informed us to be in touch with the festival’s director, Anil Dharker. No communication has been established thus far with Mr. Dharker,” the statement read.

“Since we do not know why Tata and Mr. Dharker decided to cancel our session, we can only speculate and ask simply: was this a question of censorship?” Chomsky and Prashad asked in their statement.

Context

A day prior to the program, several activists, artists, and academicians had sent a letter to Chomsky urging him to boycott the festival because the Tata Group was its title sponsor. The corporation, the letter alleged, “has had a long history of forceful displacement, human rights violations and environmental plunder”.

While Chomsky and Prashad declined to boycott the program, they said that they would start their event with a statement putting into context their thoughts about corporations such as the Tatas.

The two had planned to then continue their talk about “issues that threaten the planet, but then also talk about the specific role of countries such as India and corporations such as the Tatas.” Chomsky’s book focuses on the dangers of climate catastrophe and the threats of unprecedented corporate global power.

“We wanted to talk about how governments, such as those led by the Bharatiya Janata Party and corporations such as the Tatas, are hastening humanity towards a deeper and deeper crisis,” Chomsky and Prashad said.

“Regarding the Tatas, we wanted to put on record a few facts that should lead sensitive people to understand what the Tata company has underneath its fingernails: a role in the killing of adivasis who were peacefully protesting the construction of a Tata steel factory in Kalinga Nagar, Odisha in 2006; the use of private militias to terrorize the population for a planned Tata steel factory in Jagdalpur, Chattisgarh, about ten years ago; the use of Tata Advanced Systems weapons by the Indian forces against the people of Kashmir; and Tata steel’s release of hexavalent chromium into water sources has created the fourth most polluted place on the planet in Sukinda, Odisha. These are just a few examples of the atrocious way in which the Tata corporation has brought levels of extinction to the peoples of the planet,” the statement read.

A platform for open discussion

Chomsky and Prashad ended their statement by saying they did not boycott the LitLive fest and wanted instead to speak at the event “in the spirit of open discussion” and to hold a dialogue about “extinction and internationalism”. However, due to the cancellation, they said, “We will shortly announce a venue and a date for our dialogue on the pressing issues of our time.”

Following the cancellation, Roshan Ali, author of Ib’s Endless Search for Satisfaction, expressed solidarity with Chomsky and Prashad on Twitter, saying that he would also not participate in the Lit Live fest.

LitFest Director’s response

Dharker’s statement reads, “I do not wish to comment on their reasons for accepting an invitation to participate in an event and using the platform to air adverse views about the main sponsor. What I do want to state as strongly as possible is that the festival which I founded and run with a dedicated team owes its success to a free expression of ideas, not a free expression of someone’s specific agenda.”

He also states that on the morning of the Chomsky-Prashad session, the team of LitLive fest came across “correspondence in the public domain, between Noam Chomsky, Vijay Prashad and a group of activists, which clearly mentioned that this session would also be used to make a statement regarding how they feel about corporations such as the Tatas, and the Tatas in particular, including airing the views of these activists.” This was not the intended purpose of the session, he wrote.

Social Media reactions

Responding to Dharker’s statement, comedian Aditi Mittal wrote, “To say your festival is about “free expression of ideas” and then consider someone’s “free” “expression” “of ideas” an “agenda” in the same paragraph is just disingenuous.”

Nilanjana Roy, a journalist, and author of The Wildings said, “I miss Girish Karnad. He knew how to speak his mind at a literary festival; that time when he spoke for the many who disagreed with Tata Lit Live’s decision to honour Naipaul.”

Booker Prize 2020: Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain Wins

Scottish-American author Douglas Stuart has won the 2020 Booker prize for his debut novel, Shuggie Bain, a book about a boy dealing with his mother’s alcoholism.

Based in 1981 Glasgow, Shuggie Bain has been described as the “story of an exploration of the unsinkable love that only children can have for their damaged parents”. Stuart, whose own mother suffered from alcoholism, says the book isn’t autobiographical but is inspired by his own life. Interestingly, the book was reportedly rejected by 30 editors before it was picked up by publishers Grove Atlantic in the US and Picador in the UK.

Stuart is the fourth writer in Booker history to win for a debut novel. The other three include Keri Hulme with The Bone People in 1985, Arundhati Roy with The God of Small Things in 1997, and George Saunders with Lincoln in the Bardo in 2017. Stuart is also only the second Scottish writer to win the £50,000 award after James Kelman won it in 1994 with How Late It Was, How Late.

In an interview with The Booker Prizes, Stuart said that Kelman’s book, which has subtle hints of political struggle and survival, changed his life because it was “one of the first times I saw my people, my dialect, on the page.” Talking about his journey, Stuart said, “It feels unreal. I was a working-class kid who had a different career and came to writing late. This validation of the work is life-changing. I hope it inspires others with working-class stories.”

Bernardine Evaristo, who won the Booker Prize in 2019 for Girl, Woman, Other congratulated Stuart and said, “The winning novel stole my heart when I read it.”

Nicola Sturgeon, Minister of Scotland said, “Shuggie Bain is a raw, searing and beautifully tender novel. Such a worthy winner.”

The novel is dedicated to Stuart’s mother, who died of alcoholism when he was 16.

Stuart’s next book Loch Awe, a story about two teenage boys falling in love despite territorial and sectarian divisions, is also set in Glasgow. Stuart says in the The Booker Prizes interview, “[Loch Awe] takes a look at toxic masculinity and the pressure we place on working-class boys to ‘man up’. I wanted to show how young men growing up in extreme poverty can be some of the most victimized and overlooked people in British society. I am always looking for tenderness in the hardest places.”

The Booker Prize 2020 jury is comprised of Lee Child, Sameer Rahim, Emily Wilson, and Lemn Sissay, with Margaret Busby as chair.

The ceremony, which was hosted following social distancing norms, was broadcast live from the Roundhouse in London. It included addresses by the Duchess of Cornwall Camilla Parker Bowles and former US President Barack Obama.

This year’s finalists also included Dubai-based Indian-origin writer Avni Doshi for her debut novel Burnt Sugar, Zimbabwean writer Tsitsi Dangarembga for This Mournable Body, Diane Cook for The New Wilderness, Maaza Mengiste for The Shadow King, and Brandon Taylor for Real Life.

Avni Doshi’s Burnt Sugar, a story about love and betrayal between a mother and a daughter, was released in India as Girl in White Cotton and has been published in more than 20 languages. TheBookerPrizes describes the book as the story of a “relationship where filial resentment at a mother’s choice of an ashram and a free-love advocating guru over a more hands-on parenting still bubbles even as the mother’s mental faculties fade.”

Cook’s The New Wilderness revolves around a mother and daughter surviving in a world after it is hit by an environmental catastrophe. Danarembga’s This Mournable Body, the third novel in a trilogy that started with Nervous Conditions and was followed by The Book of Not, tells a story of poverty, striving, race, in modern Zimbabwe. Meanwhile, Maaza Mengiste has delved into the role of women soldiers during the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935 with The Shadow King. Taylor with his Real Life explores the gay culture and racial prejudice among American doctoral students.

The Witches: A Lighter Take on the Classic, Dark Comedy Tale

When HBO Max released the trailer of The Witches in early October, social media users pointed out that the film had to live up to the standards of the 1990 cult classic starring Angelica Houston.

The 2020 version, starring actors Anne Hathaway, Chris Rock, and Octavia Spencer in key roles is a modern retelling of author Roald Dahl’s classic 1983 novel of the same name.

Director Robert Zemeckis takes on the story 30 years after the original version was released. To make it more modern, he uses The Witches to bring issues of racism and othering. While he retains the essence of the book and the 1990 film version, his film focuses a lot more on comedy than on the horror element.

The context

An unnamed young boy loses his parents in an accident and goes to live with his grandmother. The grandmother tells him stories about witches, who are female demons that despise children. While they look like ordinary women, they have claws instead of fingernails, which they hide by wearing gloves. They are ugly creatures who are bald, which they hide by wearing wigs and suffer from rashes because of the wigs. Their spit is blue in colour and they have square-shaped toes, which they hide by wearing pointed shoes. They have a powerful sense of smell and can sniff out children- the cleaner a child is, the  stronger the smell.

One day, the boy encounters a witch while he is playing alone, but manages to escape. Soon, the grandmother and the boy travel to a hotel where they realise that there is a coven of witches, led by the Grand High Witch, who are staying at the same hotel. The boy stumbles upon an event, during which the witches come up with a magic potion that will transform children into mice. The witches find out the boy and force an overdose of the potion on him, which instantly transforms him into a mouse. The rest of the story is about how the boy and the grandmother devise a plan to get rid of the witches, using the same magic potion.

The deviations

Unlike the book, the latest adaptation sees a new setting. Set in 1960s, in the film, the boy and his grandmother live in Chicago. When he meets a witch, they immediately pack their bags and go to stay at a seaside hotel in Alabama. The film introduces the idea of racism and discrimination, but quickly drops it. Hathaway, cast as the Grand High Witch, mentions that she wants to get rid of only poor and deprived children, who will not be missed. This, however, is not carried through in the movie.

In Dahl’s book, the story is set in England. The boy lives in England and while his grandmother is in Norway, and she moves to England after the death of the boy’s parents. The book makes no mention of the time period during which the events unfold.

In the 1990 film, the boy is given a name- Luke. Dahl, on the other hand, simply referred to him as “boy”, which Zemeckis retains in his film.

The boy is also significantly closer to his grandmother in the book. He connects with her more than his own parents. This is something that is not reflected in the 2020 film, as they show the boy to be shaken and unresponsive after his parents’ death. The grandmother (portrayed by Octavia Spencer) also does not smoke cigars, as mentioned in the book.

The reason to stay at the hotel is a significant departure from the book. The frail grandmother contracts pneumonia (as opposed to diabetes in the 1990 film) and is recommended to go to the seaside to recover. In the latest version, this bit is skipped and they travel to the hotel to keep the boy safe from witches.

In the book, the grandmother loses a thumb during a childhood encounter with a witch, but she never reveals the incident to her grandson. She narrates to him horrific tales about how witches would either turn children into animals or curse them.

Both movies decide to pick one of these stories to highlight their point. The latest adaptation hints that the grandmother never directly came across a witch, but saw her friend interacting with one, which is later revealed as the Grand High Witch.

As a departure from the book, Zemeckis introduces the boy’s pet mouse Daisy, who was a girl who was transformed into a mouse by witches four months ago. In the book, the boy had two pet mice- William and Mary- with no back story.

The character of Bruno Jenkins, a gluttonous boy with distant and cold parents, makes its way to the film. After he is turned into a mouse, his parents refuse to take him back and he goes to live with the boy and his grandmother. In the book and in the older film adaptation, however, his parents take him back home.

The ending

One of the key differences between the book and the movies is the ending. In the 1990 film version, the boy returns to his human form from a mouse, which Dahl had disapproved of. While the 2020 version retains this element, it changes the final encounter between the Grand High Witch and the boy and his grandmother.

Rather than changing her into a mouse, after the boy successfully mixes the magic potion into the soup, the Grand High Witch has a full-blown confrontation with the boy and his grandmother before they transform her into a mouse. Her mistreated pet cat then eats her up.

Dahl’s The Witches is a grim comedy that has been adapted by both films, even though the latest version has toned down the macabre elements to make it a more comical and light-hearted rendition of the classic tale.

Boruto: Masashi Kishimoto to Return as Writer of the Manga Series

Masashi Kishimoto, the creator of the famous manga/anime series Naruto, is set to take over the writing for the sequel Boruto: Naruto Next Generations.

Kishimoto will take over from Ukyou Kodachi, the current writer of Boruto, on November 21.

The official handle of Naruto and Boruto confirmed the news and wrote, “About the Boruto manga: Starting with Chapter 52 of Boruto, which is set to be published in the December issue of V Jump (on sale November 21), the production team will change as planned from the start. We would like to thank Kodachi-sensei for all his hard work on writing the story thus far. From now on, we will continue to produce the series based on drafts written by Masashi Kishimoto-sensei.”

Following the success of Naruto, the makers went ahead to create the manga (comics) sequel, Boruto in 2016. Immediately after the end of Naruto, Shueisha Inc, the publishing company of the manga series, approached Kishimoto to write Boruto. However, the writer declined the proposal and instead asked that his assistant Mikio Ikemoto produce the series.

The manga was eventually written by Kodachi along with the illustrations by Ikemoto. However, the sequel was not well received among fans of the original series, due to its lack of character development and poor pacing.

Kodachi responded to Kishimoto taking over as the writer of Boruto and tweeted that he was “returning the baton to him”.

“Looking back, I have so many happy memories! I’ve helped with the script of the Boruto movie and was tasked to write 13 volumes of the comics. I’m also extremely grateful that the anime has received international acclaim,” he added.

Kishimoto had been working on a new series, Samurai 8: The Tale of Hachimaru, and only recently completed it. This could be one of the reasons for his return to Boruto.

The news that Kishimoto is returning for Boruto has got mixed reactions from fans. Many fans from the West are thrilled that the creator of the original series is returning.

Some are worried about the character development of the female characters, especially that of Sarada, one of the female leads of Boruto. Kishimoto is known for concentrating on the main characters at the expense of the female characters.

Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay NIF Book Prize: Shortlist of 6 Non-fiction Works on Modern India Announced

New India Foundation announced on Monday a shortlist of six non-fiction books on modern or contemporary India, that will compete for the third edition of the Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay NIF Book Prize.

The six works shortlisted are: Mobilizing the Marginalized: Ethnic Parties without Ethnic Movements by Amit Ahuja, 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, A Chequered Brilliance: The Many Lives of VK Krishna Menon by Jairam Ramesh, 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.

The Book Prize includes a cash award of Rs 15 lakh and a citation. The winner will be announced in early December.

Covering a century of modern Indian history, the shortlisted works include genres such as biography and investigative reportage, environment histories, anthropology, and history. It also includes a variety of themes that blend the country’s complex past to aspirations for the future.

This year, the jury consists of political scientist and author Niraja Gopal Jayal (chair), historian and critically-acclaimed author Ramachandra Guha, entrepreneur and author Nandan Nilekani, historian and author Srinath Raghavan, historian and author Nayanjot Lahiri, and Manish Sabharwal, chairperson of Teamlease Services.

“According to the jury, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay prize short-list demonstrates the range and quality of non-fiction writing about modern India, from political biography to the sociology of politics, from investigative journalism to the history of ecology and of technology,” a statement by the New India Foundation said.

Established in 2018, the award focuses on the works of emerging writers of all nationalities, published in the previous calendar year.

The previous winners of the awards are Ornit Shani for her scholarly work in How India Became Democratic 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 was named after Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, the great patriot, and institution-builder, who had contributed significantly to the freedom struggle, to women’s movement, to refugee rehabilitation and to the renewal of handicrafts.

Cre-A Ramakrishnan, Veteran Tamil Publisher, Dies in Chennai

Veteran Tamil publisher S Ramakrishnan, founder of Cre-A publishing house, died of Covid-19-related complications at a government hospital in Chennai, on Tuesday. He was 75.

According to a report in The Hindu, doctors of Government Multi Super Speciality Hospital at Omandurar Government Estate, Chennai, where Ramakrishnan was being treated, said his health condition deteriorated on Friday. According to The Indian Express, the publisher, who was undergoing treatment at the hospital after testing positive for Covid-19 last month, had later tested negative but continued to be on life support.

After his health deteriorated, the third and expanded edition of the popular Cre-A: Dictionary of Contemporary Tamil (Tamil–Tamil–English), that he had been working on for 30 years was launched from the hospital. The dictionary is considered to be his greatest work and was first published in 1992. A revised and expanded second edition of this dictionary was published in 2008 and included more than 20,000 words.

Ramakrishnan, who pursued a post-graduation in social work at the Loyola College in Chennai, considered himself to be Tamil despite his mother tongue being Telugu. He delved into publishing before he hit 30 and founded the Cre-A, a Tamil publishing company in 1974.

The publishing house focuses on Tamil literature and has published titles across various fields, including environment, agriculture, health, modern Western philosophy, and technology. The publication also translated literary works from Hindi, Bengali, and Kannada into Tamil and published Tamil translations of books in French and German. It also published the works of Tamil writers such as Ashokamitran, Sa Kandasamy, and Na Muthuswamy.

However, his greatest contribution is considered to be the Contemporary Tamil Dictionary Project, which has been continuously worked on and expanded for the past 35 years.

Talking about the veteran publisher, a translator based in Chennai Poo Ko Saravanan told Silverscreen India, “He revolutionised the world of editing and translation. Though he himself never translated from other foreign languages, he encouraged others to do so and had a great sense of excellent works. He redefined the publication world. An institution by himself, he has encouraged translators of other languages and also boosted original learning in Tamil.”

“He has always remained true to the original work and never added embellishments to the works he translated. His exhaustive work was the Cre-A Dictionary, which he had never run for profit. He was not commercially motivated but encouraged a lot of real ideas from varied perspectives,” he continued.

The late publisher played a prominent role in various fields, including performing arts and education, and was a pivotal person in the creation of Koothu-P-Pattarai (a Tamil theatre group that has been active for 31 years) and the Roja Muthiah Research Library in Chennai.

J Balasubramaniam, a faculty member at the Journalism and Science department at the Madurai Kamaraj University, who closely interacted with Ramakrishnan while working in a translation agency told Silverscreen India: “He brought perfection in content and form in Tamil publications. Despite the Tamil publishing industry not being an industry with big capital, he had initiated the Cre-A dictionary that sincerely kept a tab on literary works that were getting published to observe the new terms and document them.”

D Ravikumar, MP of Villupuram constituency in Tamil Nadu condoled the death of the veteran publisher and posted on Twitter and wrote: “It pains me to have lost a dear friend. He used to speak about his dictionary with pride.”

According to The Hindu, Tamil writer-playwright-critic Indira Parthasarathy called the publisher “a pioneer in publishing critical works of Tamil literary writers of immense significance”. Referring to the collaborative venture of Cre-A and Harvard University in producing Iravatham Mahadevan’s Early Tamil Epigraphy: From the Earliest Times to Sixth Century A.D., Indira said it was a “masterly production that matched the standards of Western academic publications”.

Tamil Nadu University Removes Arundhati Roy’s Book from Syllabus After ABVP’s Complaint

A state-run university in Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu removed author Arundhati Roy’s book on Maoists, Walking with the Comrades, from its MA syllabus, after members of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) raised objections on Thursday.

ABVP had claimed that the book glorifies anti-national elements, while opposition parties Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) have opposed the decision of taking the book off the syllabus.

The book chronicles the journey of the author’s visit to Maoist-dominated regions in Chhattisgarh and how they operate from inside the jungles. The book had been introduced at the third year for the 2017-18 batch for the MA English Literature students at the Manonmaniam Sudaranar University-affiliated colleges based in Tirunelveli.

The book has been replaced by author M Krishna’s My Native Land, Essays on Nature. The Padma Shri Award-winning writer was a renowned naturalist and a pioneer in Indian wildlife photography.

“The book was included in the syllabus in 2017. It was only a week ago that it was brought to our notice that Ms Roy had glorified Maoists. So we formed a committee to discuss the issue and the panel recommended its withdrawal,” K Pitchumani, who was appointed Vice-Chancellor last year, told The Hindu.

According to a report by The Week, Pitchumani said: “Last week we got a written complaint from the ABVP. Subsequently, there were lot of other representations. We received complaints from our syndicate members as well.”

Reacting to the news, Roy told Scroll.in that she was “not in least bit shocked or surprised by the decision”.

“When I heard of  the Manomaniam Sundaranar University’s decision to remove my book Walking With the Comrades from its curriculum following threats and pressure from the ABVP— oddly enough I was more happy than sad because I had no idea that it was in the curriculum in the first place. I am glad it has been taught for several years. I am not in the least bit shocked or surprised that it has been removed from the syllabus now. It was my duty as a writer to write it. It is not my duty to fight for its place on a university curriculum. That is for others to do or not do. Either way it has been widely read and as we know bans and purges do not prevent writers from being read,” she said.

“This narrow, shallow, insecure attitude towards literature displayed by our current regime is not just detrimental to its critics, it is detrimental to millions of its own supporters. It will limit and stunt our collective intellectual capacity as a society and a country that is striving for a place of respect and dignity in the world,” added Roy.

Other works of Roy, a political-activist involved in human rights and environmental causes, include The God of Small Things (a Man Booker Prize winner of 1997), The Ministry of Utmost Happiness (2017).

The Queen’s Gambit: An Exact, Successful Adaptation of the Book

Soon after releasing on Netflix, The Queen’s Gambit, a seven-episode series, has quickly found its way among the top three trending shows on the streaming platform.

The popularity is well deserved. One is perhaps, yet to come across a series with a more exact adaptation of a novel.

Based on the 1983 American novel of the same name, The Queen’s Gambit explores the life of a fictional orphaned chess prodigy.

Each description and dialogue from the book, written by Walter Tevis, has been dutifully incorporated into the series by creators Scott Frank and Allan Scott.

As the plot develops, we see protagonist Beth Harmon in a constant quest to find herself, while trying to establish herself as an expert in her game. 

The context 

Set in 1983, the Netflix show takes the audience right into life at Methuen Home, an orphanage in Mount Sterling, Kentucky.

At an early age, Beth Harmon (played by Anya Taylor-Joy) is introduced to both chess as well as drugs. The orphanage makes it mandatory for all children to take drugs (tranquillisers), described as green pills.

Beth’s life goes through a whirlwind of emotions after her adoption by Alma Wheatley (Marielle Heller) and her husband Allston Wheatley (Patrick Kennedy).

The story intertwines key social evils of that era by portraying dependency on alcohol and drugs, and rampant racism and sexism with the world of chess.

Besides highlighting her journey of becoming a grandmaster, the series also shows Beth’s sexual and mental transformation as she grows up into a young woman.

A replica

Tevis did not dramatise scenes in his 1983 novel. Beth’s introduction as an orphan is written in a simple manner.

In the series, however, the makers fill the gaps of how her mother died in an accident by showing snippets of it. This raises the question of the presence of her father, who is described in the novel as an alcoholic nobody. To show what happened to Beth’s father and how she became an orphan, the series sheds light on her parent’s troubled marriage. In the series, Beth recalls her father as a tall, slender man who deserts her mother for another woman. 

The creators took the liberty of adding Beth’s biological father in the introduction to highlight why and how ‘a girl in a plain dress’ ended up at an orphanage.

Taking after the book, the series portrays the sisterhood between Jolene (Moses Ingram), an older girl at the orphanage and Beth. Jolene becomes an anchor to Beth and an older companion, who looks after her. Both the book and series have discussed the on-and-off bonding between the two girls. 

Both the book as well as the series dedicate a significant part to depicting the chess moves.

While the chess moves might come across as difficult to follow in the novel, the visual emphasis to the game in the series makes it easier to grasp.

The series’ apt depictions of the orphanage, Beth’s first-ever game and her opponent make it an engaging watch.

Both the author of the book and the creators of the show paint a bold and honest picture of the time in which the story is set.

The Girl on the Train: A Loyal Adaptation with a Few Key Changes

When director Tate Taylor’s film The Girl on the Train released in 2016, readers worldwide were still raving about the book it is based on. British author Paula Hawkins debuted with the novel of the same name the previous year, and its narration style and “unlikeable characters” made it an instant success. The book even earned praise from renowned authors like Stephen King.

While the psychological thriller book swiftly topped the charts as a best seller, the creators of the film retained the novel’s central theme and added elements to make the screen adaptation more suitable for the big screen.

Warning: Spoilers ahead

The context

The film, starring Emily Blunt as the protagonist Rachel, is more or less loyal to the book. The main plot is the same- alcoholic, unemployed Rachel aimlessly rides the train every morning staring into the suburban houses that she passes through. A divorcee, she can’t get over the fact that her ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux) has moved on and got married to his mistress Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), and is now a father to a baby girl. During these train rides, she gets fixated on Tom’s neighbours- the perfect couple Megan and Scott Hipwell (Haley Bennett and Luke Evans) and she imagines their marriage and the lives they lead.

While she was married, she slipped into depression when she found out she was infertile and turned into an alcoholic. Her dependence on alcohol would make her turn violent and cause blackouts, something she had no memory of when she awoke. Obsessed with how Tom cheated on her, Rachel calls and harasses Tom and Anna every night, and again fails to remember these episodes when she wakes up sober.

Things change for the worse when Rachel spots Megan hugging another man and inadvertently gets pulled into an investigation when Megan goes missing and is later found dead.

The deviations

Despite retaining the crux of the story, the film’s setting is entirely different. The novel is set in London, while the film takes place in New York. Rachel is seen riding up and down the Hudson and getting off the Grand Central Station, where she spends the rest of the time drinking at the train station bar. In the novel, the houses are all identical, causing Rachel to get confused and disoriented, but the film shows them to be quite different from each other.

An alcoholic and depressed woman, whose narration is not entirely reliable due to her frequent alcohol-induced blackouts, the novel describes her as fat and undesirable, which the film adaptation gives a miss. However, considering the fact Rachel carries a deep sense of self-loathing, her descriptions about herself may not be accurate.

One of the biggest changes that director Taylor incorporated was toning down Scott’s abusive character in the film. Hawkins depicted Scott as a controlling, possessive, and emotionally abusive husband, suspicious about his wife’s loyalty. When he comes to know about his wife’s death, he enters into a complicated relationship with Rachel, as he mistakes her to be Megan’s friend from her art gallery.

In the film, it is easy to sympathise with Scott. When he finds out that Rachel had lied about how she knew Megan, he attacks her and storms out of her apartment. In the novel, however, he confronts her in his house and goes to the extent of locking her up in a room.

The scene where Rachel realises that Tom is the actual culprit, is what sets the film apart from the novel. Hawkins relies on Rachel recalling the actual turn of events to shed light on Tom’s true nature- a cheating, manipulative husband, who constantly gaslights people around him.

In the film, this gets highlighted when Rachel meets Martha (Lisa Kudrow), the wife of Tom’s former boss. When Rachel apologises for her drunken behaviour at a party in Martha’s house, which led to Tom losing his job (as Tom led her to believe), Martha informs her that none of that had indeed happened and that Tom lost his job because he had sexual relations with every girl in the office. This serves as the film’s turning point, where Rachel begins to put the pieces together and realises that Tom had killed Megan.

Minor changes

In order to establish Rachel’s instability and erratic behaviour, the film has a scene where she shoots a drunken video talking about how much she hates Anna and how she wants to kill Megan for cheating on her husband. This serves to confuse viewers and seems to depict Rachel as Megan’s supposed killer.

The film adaptation also merges the characters of detectives Gaskill and Riley into one (Alison Janey). Janey’s character is the lead investigator in Megan’s case and is far less sympathetic of Rachel.

Similarly, Rachel’s once-sympathetic roommate Cathy (Laura Prepon) is shown as more strong-willed in the film and gets far less screen time. Her boyfriend is entirely omitted in the film.

The ending of the book is also slightly altered. In the book, Rachel decides to stop frequenting her original train route and move on with her life. In the movie, however, Rachel comments that she is tied to Megan forever now and still takes the same route, but sits on the opposite side of the train.

The Girl on the Train incorporates some changes to bring the best-selling novel to screen, while consciously retaining the key elements that help in propelling the narrative forward.

The Girl on the Train has been remade in Hindi by director Ribhu Dasgupta, with Parineeti Chopra playing the role of Rachel. The film was expected to release this year but has been postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Writer Paul Zacharia Wins Kerala’s Ezhuthachan Puraskaram Award

Noted short story writer and novelist Paul Zacharia won Ezhuthachan Puraskaram, Kerala government’s highest literary honour, Minister of Cultural Affairs AK Balan announced on Sunday.

The award will be presented by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan at a function that will be held at the Secretariat Durbar Hall. Coming with a cash prize of Rs 5 lakh and a citation, this year marks the 28th edition of the award.

The jury panel was led by the Kerala Sahitya Akademy president Vysakhan, and included poet K Sachithanandan, literary critic M Thomas Mathew, Sanskrit scholar KG Paulose, and secretary for culture Rani George.

“His cultural interventions are testimony to the fact that he is someone who observed the society around him keenly. Using stinging black humour, he turned the thoughts of an average Malayali into unusual literary moments,” said the jury, according to a report by The Hindu.

Apart from this, Zacharia has also won accolades, including the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award in 1979, the Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award in 2004, VKN Award, Odakuzhal Award, and Muttathu Varkey Award.

A former journalist, who has worked with various national media organisations; some of Zacharia’s best known works include Bhaskara Pattelarum Ente JeevithavumOridathuOru Nasrani Yuvavum GoulishashthravumSalaam America, Praise the Lord, Arkariyam and Oru African Yatra.

Zacharia’s works have been translated into English, German, and French. His novella Bhaskara Pattelarum Ente Jeevithavum was adapted into the 1994 Malayalam film Vidheyan. Directed and written by Adoor Gopalakrishnan, it starred Mammootty and MR Gopakumar in lead roles.

The previous winners of the award are Sooranad Kunjan Pillai (1993), Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai (1994), Balamaniamma (1995), T Padmanabhan (2003), Sukumar Azhikode (2004), S Guptan Nair (2005), Vishnu Narayan Namboothiri (2014), Puducherry Ramachandran (2015), C Radhakrishnan (2016), K Sachidanandan (2017), M Mukundan (2018), and Anand (2019).

Trans News, E-magazine by Transgender Community, Goes Live

Transgender Resource Centre’s founder and head Priya Babu is all smiles. After two years of initially conceptualising her dreams of running a magazine for members of the transgender community, she has finally succeeded, she says.

“Trans News is finally live,” she announces.

Her Tamil and English e-magazine, which shines light on transgender history, trans rights, cinema, fashion and even has segments on health, make up and cooking, is sure to help more people see the achievements of the community, she says. The e-magazine was born in a home-cum office in Madurai.

Priya hopes that the magazine helps break stereotypes and provides the community a space to voice their opinion. The magazine features trans writers and trans models. It has a section to alert the community on job availability and an online shop to showcase the products sold by transgender persons.

“What began two years ago as a means to document our daily lives is now seeing the light of the day. We too need a space to showcase our beauty, our history and our role in society. I hope this magazine helps,” she says.

‘Aval Nangai’

Priya has been an advocate of trans rights for almost two decades. Her organisation- Transgender Resource Centre in Madurai- has 170 books on members of the community. The centre has also documented news clippings of the community, to ensure that it can be used for research. Priya is also a filmmaker and regularly engages with students across Tamil Nadu about the rights of members of the trans community.

Although she has helped write books and has made a documentary film on trans rights, she says that she found the need to create a platform to record their daily thoughts and to capture the mood of the current times.

“I had earlier registered a magazine titled ‘Aval Nangai’ [She’s a Woman], hoping to create a print edition of the magazine. All the base work and the registration of the title was done. However, Covid-19 hampered all the preparation that we had done. We then decided to convert it to an e-magazine. Our writers all approved and we were ready to go,” she says.

Priya says that articles will be updated every three days to ensure variety.

The magazine’s writers include Padmini Prakash from Coimbatore, Viji from Chennai and Jeeva Rangaraj from Chennai, who will be regular contributors in Tamil. “A number of student volunteers have shown interest in helping us so they will be in-charge of translations. Secretary of TRC, Mahalakshmi Raghavan, will take a final look at our English version,” she says.

The magazine’s beauty segment features six trans women showcasing different ways of doing makeup. “I feel like the magazine will be an instrument in encouraging more people from our community to come forward and write, model and share their lives,” she says.

Way forward

Priya says that the magazine’s first edition was created without any help from professionals. This home-grown brand hopes to evolve into a strong voice and lead the way for several other trans people to take charge of their own narrative.

In her first editorial note she writes, “Of course, the journey was not a bed of roses, it was filled with thorns of bullies, discrimination, economical crisis and abuses. This magazine aims at the future generation should not face the difficulties we have faced, so through our pen we are trying to root out the thorns in the path to reach their destination.”