Movies are not conceived in isolation. Every aspiring director in Tamil cinema today will harbour memories of watching a Nayagan or a 16 Vayadhiniley on screen; every young actor will speak of how Kamal Haasan and Sivaji Ganesan inspired them; and every aspiring music director will have a favourite Ilaiyaraaja song. Each week, Silverscreen talks to a different celebrity to find the sparks that triggered their creativity – the films, the music, the writing, the photographs and the locations.
Halitha Shameem made her directorial debut with the widely acclaimed Poovarasam Pee Pee last year, which continues to fetch her awards. Also a keen reader, she was more than happy to talk to us about her love for words. “I love books because they give me varied perspectives. It helps me perceive things in a better way. I always have an author’s narrative running in my mind. Any important incident that I come across, I immediately think how this particular author would have described it.”
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
“The unbearable lightness of love, sex and other human values are discussed in the book. It is about how people take relationships so lightly that eventually the lightness becomes too heavy to bear. I like how the woman in the novel copes with the inﬁdelity of her man, and the portrayal of the intellectual and artistic community of Prague in the 1960s and 1970s.
The Stranger by Albert Camus
The Stranger is my next favorite book. It is quite the controversial novel, as it has a protagonist who refuses to cry at his mother’s funeral. It also has abundant symbolism – climactic symbolism, especially. He says in the book, ‘It was the same sun as in the day I buried Maman and, like then, my forehead especially was hurting me, all of the veins pulsating together beneath the skin.’
The sun that makes him remember his mother’s death will make him pull a trigger later. It discusses how the society expects one to behave, and the consequences of speaking your mind, speaking the truth etc. After reading this book, I’ve always observed how the weather, be it the harshness and intensity of a sun or the pleasant feel of an overcast day, is always linked to our memories.
A mother writes a letter to her daughter in which she describes her ‘girlhood’ in Zimbabwe. ‘Africa needs the hearts and minds of its sons and daughters…’ she tells her.
The book doesn’t preach about retention of traditional values. Instead, Nozipo writes about the importance of recognizing and cherishing your roots. I liked how the book relates human relationship even with non-living things. Ever heard of bulbs burning out or vehicles failing to start when the owner of the house passes away? This books describes it so beautifully.
Spud by John van de Ruit
Another book from Africa which talks about how its protagonist – ‘Spud Milton’ learns to adapt to the environment in a boarding school. I absolutely loved the way it speaks about the minds of children. It is a very realistic portrayal. All the characters in the hostel are so familiar because I’ve seen kids behaving in very much the same manner, from my time in boarding school. The book inspired me to be genuine while conceiving a story.
What we see and what we hear, if put together genuinely…becomes art.
Follow The Rabbit Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington; The Boy in The Striped Pajamas by John Boyne and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
I liked how these books spoke of violence through the eyes of children. To show violence through such young eyes deeply affected me and motivated me that it eventually became the idea behind Poovarasam PeePee . In Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence, the aboriginal kids are forced to take up ‘White’ culture and are forbidden to speak their native language. How the kids escape the camp, crossing a thousand miles is an inspiring tale of defiance and survival. The history of Afghanistan is condensed with a beautiful tale of friendship in the Kite Runner while The Boy in The Striped Pajamas tells the story of a child living in the periphery of a death camp in Nazi Germany.
All these books reinforce the fact that childhood knows no boundaries and that children explore friendships beyond the fence. All these books are devastating as they showcase violence through the eyes of a child.
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
It is the story of a teenage girl who committed suicide. It had deep insights about girlhood and it broke the general stereotype that teenage is all about ‘sugar, spice and everything nice’. The hardships these teenage girls go through, the feelings of being ignored by their peers and their helplessness, are portrayed beautifully by the author. I feel that teens need attention more than anyone else and that they have to be taken care of in a gentle manner. As this book reinforces my opinio,n it has become one of my favorite YA novel. Still Alice, Winter Girls are my other favorites in the genre.
Blink by Malcom Gladwell
This non-ﬁction book talks about snap judgments that we make in our day to day lives, and that intuition we all rely on so much. This book will make you trust your instincts and empower you.
Little Face by Sophie Hannah
Reading this book was like watching a ﬁlm. Events unfold with two narratives, and its perspectives kept me hooked. It talked about ‘pre-natal’ depression – something I never knew about. I felt that it was an important topic of study. It delves deep into a mother’s mind and psyche before and after the delivery of a baby.
What will she feel if she thinks the world is not worthy enough for her little baby to survive….that’s what this deeply affecting novel is all about.
I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella
This is my favorite chick lit. Probably because it had logic and was way too interesting.
Must Love Otters
I like this book because of its description of British Columbia in Canada. The ﬂoat planes, Orcas and the resorts with the sweet protagonist made for an altogether memorable experience.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Though I generally don’t like super-power female protagonists, I liked the girl with the dragon tattoo. It made me want to kick the door just for the sake of it. Feels good to have ‘Girl Power’.
Andaman Nayakkar by Ki Raja Narayanan
It is about an innocent man from the south of Tamilnadu being pushed into Andaman prison during the freedom struggle. I like the author for his characterization of people without getting politically involved or getting preachy.
He is the most genuine author that I’ve read in Tamil.