Adaptations: Some Journeys from Words to Visuals
 9781443884099, 144388409X

Table of contents :
Preface and Acknowledgements
Part I
Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Part II
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven

Citation preview


Adaptations Some Journeys from Words to Visuals Edited by

Shri Krishan Rai and Anugamini Rai

Adaptations: Some Journeys from Words to Visuals Edited by Shri Krishan Rai and Anugamini Rai This book first published 2015 Cambridge Scholars Publishing Lady Stephenson Library, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE6 2PA, UK British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Copyright © 2015 by Shri Krishan Rai, Anugamini Rai and contributors All rights for this book reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner. ISBN (10): 1-4438-7466-3 ISBN (13): 978-1-4438-7466-3


Preface and Acknowledgements ................................................................ vii Contributors ............................................................................................. viii Introduction ................................................................................................. 1 Part I Chapter One ................................................................................................. 6 Adapting, Interpreting and Transcreating Rabindranath Tagore’s Works on Screen Somdatta Mandal Chapter Two .............................................................................................. 21 Mind, Word, Performance, Screen: Some Journeys Sonjoy Dutta-Roy Chapter Three .......................................................................................... 30 “Our Films, Their Films”: Postcolonial Critique of the Cinematic Apparatus Daniel L. Selden Chapter Four .............................................................................................. 67 Literature to Cinema: Two Novels, Two Adaptations, Two Versions Krishna Mohan Pandey Chapter Five .............................................................................................. 73 Susanna’s Seven Husbands and 7 Khoon Maaf: How Faithful is the Bond? Goutam Buddha Sural Chapter Six ................................................................................................ 81 R. K. Narayan’s The Guide: Film Adaptation and Re-creation of a New Text Gyanabati Khuraijam and Yumnam Oken Singh



Chapter Seven............................................................................................ 92 Cinematic Adaptations of Classic Novels: Transforming The Guide and Devdas into Mega Blockbusters Sonali Das Part II Chapter Eight ........................................................................................... 104 Cinematic and Software Adaptations and Appropriations of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island Obododimma Oha Chapter Nine............................................................................................ 127 Pride and Prejudice from Page to Vlog: Adaptations and Questions of In/Fidelity Nazua Idris Chapter Ten ............................................................................................. 142 Striving for Grace: A Study of the Novel and Film Adaptation of J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace Bashabi Gogoi Chapter Eleven ........................................................................................ 155 Adaptation and Demystification: Treatment of the Romeo and Juliet Theme in Deepa Mehta’s Water Sharmistha Chatterjee (Sriwastav) Bibliography ............................................................................................ 168 Index ........................................................................................................ 179


The concept for this book came about in June 2013 when we organized the international conference on “Literature to Cinema: Adaptation, Appropriation, Adulteration” at National Institute of Technology (NIT) Durgapur, West Bengal, India. The overwhelming response to our invites, followed by the enthusiastic participation of over two hundred delegates, encouraged us to take the idea forward. Our anonymous peer reviewers had to undergo a rigorous and harsh selection process for this book to pick only eleven research papers from around the two hundred presented at the conference. We gratefully acknowledge all the authors without whose contributions this volume would not have materialized. Our heartfelt gratitude is also due to the peer reviewers from whose comments we benefited much. I would like to acknowledge the support of my institute, NIT Durgapur, India, who made the conference happen. I also want to extend my sincere appreciation to Cambridge Scholars Publishing for bringing out this volume.


Shri Krishan Rai (Editor) is Assistant Professor of English in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at National Institute of Technology Durgapur, West Bengal, India. He has delivered talks at the Universities of Oxford, La Laguna, etc. He has got two books and scores of research papers to his credit. He has also contributed chapters to several anthologies on literature. Anugamini Rai (Editor) teaches English at Durgapur Women’s College Durgapur, West Bengal, India. She has authored a book, Ramanujan’s Poetry: Portrayal of Conflicting Cultures, and edited an anthology entitled Literature to Cinema. She has also been published in several national and international journals. Somdatta Mandal is Professor and Chairperson, Department of English and Other Modern European Languages, Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan. She is a recipient of several prestigious fellowships and awards like the Fulbright Pre-doctoral, the Salzburg Seminar Fellowship, the Rockefeller Foundation Residency Award at Bellagio, the British Council Charles Wallace Fellowship, the JFK Library Boston Research Fellowship, the Mellon Grant by the American Studies Association as International Scholar of American Studies, Exchange Scholar at the Asian American Institute, the University of Connecticut and Fulbright Visiting Lecturer Fellowship, and the Sashtri Indo-Canadian Institute Faculty Enrichment Fellowship. She has published two academic books, Film and Fiction: Word Into Image (2005), and Reflections, Refractions and Rejections: Three American Writers and the Celluloid World (2004). She has edited and co-edited 15 books and journals, has published more than ninety research articles in national and international journals and anthologies, and has over thirty-five book reviews to her credit. Her areas of interest are American Literature, contemporary fiction, film and cultural studies, Diaspora studies and translation. She has also received a Sahitya Akademi award for translating short fiction. She is now translating a series of women’s travelogues from Bengali into English.

Adaptations: Some Journeys from Words to Visuals


Sonjoy Dutta-Roy is Professor of English at the Department of English and Other Modern European Languages, University of Allahabad, India. His book (Re) Constructing the Poetic Self: Tagore, Whitman, Yeats, Eliot (Pencraft International, 2001) was selected by the Human Resource and Development Ministry for distribution in University and other libraries in India. His poetic collections, The Absent Words (1998) and Into Grander Space (2005), were published by Writers Workshop, Kolkata. His Third Collection has just been published by Author House, Bloomington, USA, titled Diary Poems and Story Teller’s Rhymes. Daniel L. Selden is Professor and Director of the Satyajit Ray Film and Study Center, Humanities Academic Services, University of California, USA. He has several books to his credit: Alexandrianism, Innovations of Antiquity, Hieroglyphic Egyptian: An Introduction to the Language and Literature of the Middle Kingdom, and Literatures of the Roman Empire (forthcoming). He has also contributed his papers to reputed journals and books. Krishna Mohan Pandey is Professor of English at Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, India. He has four books to his credit: Cultural Anguish in the Poetry of Nissim Ezekiel and Kamala Das, Rhyming with Reason: The Poetry of Thomas Gray, City as Kaleidoscope: Indian English Poetry in Plural Contexts and The Mahabharata and Recent Indian Fictional Imagination (forthcoming), and more than thirty research papers. Goutam Buddha Sural is Associate Professor and Head of the Post Graduate Department of English, Bankura Christian College, Bankura India. He is the author of Hopkins and Pre-Raphaelitism, and has edited a book entitled Aspects of Tribal Life. He is the editor of the Appropriations journal. He has completed two U.G.C. Research projects, one on the impact of English on tribal life of Bankura, and the other a comparative study of Gerard Manley Hopkins and Jibanananda Das. He was a visiting fellow at Bristol University, UK in 2006. A number of his papers have been published in different journals and books. Gyanabati Khuraijam is Assistant Professor at NIT Agartala. Her areas of specialization are Commonwealth Literature and Indian Writing in English. She holds a PhD on Amitav Ghosh from Manipur University, India. Her papers have been published in many national and international journals of repute.



Yumnam Oken Singh is an MA, B.Ed., PhD from Manipur University. Specializing in Language and Literary Aesthetics, he has contributed several research papers to many journals and his interest extends to new trends in literature and socioeconomic researches. Sonali Das is Lecturer at PG Department of English, Bhadrak Autonomous College, Bhadrak. She has published extensively in reputed, peer reviewed and refereed journals. Her articles have been cited by other scholars in their research papers and PhD dissertations. She has presented a number of research papers at National Seminars and International Conferences. Obododimma Oha is Professor of Cultural Semiotics and Stylistics in the Department of English at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. He has published articles in international journals such as Mosaic, Mattoid, Interventions, Portal, Africa, American Drama, Mots Pluriels, Philosophy and Social Action, Ase, Safara, and Context. He has also contributed chapters to several anthologies on language, literature and culture. A poet, Oha has also co-edited three online poetry anthologies with Anny Ballardini. He has served on the editorial boards of a number of journals. Nazua Idris teaches at Stamford University, Bangladesh. She has presented papers at International Conferences in Malaysia, India and Bangladesh. Two of her papers have been published in the Stamford Journal of English and Spectrum. Three of her papers have been accepted for publication in the forthcoming issues of Chaos, The English Teacher (Malaysia) and Ruminations: the Andrean Journal of Literature (India). Bashabi Gogoi is Assistant Professor in the Department of English and Foreign Languages and is associated with the Centre for Open and Distance Learning, Tezpur University, India. She is pursuing a PhD on Film Adaptation with reference to selected novels and their film adaptations, focusing on the socio-cultural ethos. Sharmistha Chatterjee (Sriwastav) is Assistant Professor of English at Aliah University, Kolkata. She has been published widely in National and International books and journals and has recently authored a book on Language, Gender and Power as seen in the works of Amitav Ghosh, published by Lap-Lambert publishers, Germany. She is working on the translation of short stories in regional Indian Languages into English.


The adaptation of literary classics to films has surged as one of the most appealing topics in the twenty-first century in interdisciplinary studies. Adaptation is not new; it has been in discussion since the days of silent movies. In the perspective of Indian cinema, the first full-length Indian feature film, Raja Harishchandra, was based on a legend mentioned in Indian holy scriptures. Since then, several literary texts have been filmed, and this process has become a popular phenomenon. The recent film by Vishal Bhardwaj, Haider, an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, has raised the expectations of lovers of this symbiotic relationship between literature and film. Based on Bhardwaj’s track record, with films such as Maqbool, Omkara and 7 Khoon Maaf, such heightened expectations are quite genuine. But at the same time, this ambience has stimulated a fidelity discourse on the filming of canonical texts. The last few decades have witnessed the opening of several fully-fledged film courses and departments across the world to discuss issues of fidelity and the aesthetics of the amalgamation of literature and cinema. This collection of essays is developed with the intention to discuss such issues in this burgeoning field of studies. The book is an invitation for readers to embark on some fantastic journeys of words to visuals. It is divided into two parts. The first broadly focuses on the cinematic adaptations based on the texts of Indian literature while the second emphasises the adaptations of literary works from other countries. The opening chapter, “Adapting, Interpreting and Transcreating Rabindranath Tagore’s Works on Screen” by Somdatta Mandal, is focused on Rabindranath Tagore, India’s first Nobel laureate of literature. It presents Tagore’s own ideas of cinema and his involvement in Notir Puja (1932), the only film he directed and in which he made a cameo appearance. The paper also focuses on the evolution of the huge number of films adapted from Tagore’s works, beginning from six silent productions to talkies made as late as 2012. The next chapter examines Peter Brook’s The Mahabharata as a case study along with Ray’s and Tagore’s narrative chain that the author, Sonjoy Dutta-Roy, uses as an example in the early part of the paper. Brook’s continuation of the Mahabharata chain brings in interesting



issues of purism and hybridization in this vast process and reveals, along with the Ray Tagore dialectic, the advantages and disadvantages of medium crossovers in this contemporary narrative chain. Daniel L. Selden’s “‘Our Films, Their Films’—a Postcolonial Critique of the Cinematic Apparatus” may be considered as a tribute to Satyajit Ray on the completion of a hundred years of Indian cinema. In this paper, the author attempts to understand and highlight the cinematic ability of Satyajit Ray. He also critiques the ideology inherent in the basic cinematic apparatus and the diegetic codes solidified by D. W. Griffith. The fourth chapter, “Literature to Cinema—Two Novels, Two Adaptations, Two Versions,” is by Krishna Mohan Pandey. In this paper, Pandey discusses the centrality of Khushwant Singh’s masterpiece Train to Pakistan in partition literature and Pamela Rooks’s adaptation of the same. The paper takes into its orbit another classic partition novel by Bapsi Sidhwa, Ice Candy Man, and its cinematic rendering by Deepa Mehta. Goutam Buddha Sural attempts a fidelity check of Vishal Bhardwaj’s film 7 Khoon Maaf, an adaptation of Ruskin Bond’s novella Susanna’s Seven Husbands. Sural’s direct interaction with the author gives genuineness to the observations. The next two chapters discuss R. K. Narayan’s The Guide and its cinematic adaptation in detail. Gyanabati Khuraijam and Yumnam Oken Singh’s “R. K. Narayan’s The Guide—the Film Adaptation and ReCreation of a New Text” highlights the inter-textual nature of adaptation and recreation of a new text in a different medium. On the other hand, Sonali Das’s fidelity test finds the spirit felt in Narayan’s text lacking in Vijay Anand’s Guide. In this search of the faithfulness of cinematic adaptations to their source texts, Das also covers Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s Devdas. The second part of the book opens with Obododimma Oha’s “Cinematic and Software Adaptations and Appropriations of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.” This paper analyses the adaptation of the narrative of dangerous adventure in Treasure Island for both the screen and a digital mathematical game of fractions called The Treasure of Fraction Island. Both adaptations, it is argued, are interesting attempts to realize the meanings of the narrative of adventure across disciplines of knowledge and generate positive values. Nazua Idris, in “Pride and Prejudice from Page to Vlog—Adaptations and Questions of In/Fidelity,” makes a comparative analysis of the major adaptations of Pride and Prejudice with a special emphasis on Bride and Prejudice, Lost in Austen and The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Apart from the

Adaptations: Some Journeys from Words to Visuals


fidelity check, Idris talks about the cultural and ideological patterns behind the in/fidelity in such adaptations. “Striving for Grace—A Study of the Novel and Film Adaptation of J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace” by Bashabi Gogoi explores Coetzee’s novel and its cinematic adaptation. Gogoi tries to focus on the presentations of trauma, strained relationships and complicated racial complexities of the new South Africa in two different media (literature and film). The last chapter of the book, “Adaptation and Demystification— Treatment of the Romeo and Juliet theme in Deepa Mehta’s Water” by Sharmistha Chatterjee (Sriwastav), critically examines the extent to which the basic Shakespearean text is adulterated to suit cultural and cinematic purposes. In her paper, she tries to prove that Water is a deconstructed version of Romeo and Juliet and not a reconstructed one like other Bollywood films. It also searches for the techniques adopted to do so and so bring forth the aim of the filmmaker. Though the authors have journeyed a long way to find the intricacies of the symbiotic relationship of literature and film, there is still much to explore in this area of literature, film and comparative study. The views and ideas given in the book are original and the authors have full authority and accountability for anything mentioned in their respective chapters. The observations and findings of the papers are neither final nor ultimate, but as a whole create an ambience for contemplating such an interesting topic.



A minor work has no claim to act as more than a springboard when adapted for another medium, but a major work deserves, that any approach is made with respect to its essence. The scenario must express the quintessence of the book. It must emerge as clearly as possible, an honour 1 to the original, to our process of transportation, and to cinematic art.

One of the most interesting things about the early twentieth century is that the arts of literature, painting and cinema went through the modernist crisis at about the same time, despite the fact that cinema was a fledgling art and the others were well into their maturity. Whether they did so in response to each other (influence), or independently, in response to the state of Western culture (parallel development), is extremely difficult to prove. Apart from literature, Rabindranath Tagore, who excelled in so many art forms like music and painting, also embraced the new medium of cinema. Though not consistent enough to engage his interest in cinema in a regular way, his interaction with this emerging art form is an interesting subject for analysis which includes both direct and indirect connections. In order to assess Tagore’s direct relationship with cinema one has to go through his own writings, letters and information published in different newspapers and journals, and the reminiscences of various people who interviewed him or were close to him. The indirect connection with cinema is of course restricted to the many films that have been produced based on his works. 1

Montague, 115–116.

Adapting, Interpreting and Transcreating Rabindranath Tagore’s Works


Divided into two parts, this paper will first focus on Tagore’s own ideas of cinema and his involvement in Notir Puja (1932), the only film he directed and in which he made a cameo appearance. It will then focus on the evolution of the huge number of films adapted from Tagore’s works, beginning from the six silent productions to the talkies made as late as 2012. Interestingly, apart from the stalwarts of the New Theatre productions, almost all significant directors in Bengal, whatever their agenda, adapted Tagore’s works as a kind of rite of passage. What was the logic behind this? While some chose a Tagore story for adaptation because of its strong story line, and others for the depiction of unusually strong and unconventional women characters, there were also some directors who ideologically agreed with Tagore’s worldview. It is needless to add that by the time we come to the spate of film adaptations that coincided with the writer’s 150th anniversary in 2011, Tagore the writer had also transcended to become a character in his own story, as Rituparno Ghosh’s film Noukadubi illustrates. Tagore’s first interaction with cinema took place in 1917 and shows that he was already conversant with the medium. Nitin Basu reminiscences how in 1917 Prasanta Mahalanobis and Rabindranath Tagore took him to Bolpur, requesting him to film a dance performance accompanied by Tagore’s songs in Uttarayan one evening. He took pictures, processed them in Mahalanobis’s laboratory at Presidency College, developed the print at home, processed it again in the laboratory and projected it for Gurudev. He liked this 17-minute film so much that he watched it again and again. Unfortunately, the film is now lost and if available it would have been the first film in which Rabindranath had also performed a role. After this, in 1920 there was an attempt by the Madan Company to film Tagore’s play Biswarjan, but the project was aborted due to lack of female artists. In one of his trips to England in 1920–21, Tagore happened to watch the euphoria of the English people when the famous Hollywood stars Mary Pickford and her husband Douglas Fairbanks came there and gave a critical interview in the Daily News on it. Incidentally, in Calcutta at that time people had already started cinematic ventures based on his stories. In 1923, the silent film Manbhanjan, based on Tagore’s story of the same name, was made by Naresh Chandra Mitra. From Madhu Basu’s autobiography, it is also known that he had interacted with Tagore in making a film on the same short story, and after the Madan Company signed the bond with Visva-Bharati, Tagore even revised Basu’s film

Chapter One


script, added some dialogue and advised Giribala as a name for it.2 All these events make it clear that Tagore was already aware of the immense possibilities of the new medium of the cinema and by 1929 his relationship with it became quite strong. That same year, in a letter to Murari Bhaduri (brother of theatre legend Sisir Kumar Bhaduri) written on November 26, 1929, he stated that the flow of images makes up cinema. This flow, he wrote, should be used so that it can communicate without the help of words. “The cinema (chhayachitra, in his words) is still enslaved to literature,”3 and he attributed this “dependence” to the general ignorance of the masses to which cinema caters. He added that a time will come when cinema will stop depending on literature for inspiration and stand independent of the written word, on its own, having evolved its own language.4 Interestingly for a man much ahead of his time, this observation stands in sharp contrast to the films produced on Tagore’s works, both during his lifetime and afterwards. One thing that has to be kept in mind here is that when Tagore wrote this letter to Bhaduri, cinema was still a silent medium and hence his emphasis on the “flow of images.” But later with the advent of the “talkies,” his idea about the possibilities of cinema underwent a change. He realized that sound, music and dialogue were equally important. In the detailed letter to Bhaduri, and from his other comments, we can summarize that Tagore emphasized five issues: a) b) c) d) e)

Independence of the art forms Cinema (Chhayachitra) is dependent on literature Cinema requires financial investment Cinema needs its own language Both the creator and the public audience are to be blamed for suitable cinema not being made.

Towards the end of 1929, Dhiren Ganguly (aka DG) decided to film Tagore’s play Tapati and the poet wrote the screenplay for it. Interestingly, it was also decided that he will act in the role of Bikram. This news was published in Amrita Bazaar Patrika:


This film was later released in 1929 and it was Tagore who suggested that the title Manbhanjan be changed to Giribala. We know of Tagore’s involvement in writing the film script from Prabhat Kumar Mukhopadhyay’s Rabindrajiboni. 3 Rabindranath Tagore’s letter to Murari Bhaduri in 1929 cited in Arun Kumar Roy, Rabindranath O Chalachitra. 4 Chatterji.

Adapting, Interpreting and Transcreating Rabindranath Tagore’s Works


“Dr. Tagore as Movie Star” Family Also To Take Part To Be Shot In Santiniketan Calcutta, December 4 Dr. Rabindranath Tagore appears for the first time in the film version of the poet’s latest drama entitled Tapati which will be produced by the British Dominion Films Company under the direction of Mr. Dhiren Gangopadhyay. Many members of Tagore’s family and his students are to take part in the film, which will be shot at Santiniketan. The scenario has been written by Dr. Tagore himself and it is hoped the picture will be eight reels and will be finished before the year.5

A similar news item entitled “Rabindranath Tagore as Film Star” was published on December 22, 1929 in The Illustrated Weekly of India, but it is unfortunate that out of the eight reels only three were shot and Tagore went abroad in 1930. Though it is said that he had approved the print of those three reels, they simply cannot be traced. As mentioned earlier, apart from getting permission to use songs and editing screenplays written by others, Tagore’s most sustained cinematic endeavours were during the filming of Notir Puja. Based on his famous poem “Pujarini,” it was adapted into a stage play entitled Notir Puja by Tagore himself in 1926, who directed the first production in Santiniketan in 1927. He even took Notir Puja on a cross-country tour, and eventually directed the only film in his career, released in 1932 under the banner of the venerable New Theaters Limited. Shot over four days and breaking the conventional rules of cinema, Notir Puja was filmed like a stage play. It was released at Chitra Talkies on March 14, 1932 and featured music by Dinendranath Tagore and cinematography by Nitin Bose. That the film was a recorded version of his stage play and Tagore made a cameo appearance in it are historically significant because the film industry in India was still in its infancy, compared to the fact that Hollywood had advanced in cinematographic productions both thematically and technically. For instance, 1932 saw Howard Hawks’ Scarface, W.S. Van Dyke’s Tarzan the Ape Man, Greta Garbo and John Barrymore starring in the Grand Hotel and Alfred Hitchcock’s Number 17. It is surprising that for someone who was aware of the great possibilities that the film medium could afford (shown by his acquaintance with Sergei Eisenstein’s films, for instance), the production of Notir Puja was a poor representation of cinema as an art form. It was just shooting of a stage production from a fixed camera. The poet called it “Bioscope,” and took a few young girls to watch it.


Amrita Bazaar Patrika, December, 1929.


Chapter One

According to Pulin Behari Sen, in 1936 Tagore joined together his works Rajarshi, the play Biswarjan and the story “Dalia” to write a new play suitable for the cinema. Divided into four sections, this incomplete script, though not fleshed out properly, proves his growing interest in the new medium. By 1937, he realized that whether he liked it or not, the influence of the cinema on the common person was growing at an alarming rate. On July 30, 1938, the movie Chokher Bali directed by Satu Sen was released in Calcutta.6 On August 4, 1938, Tagore wrote from Santiniketan: While staying in Calcutta I had the opportunity to see the “cinema-natya” Chokher Bali in the Jorasanko house. I was especially satisfied with the praiseworthy acting skills. The way the actors were able to express the tremendous inner conflict of the hero-heroines leading to an exciting dénouement speaks of real credit on their part. This drama is difficult because it deals primarily with the trappings of the psychology of happiness; that is why I hope that those who are connoisseurs will find pleasure in viewing the performance. (Translation mine)7

Here, I would like to draw attention to the change in the way Tagore talks about cinema. Earlier in 1929 he had called it “chhayachitra,” but now he terms it “cinema-natya.” We might assume that the transition from the visual and moving images of the silent cinema to the powerful dramatic performances in the talkies made him rephrase it. From this chronological analysis of Tagore and the cinema, it becomes clear that it was an interesting love-hate relationship. The poet was far-sighted enough to realize that this new art form would eclipse many others, but he could not accept its popularity wholeheartedly. From this, let us move to the second section of this article which focuses on the cinematic adaptations of Tagore’s works.

Adaptations The controversy about the relationship between fiction and film is more than a hundred years old, starting from the first days of cinematographic history. In discussing the aesthetics of film adaptation, one must be clear about the difference between translating a literary piece of work from print 6

This version of Chokher Bali directed by Satu Sen released at the movie hall Shree had Suprava Mukherjee, Indira Roy, Rajlakshmi, Chhabi Biswas, and Manoranjan Bhattacharya in the lead roles. 7 qtd in Roy, 40.

Adapting, Interpreting and Transcreating Rabindranath Tagore’s Works


to the audiovisual media. There can be several reasons for such adaptations, ranging from the director’s love for the story, reinterpreting the word text into film text, the director’s belief that a period in history can be beautifully recreated in the visual medium, the director’s desire to film the story because the literature reflects their own ideological stand on a particular subject/issue, and the film medium can convey this ideology to their audience. Whatever the reason for the cinematic adaptation (and sometimes multiple adaptations of the same text), the subject is intriguing and befits critical discussion. The filmization of a literary work depends on two aspects by the director, namely (a) their approach towards the literary source, and (b) the reasons they have for making the film. All problems linked to the two mediums of cinema and literature mainly spring from the common belief that cinema ought to be a celluloid translation of the literary source it is based on, and that no permutations and combinations through the director’s personal creative inputs should be used. There is a difference between translating a literary piece of work of two-dimensional media of the printed word to the three-dimensional media of cinema and adapting a literary work for the cinema. Literature also functions as an inspiration for a film, in which case the filmmaker does not feel the need to stay rigid about the literary source. Chidananda Dasgupta insists that a film adapted from literature contains something of filmmaker’s mind. According to Dasgupta some aspects of plot and characters are bound to be changed when a literary work is converted into a film. Since Tagore’s works are universal—in time, space, emotions and human relationships—they offer filmmakers a challenge to make the film as powerful, credible and appealing on celluloid as it is in print. A film based on, adapted from and interpreted from Tagore’s oeuvre offers scope for argument, discussion, analysis, debate and questions among the audience, critics and scholars. A brief survey of films adapted from Tagore’s works shows that six silent films, from Manbhanjan (1923) to Noukadubi (1932), and forty-six talkies in Bengali have been produced to date. This excludes documentaries and feature-films that are in production and are to be released soon. Beginning with Notir Puja (1932), directed by Tagore himself, the long list ends with two films released in 2012. It is interesting to note that of the nine Hindi productions, six were made by Bengali directors. Interestingly, apart from the stalwarts of the New Theatre productions, almost all significant directors in Bengal, whatever their agendas, adapted Tagore’s works as a kind of rite of passage. Though a comprehensive list of all adaptations does not fall in the purview of this paper, I would like to mention a few major directors and the different ways they have adapted


Chapter One

Tagore’s stories for the screen. Satyajit Ray made three films, Teen Kanya (1961), Charulata (1964) and Ghare Baire (Home and the World, 1984), based on Tagore’s work. For Satyajit Ray, there was no special problem in filming a Tagore classic. Certain elements in the story attracted him to it in the first place, but he would not hesitate to construct others to meet the requirements of the cinema. For instance, in justifying the changes he made at the end of Postmaster, Ray wrote in “Film Eye,” Journal of Ruia College Film Society: … That was my interpretation as a twentieth century artist working in 1960. The purist objects to these changes. Well, I made them because I am also an artist with my own feelings. I was using Tagore’s rendering of a story as a basis and this was my interpretation of it.8

Again, most debates on Charulata are around Ray’s fidelity to the Tagore original, since Tagore and his works remained too sacrosanct to be subjected to a filmmaker’s interpretations. Ray personally responded to attacks on his alleged distortion of the Tagore original Nashtanir through his article “Charulata Prasange” in the collection Bishay Chalachitra.9 In another article, he explains: … I know I have made a story by Tagore into a film. It is an interpretation, a transcreation, not a translation. Without Tagore there would be no Charulata. After all, he set me off; he was the reason for it. There is a lot of the original in the film a certain state of mind which the author describes beautifully with words … you can’t do that in films. You have to use a different method. Tagore is a great poet, a great writer. He uses wonderful language to describe loneliness and all the small things that go on in the mind. All the time, you have to find something for Charulata to do to 10 establish her state of mind. That is the challenge of the cinema.

Coming to the adaptation of Ghare Baire, it is a well-known fact that Ray had been nurturing the idea of filming it from as far back as 1946, long before Pather Panchali emerged, and though the 1984 film production almost 38 years later differed a great deal from the early Hollywood script, this film has the longest gestation period in Ray’s 8

qtd in Roy, 69. Ray, Bishay Chalachitra. They were addressed in the form of letters directed at Ashok Rudra, who attacked Ray for the diversions he made from the original in Charulata. According to Dhruba Gupta, Ray’s final article was “a wonderful piece of literary criticism of the Tagore original in the then-distinguished Bengali magazine Parichay in 1964”. 10 qtd in Roy, 68. 9

Adapting, Interpreting and Transcreating Rabindranath Tagore’s Works


oeuvre. He confessed that he had suffered the “pin-pricks” of his conscience for thirty-six years and so it can be well assumed that the story of Ghare Baire had been transcreated in his mind long before he began the film. Except for the ending, the film version of Ghare Baire is close to Tagore's text, which makes Ray’s statement that he “did not use a single line of Tagore’s dialogue in the film” as “the way people talk in the novel would not be acceptable to any audience” puzzling. So much for Ray. Tapan Sinha, who made four very successful adaptations of Tagore’s stories—Kabuliwala (1957), Khsudita Pashan (The Hungry Stones, 1960), Atithi (1965) and Kadambini (not released publically). In Khsudita Pashan, he used dreams and fantasy to heighten the intrigue of the romance not present in Tagore’s story. In other films, he used Tagore’s songs generously and to good effect. In Daughters of this Century (2001), Sinha chose Tagore’s Living or Dead (1904) and stated: “Many people had told me that it is very difficult to transfer a Tagore story into film. But it is not true. If you understand Tagore well and internalize his statements, then the task becomes simpler. But before that one has to know Rabindranath well.” Purnendu Patrea, who made Streer Patra (1972) and Malancha (1979), reminiscences that: A waft of fresh air still emerges when I remember the difficult days of writing the film script of Streer Patra. It was the wind of creation or the pleasure of creation. I had to search for answers to thousands of questions, such as what the names of the other characters apart from Mrinal and 11 Bindu would be, and how I could depict the historical period of the story.

Here, one must mention the role Tagore played in the films of Ritwik Ghatak. We all know that Ghatak conveyed both utopian and dystopian visions of “homeland” in his films, especially for people affected by the Partition of India. Though he did not borrow the stories from Tagore, the way in which he used Tagore’s songs in both Meghe Dhaka Tara and Subarnarekha needs to be mentioned here. In Meghe Dhaka Tara, the claustrophobic interior and the suffocation of Nita come out through the famous song “Je raate mor duarguli bhanglo jhore” [“I didn’t realize that you had come to my room, the night when my door broke down in the raging storm”], and appear to be a metaphor for her approaching death. In Subarnarekha, Sita resides in a bustee on the outskirts of Kolkata immediately following Partition. Her growth as a woman is told in the film through the Tagore song “Aaj dhaner khete roudro-chhaya lukochuri khela re bhai” [“The sun and shade play hide and seek over the paddy field 11

qtd in Mandal, “Cinematic Adaptations of Rabindranath”.


Chapter One

today”]. This song personifies Sita and follows her life’s trajectory. Thus, not only does Ghatak aptly juxtapose the innocence and openness of childhood with the degradation of contemporary life through Tagore’s song, a synthesis in the dialectical sense takes place with Bengal Marxism and bourgeois liberation. In an interview given just before his death in 1976, Ghatak eulogized the bard in this manner: I cannot speak without Tagore. That man has culled all my feelings from long before my birth. He has understood what I am and he has put in all the words. I read him and I find that all has been said and I have nothing new to say.12

Even Mrinal Sen, the diehard leftist director who critiqued Tagore and his landed gentry’s background, made a film in 1970 called Icchapuran produced by the Children’s Film Society. Based on a story written by Tagore in 1895, the fantasy and pure humour in the story probably attracted Sen to direct it. Though a Hindi production, when Kumar Sahani made Char Adhyay in 1997 he stated that he was inspired to make the film because he was particularly attracted to the ideology expressed in the novel. Rituparno Ghosh’s tryst with Tagore began with Chokher Bali (2003) and Noukadubi (2011). Apart from facing a lot of criticism for casting the glamorized Bollywood diva Aishwarya Rai in the role of the young widow Binodini, Ghosh justified his directorial liberty especially with the ending of the story. In his adaptation of Chokher Bali, Ghosh attempts a negotiation with the “woman question” that occupies a central place in the discourses of nationalism. At the end of the novel, we find a penitent and reformed Binodini sobered and educated by experience graciously forgiving Mahendra. She asks forgiveness in turn before leaving for Kashi, the haven of Hindu widows. That this ending is contrived becomes clear from Tagore’s own dissatisfaction with it when he stated, “Ever since Chokher Bali was published, I have always regretted the ending. I ought to be censured for it.”13 Two months before he died, he wrote, “I need to be seriously criticized for it, I deserve this criticism. I should be punished for it.”14 For Rituparno Ghosh, this became a good opportunity to invest Binodini with agency resulting in transforming her rather abruptly and unaccountably into a feminist whose quest for autonomy merges with her 12

Robinson, 47. The film Chokher Bali starts with these words of Tagore, also mentioned Chithipatra Vol.XVI. 14 qtd. in Mandal, “Cinematic Adaptations of Rabindranath.” 13

Adapting, Interpreting and Transcreating Rabindranath Tagore’s Works


search for desh, or a homeland. In an interview, Ghosh justifies his reason for deviating from the novel: Today when you read the novel, you can make out that this cannot be the ending. A lot of people wanted Binodini to get married to Behari. I think that would have been a solution 30 years ago when people were propagating widow remarriage … But in today’s time, I think a woman can live on her own completely. She does not require a male surname, or title, or an appendage of any kind to help her lead her life … In the letter she writes when she leaves, Binodini mentions her own desh, which is not “country,” it should not be translated or read as a country; it should be read as a space, a space or domain … And that is what Binodini speaks of at the end.15

Before talking about how Noukadubi, a tale of four cross-wired lovers, gets a contemporary makeover in Ghosh’s production, it has to be mentioned that this story happens to be the most filmed adaptation of any Tagore work.16 Also, as the narrative makes clear, Noukadubi is the most cinema-friendly story by Rabindranath Tagore. It has elements of mainstream Indian cinema filled with dramatic coincidences, love triangles, an accident and even a villain. It is not surprising therefore that film directors have gone back to it over and over. Since the novel is not considered among the best of Tagore’s works, the question of its popularity naturally arises. It is a rather progressive Bollywood style story from Galpaguccha (1912) and maybe because it had risen eyebrows during Tagore’s lifetime for its freewheeling slant, it inspired Ghosh to adapt it. Almost Shakespearean in its premise and plotting, Tagore’s Noukadubi explores mistaken identities leading to misunderstandings and an exchange of wives. But while the Bard would use such devices for a romance or comedy, Tagore creates a tragedy out of the mayhem. The concept of a boat wreck, bringing together a groom and a bride from two different sets of newlyweds, may sound preposterous today, but Tagore 15

Ghosh, 2005. The list begins with the 1932 silent film version produced by the Madan Company and directed by Naresh Chandra Mitra, followed by Nitin Basu’s double production for Bombay Talkies in 1947 in both Bengali and Hindi versions, the latter titled Milan and starring Dilip Kumar in the lead role. In 1960, Ramanand Sagar directed Ghunghat starring Bina Rai. In Bengal, director Ajoy Kar remade the film in 1979, followed by the latest version by Rituparno Ghosh in 2011, which Subhas Ghai also dubbed into Hindi as Kashmakash. Since the novel is not considered among the best of Tagore’s works, the question of its popularity naturally arises. 16

Chapter One


used the event as an excuse to check relationships brought about by chance against those by choice and compulsion. He also uses this romantic love story to indict the institution of arranged marriage where the bride and groom sometimes do not even see each other’s faces, and also critiques the misguided belief in horoscopes to match the ideal pair for marriage. When Ghosh was asked why he chose to adapt Noukadubi, he said: Noukadubi isn't regarded as one of Tagore’s best works. While reading Noukadubi, there could be moments when one wouldn't know if it was penned by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay or Rabindranath Tagore. Yet, I felt that Noukadubi would give to Bengali cinema, a film with a strong narrative. In recent times, it has become a fad to think that breaking the narrative is the only way of making good cinema in Bengal. While breaking the narrative could be a style of filmmaking, that can't be the only method. There has to be space for both styles. One need not usurp the space of the other.17

Thus, we can assume that in spite of contrived plot situations, for which Tagore is himself apologetic in the preface of the novel, the strong narrative element is a plus point of this story and becomes the director’s reason for choosing it for the screen. The poet’s loss thus becomes the director’s gain. Also interesting is the fact that in the film, Tagore himself becomes a character—he is the idol that the young Hemnalini worships day and night; his picture adorns the dresser and a song (interestingly a Rabindrasangeet, “Khelaghar bandhte legechi …”) recurs like a refrain. Filmmaker Suman Mukhopadhyay was inspired to adapt the novel Chaturanga into a film in 2009 because he felt that “the socio-cultural context is that of a nation under colonial rule that is trying to find its own voice. That search is still on even in post-colonial India. Sachish is the epitome of that search.”18 When asked by the interviewer about how he resolved this issue when making the film and how much liberty he felt free to take, Mukhopadhyay replied: Tagore is always a difficult phenomenon to explore in the Bengal milieu. People are oversensitive about him. Firstly, all Bengalis think that they understand Tagore. And they have their pre-set images of the characters. And that creates lots of trouble for a contemporary artist who wishes to reexplore Tagore. If you notice how Shakespeare is reinvented in the West— it is a revolution. But Tagore has been out of copyright for a few years. It is difficult for Bengalis to accept any new intervention regarding Tagore.

17 18

Dasgupta, Priyanka. Mukhopadhyay.

Adapting, Interpreting and Transcreating Rabindranath Tagore’s Works


Consequently, Chaturanga, the film, is both hated and loved, about 50/50, I would say. It is Tagore’s genius that he unified and integrated the social dilemmas that a nation was facing through the novel. I don’t agree with those who say that Chaturanga is a novel of ideas. It is a very living text and the work of a genius and a visionary. … I have taken liberties as much as I needed to take for the film. It is a film and film has its own language. One cannot go back to the literary text and blame the filmmaker for his detours and interventions.19

Close on the heels of Tagore’s 150th birth anniversary in 2011, four comparatively young Bengali films directors ventured into making films based on Tagore’s works. These are Musalmanir Galpo (2010) directed by Pranab Chaudhuri, Laboratory (2010) by Raja Sen, Elar Char Adhyay (2012) by Bappaditya Bandopadhyay and Charuulata 2011(2012) by Agnidev Chatterjee. Each of these four films is made with a certain agenda in the director’s mind. For instance, Musalmanir Galpo, reportedly the last short story Rabindranath Tagore wrote a month-and-a-half before he passed away, has provided fodder for a couple of telefilms but without much success in terms of ratings. Unlike most Tagore creations, it is very cinema-friendly, message-oriented and carries a strong woman-centric statement. As a period piece, it talks about Hindu-Muslim relationships and seemed to the director to be a very good vehicle for promoting the idea of national integration in a secular country like India, a subject also very popular with many other popular commercial movies. The story is about a village girl, Kamala, who’s married off to a zamindar twice her age. Dacoits attack the groom’s party as it is winding its way through a jungle and Kamala’s husband runs for his life, leaving his bride behind. The timely arrival of Khansaheb, a Muslim zamindar, saves Kamala but, having been sheltered by a Muslim household, Kamala becomes an outcast from her own family. With no one to lament her fate, Kamala learns sword fighting and falls in love with Khansaheb’s son Karim. When her stepsister meets with a similar fate after her wedding, Kamala takes on the gang of dacoits. The slow pace and length, coupled with too many song sequences, makes Musalmanir Galpo a failure in the end. Despite wonderfully mellifluous songs one is often confused about whether the film is a musical, a period film, a Tagore film or a feminist statement. Though well-intentioned, it loses its way in the plethora of multiple perspectives that the director fails to control. In the twilight years of his life, Tagore created the true modern woman—in fact the Indian version of the New Woman—in Sohini in the 19



Chapter One

short story “Laboratory” by uniting contradictory forces. Sohini is independently minded, believes in women’s empowerment and is not averse to sexual plurality by virtue of her sexual freedom, and yet can stake her life for saving her husband’s laboratory at any cost, even if it means sacrificing the happiness of her daughter. She is convinced that she does not need to abide by the moral norms imposed by society. Thus, by uniting idealism and individualism, Sohini becomes Tagore’s ideal woman. Like all cinematic adaptations, in the film version of Laboratory the director Raja Sen often deviates from the original characterization, but it is interesting to note that in this case he focusses visually on the uniqueness of the portrayed character as a non-traditional woman through certain visual tropes. Thus, it is understandable that he found it even more convenient to cast Raveena Tandon in this lead role as her broken Bengali suits the role of the Punjabi woman perfectly, though it remains doubtful whether Sen could deliver the idea of Tagore as a feminist in the manner that Mrinal was depicted in Streer Patra. The next film Elar Char Adhyay, based on the Tagore novel Char Adhyay, captures the ideals of the Bengal Renaissance of the 1930s and 40s. Bappaditya Bandopadhyay adheres strictly to Tagore’s story and lives up to the challenge of bringing across a poetic, lyrical and romantic interpretation of a political novel. He includes Tagore’s multi-layered satire through the British-attired Indranath who drives expensive cars and smokes foreign cigars. Atin tells Ela about how the group killed an old village woman by exploiting the trust of a colleague who belonged to the same village, counted the loot while the woman lay dead and enjoyed a lavish feast with the proceeds, all in the name of “revolution.” The film ends with Ela lying dead amidst the flames. Bappaditya uses the flashback to open with Ela’s death and Indranath’s voiceover, and ends with the same scene. Filmmaker Goutam Ghose tells us why he liked the film, despite its drawbacks: Tagore’s Char Adhyay is a very complex novel and the dialogue sometimes gets slightly discursive, so it’s not so easy to interpret in cinema. But he (Bappaditya Bandopadhyay) did it very intelligently. He didn’t want to tell a complex story in a linear form, rather he has put Ela in different situations so that’s why, though the film begins from the end (in the text), you don’t feel uncomfortable. It is not pronounced, it’s quite cinematic. It’s like a rondo in a music piece where you come back to the tonic. I don’t know if people would be able to understand the dialogue now. Bengali language—er charcha toh komey gachhey. But I am sure there is an audience. When I made Moner Manush, a lot of people had told me that

Adapting, Interpreting and Transcreating Rabindranath Tagore’s Works


the audience wouldn’t understand the philosophical dialogue, but that didn’t happen. People understood and they connected if they wanted to.20

The last but worst travesty of a freewheeling adaptation, of course, remains Agnidev Chatterjee’s Charuulata 2011. From time immemorial, poets and authors have written classics on women's loneliness and identity crises. Tagore’s Nastanirh was one of these and was immortalized with Satyajit Ray’s celluloid classic Charulata. So, when a film named Charuulata 2011 was released, also based on Tagore’s story, it was not unnatural for expectations to grow. Here, the director loosely followed the main storyline, merging it with his own. Today’s Charu is Chaiti, a young, beautiful and intellectual wife of a very wealthy newspaper editor, Bikramjit. With Bikram being preoccupied with his editorial responsibilities, Chaiti keeps herself busy with expensive saris, filing nails, watching TV and, despite being a highly educated modern woman, doing nothing on her own. From the beginning, the director has played with the timeline of the film and so the story builds in a non-linear way. Chaiti, depressed with a miscarriage and the lack of physical intimacy with her husband, befriends Amal on the internet. To Amal, she becomes Charuulata 2011. Her lonely heart finally finds the right company. But the story goes on to show how guilt pangs over her intimacy with Amal make Chaiti sever all her ties with him, but still she can’t resist meeting him when he finally comes to Kolkata from London. From the moment Chaiti realizes that Amal is her husband’s cousin Sanju, who’s going to stay at their place, the film focuses on Chaiti’s guilt versus her wish for Sanju. Without the presence of the sublime mental connection of love between them, the movie thus becomes a story of a rich, lonely wife’s adulterous affair with her husband’s brother, and love becomes synonymous with sexual desire. Remakes of classical stories always bring in certain problems and this film is no exception. For most viewers it just seems to be a vehicle for promoting the Bengali actress Rituparna Sengupta. After citing so many examples, the moot point remains that to date each director has found their own individual reasons for filming a Tagore story. To conclude, it can be unanimously accepted that as long as Tagore’s works are adapted to the screen, critics will go on hoping that the sanctity of the literary text is destroyed. Andrey Tarkovsky’s declaration that “the time has come for literature to be separated, once and for all, from cinema”21 can find theoretical acceptance; Ingmar Bergman’s declaration

20 21

Ghose, Gautam. Tarkovsky, 15.

Chapter One


that “film has nothing to do with literature”22 may find diehard cinema fans supporting his point of view, but as long as the film industry relies on literature to constantly supply raw materials, adaptation, with its varied problems, will continue to worry critics, readers and viewers alike. And with our “man for all seasons” to go on supplying stories, more new cinematic adaptations of Tagore’s works will keep his legacy alive.


Humboldt, 352.


From mind to word to screen, and from screen to word to mind, are symbiotic processes of narrative transformations that are integral to our present attempts at understanding the complex contemporary relationship between literature and film. Long ago, I wrote a chapter1 on poetic words by Rabindranath Tagore that evoked the mysterious figure of a woman and a relationship that left so much unsaid and unexplored. There was an encrypted narrative there, hidden in those words the poems evoked. Then, later, I saw the enigmatic portrait of a woman whose dark, deep eyes had a lurking sorrow and a spectral suspension of words that were silently communicating their unexpressed longings and desires. Much later, I read Tagore’s Nashtanir and later saw Satyajit Ray’s Charulata. From words in a poem to still portrait frame, to fictive narrative, to film is a symbiotic journey that can be traced, though not necessarily in that serial order but with each feeding the other. Similarly, a meditative Vyasa in Padmasana, a wide eyed Janamejaya and a pot bellied elephantine scribe together in a single frame as Sharmila Ray’s voice hauntingly chants Tagore’s “Antar Mamo bikoshito Karo antartaro he”2 initiate a narrative movement that would go on to span The Mahabharata story, frame by kinetic frame. The mantric framework of this first chant and the ultimate chant of “Shrinwantu Vishwe Amritasya Putra”3 (as the desolation of the great war brings in the ultimate Shanta Rasa4) frames the entire narrative as it moves 1

Dutta-Roy, 53-54. All About Rabindra Sangeet, “Lyrics of Rabindrasangeet.” 3 Swami Vivekanand Quotes. 4 The Peace Rasa: The Shanta Rasa is the Rasa of preference for saints. However, some basic calmness is available to all if consciously nurtured. 2


Chapter Two

from its Indic origins to a vast global space. Peter Brooks, Satyajit Ray, Rabindranath Tagore and the mythical Vyasa are intermingled in these fascinating correspondences that blend Literature and Cinema in an enriching spell that carries the local and the immediate flavour of words into a global visual and sound sphere, transcending many of the barriers of culture and language. This paper will explore this magical correspondence that I hope will enrich both literature studies and film studies in an interdisciplinary embrace. Though there are many poems of Tagore where a feminine muse is evoked, I will refer to some from Akashpradeep where an ageing poet recollects certain milestone events in his life. In “Kacha Aam” (translated as “Green Mangoes” by Ketaki Dyson), he records his emotions and reactions when “for the first time … a bride was coming / From another family”5 to their house. When this bride came, who was closer in age to the poet than her husband (his elder brother), the poet’s mind, which was like “a boat in anchor, / Was suddenly tossed in a flood tide.”6 The familiar routine of life suddenly changed and in its midst flowered beautiful, unknown and mysterious emotions. Later, in another poem in the same collection, “Shyama” (translated as “The Dark Girl” by Ketaki Dyson), he recalls how they started exchanging meaningless banter, “made up charges against each other”7 and quarrelled, how she read his palm and stated that his temperament showed “a poverty in love,”8 how the sting of her statement was “anesthetized / by her touch,”9 his true prize. He goes on to realize how “the pain of incomplete knowing”10 remained and beauty’s distance never seemed to wane. Interestingly, Andrew Robinson, in his well-known biography Satyajit Ray: The Inner Eye, records how Bankim exerted an influence over Tagore and his sister-in-law (Jyotirindranath’s wife), and the literary Kadambari Devi’s life, and how there was no doubt that it was she who inspired Tagore to write Nashtanir, on which Ray based his film Charulata. All this is now well known—I am only stating these facts in the context of the poems that form the real backdrop of this relationship, the work of fiction and the subsequent film by Ray. The journey from the mind to words, to a still picture, to performance and film must take into account the hinterland of poems, their words and their encrypted suggestiveness. Further, it must take into account the still visual 5

Tagore, “I Won't Let You Go,” Selected Poems, 235. Ibid. 7 Ibid., 233. 8 Ibid., 234. 9 Ibid. 10 Ibid. 6

Mind, Word, Performance, Screen: Some Journeys


frames that later became kinetic images in the film. Robinson talks of Ray’s noticing of the profile portrait sketch, “which is obviously of Kadambari. She was at the back of his mind—there is no doubt about that.”11 He records how Tagore even admitted to the artist Nandalal Bose when he was in his late seventies that it was Kadambari’s eyes which lay behind the hundreds of haunting portraits of women he painted in old age. My own equation of the feminine muse in the poems (who turns back before exiting to give a last haunting look): “Mone ki didha rekhe gele chole … Jete jete duar hote ki bhebe phirale mukhkhani”12 (“with what mental conflict did you leave … what made you turn in the last minute from the door as you left”: translation mine”), with the deep haunting eyes in the portraits, was not thus unfounded. Thus, the backdrop of Charulata is not just Nashtanir but the emotional state of the poet Rabindranath enmeshed in poem after poem, and in portrait after still portrait in the complexity of a relationship that lay encoded and encrypted in them calling out for a kinetic narrative, whether in words or film. The transfer of this emotional state and pending narrative into Ray’s mental landscape can be attributed to his particular affinity to such relationships within Bengali family structures of that period and the many secret narratives that lay hidden in that situation. He is intensely aware of the two levels at which certain sanctioned relationships exist in Bengali families and the lurking sociomoral fears that pursue such relationships, creating an intense and passionate subterfuge. He writes about the relationship between the wife and her debar (the younger brother of her husband), the socially sanctioned freedom it enjoys and the intense affection and intimacy that could exist without eyebrows being raised. He also writes about the danger of the developing level of intensity and passion that might move into darker, sociomorally unsanctioned areas of exploration.13 This culture-specific reality posed a strange dilemma for the film narrative. In Bengali fiction or poetry, it was very much a home truth that needed to be recognized and the hypocrisies challenged. But in cinematic language it entered the realms of the global universal projection, and cultural/language distances posed a sharp challenge to a filmmaker of Ray’s calibre. Caught between the native local realism that Charu discovers as her forte (the village Gramin images and symbols) and the westernized romantic yearnings of Amal (“aami chini go chini tomaare ogo bideshini” [“I know you, oh I know you, my foreign flower”]), Ray has to strike a subtle balance. Ray had, at one point, posed an ideal that 11

Robinson, Satyajit Ray: The Inner Eye, 159. All About Rabindra Sangeet, “Lyrics of Rabindrasangeet”. 13 Robinson, 160. 12

Chapter Two


existed in the silent era of films where specific realities of language and culture were expressed through the technique of mime, and cinema was truly international. I feel that somewhere in Ray’s mind this ideal remained to challenge his projections of local/native language and culturally specific realities. The best parts of the film—and here Ray’s narrative is able to go beyond Tagore’s limitations in Nashtanir—are where it harks back to the silent era. Charu’s lonely life has been depicted by Tagore in his narrative, but Ray’s images to my mind surpass the limitations of words in Tagore’s fiction. The entire section is more or less silent. Charu flips through books, and giving up she sits petulantly not knowing how to spend her time, flits about here and there meaninglessly. Her attention is drawn to a sound coming from outside, and through the wooden shutters she sees a monkey man. Her eyes shine as she gets an idea. She searches for a lorgnette and uses it to get a closer view of the monkey man, the palanquin and the oiled bald head of the man carrying sweets and a fish. Once this charade of life passes and she is bored once again, she moves to the verandah where she observes her husband Bhupati, immersed in some papers, pass her by without even noticing her. Her playful, childish nature makes her mischievously look at the engrossed Bhupati through her lorgnette. Except for some background sounds and the refrain of the song “Momo chitte niti nritye ke je nache”14 [“deep inside me, often, again and again, someone dances”], much of this sequence could be from the silent era. The images speak louder and more deeply than words and convey her inner state to an international audience more effectively. Similarly, in a later sequence, while on the swings in the open garden with Amol, she observes (again through the lorgnette) the handsome figure of Amal, stretched out on the grass (unaware of her observing eyes). Her eyes shift to a window where she sees a mother and child and a pensive look comes over her face and eyes. The vividness of such a series of images I feel are Ray’s way of trying to compensate through cinematography the handicap while competing with an author’s (such as one of Tagore’s stature) felicity with words and narrative. But, as I said, more than compensating, it adds new dimensions and is able to communicate beyond language to an international audience. In contrast, Tagore’s description of Charu’s mental state seems too brief and colourless: In her opulent home Charulata had nothing to do, neither did she lack for anything. As a consequence, all she did was to blossom into full bloom, with no effort and apparently to no purpose, just as a flower does, 14

Sayan’s Blog.

Mind, Word, Performance, Screen: Some Journeys


automatically regardless of whether anyone admires it or not. Bhupati understands Charu’s loneliness. Again and again he blames himself; he could give her no time.15

But we must not forget here that Tagore at his best was not as a writer of short stories, but as a poet, and the tragic poignancy of this relationship, as I mentioned earlier, is more in his poetry and his portraits. Later in the fiction, Tagore’s depiction of the inner state of turmoil of Charu’s mind after Amol’s departure, I feel, captures the tragic impact in greater depth than Ray’s film: She got up each morning with a shocking realization that Amal was no longer here … Occasionally, unmindfully, she made more paan than necessary only to remember that there were not many takers for them now … Her restless soul, at the end of its tether, kept telling her that Amal would no longer return home from college.16

The film is unable to capture the same stream of narrative consciousness as the words in the literary narrative. This shows in her effort to get her married life into some kind of meaningful balance. Her inner breakdown comes abruptly when she sits wracked by sobs by the bed. The film is more positive in its open ended visual of the hands reaching out, but stops with a fixed silent frame at the end before they clasp or even touch. In the literary narrative, Charu’s “Thaak” (“No, let it be”) to Bhupati’s halfhearted response seems more pessimistic about the future of the relationship. Somewhere, Ray has entered the story to give it his own helpful tone of suspended cinematic animation that was perhaps not possible in a literary narrative. The problem of language, cultural, regional, local and personal realities inherent in literary creations finding global international representation through cinema lurks in the background in my reading of the Tagore-Ray interaction via the filming of Charulata. I will now move to the more blatant transformation I see in Peter Brooks’ The Mahabharata. The journey from an encrypted code of a personal narrative in seed form to a fully-fledged epic literary narrative belonging to people, regions and a nation, and to a theatrical production and a film with a totally international global cast, is fascinating and brings in many a troubled question about the efficacy of language/culture purism in art, making a case for such transmigratory acts. 15 16

Tagore, “Nashtanir”, Three Novellas, 4. Ibid., 48.


Chapter Two

In the beginning was the word in seed form embedded deep in the mind of the mythical Vyasa. Vyasa himself is of tribal, folk origin, being the son of a fisherwoman Satyavati and the sage Parashar. As the story moves symbolically from one generation to the other through Vaishampayana (a suta deputed by Vyasa) to Janamejaya (son of Parikshit of Pandava lineage) one hundred years after the great war and further through the centuries, Brahmanical interpolations seriously try to take it over. Thankfully, The Mahabharata resists such a takeover and thus, unlike The Ramayana, retains its essential freedom from becoming a religious handbook for the pious priestly elect. This defiant plurality and carnivalistic quality of The Mahabharata thus makes it on the one hand deeply rooted in the multiplicity that is within India’s native traditions, and on the other open to the universal and international interpretations that Brooks’ and Carriere’s rendering reveals. My preference is for Brooks’ film over the popular B. R. Chopra serialization. This is primarily because Chopra’s version caters to the popular Brahmanical battle of good and evil with its devotion to Krishna as Vishnu’s incarnation come to save humanity in another moment of spiritual value crisis. Brooks’ version is closer in tracing its folk origin and movement from the mind of Vyasa, through oral storytelling to the written script with Ganesh as scribe. As it moves from theatrical performance to the screen, through the Brechtian alienation effect, it maintains the secular, humanistic and even autobiographical (Vyasa’s autobiography) strain that highlights the conflict and battle of values, without easy resolutions, to the ultimate Shanta Rasa. The Mahabharata exists in multiple forms in India. There is perhaps no folk form of dance or theatre that has not told and retold the stories in various incarnations. I am not going into these forms in this paper. I will be focusing on Chopra and Brooks for contrast as both the works have tried to take the entire epic in its totality. One has used the popular religious and moral sentiments that could be claimed as indicative of a national response (considering that people lit lamps as the serial began and all other activities ceased while it lasted). The other brought a so-called knee jerk reaction (in India) that was generally dismissive of its crosscultural experimentation. Weekly, as the conch shell sounded through the television screen and the chant “Yada yada hi Dharmasya Glanir Bhavati Bharata / Abhyuthyanam Dharmasya Sambhavami Yuge Yuge”17 (roughly “Whenever through the ages Bharata passed though crisis of Dharma and Values / I (Vishnu) have come to lift / protect Dharma from its fall, from 17

Srimad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter IV, 7–8.

Mind, Word, Performance, Screen: Some Journeys


one incarnation to the other”) resounded in its mantric clarity, Indians from Kanyakumari to Kashmir claimed to have zeroed in on any accessible television screen in their vicinity. Ray was thinking of an international response in the silent era of film, and here we have a massive national response to the small screen that needs to be considered. The Mahabharata as a literary text (or rather tome) is our epic and we are proud of it, but was Chopra’s representation the epitome of that pride? Or was it, in typical Bollywood fashion, playing to the galleries and simplifying the good-evil conflict and the Dharmic resolutions to cater to popular taste? Krishna here was no doubt an incarnation of Vishnu come to resolve the Dharmic crisis. Fortunately the crisis remains, and The Mahabharata still haunts us with its unresolved Dharmic conflicts. Thus, I am wary of such possessive Nationalistic claims for a text like The Mahabharata. I would rather go for a kind of cultural and linguistic distance that might give a truer perspective. Here, I would like to make a few points through Brooks’ cross-cultural and international rendering of The Mahabharata. There is a remarkable write up on Brooks’ The Mahabharata by Chidananda Dasgupta in Interculturalism and Performance: Writings which points your attention to two Mantric chants (quite different from the one used by Chopra to begin his episodes) used. One is a song by Tagore and the other is from the Upanishad used in Brahmo prayers. One is at the beginning and the other at the end of his narrative. Dasgupta rightly states that both songs underline a spiritual quest that is central to The Mahabharata narrative. I shall move a little further with this point. The beginning of Brooks’ The Mahabharata is remarkable. There is complete silence. A young Janamejaya walks mystified through strange rooms lit by oil lamps and he pauses to observe an elephant mask that decorates a wall. As he moves from room to room, he slowly comes to the sanctum where Vyasa sits by a holy fire in Padmasana waiting for him. Somewhere during this movement a song begins like a chant, which Dasgupta has commented on. This song is usually sung in Brahmo prayers to a faster tempo. Here it is slowed down to a mantra and is very effective. As Sharmila Ray’s deep voice chants “Antar mamo bikoshito karo antartaro he”18 (roughly “Make my inner soul vaster in its comprehension, and deeper”), one wonders whether the spiritual quest has begun, and for whom? Vyasa’s story begins as an autobiographical narrative tracing his birth and origin. Janamejaya is at the other end, both as a listener and to whom the seed has travelled a hundred years after the war. Has the spiritual quest begun for both and is 18

Brook’s movie The Mahabharata starts with these words.


Chapter Two

the oral narrative the means through which this deep comprehension of the depths of one’s soul will be explored and discovered? In a typically Brechtian fashion, the seriousness of this enterprise is dissolved to create an alienation effect. We see Ganesha enter in a theatrical fashion wearing the same mask that Janamejaya had earlier paused to inspect. So, is Ganesha a God or a human who has donned a mask? Is Krishna God? Ganesha is uncertain as he answers Janamejaya’s questions—one can never be sure. Interestingly, as Dasgupta observes, even the epic is unsure: “no matter how much Chopra has tried to bend it.”19 That is the beauty of the epic. Priesthood and Brahmanical interpolations and the Chopra syndrome have done much damage to this fundamental beauty. Now let me come to the last scene. Vyasa hands over the written script to Janamejaya, but we must not forget that the story has been told as an oral narrative transmitted from one generation to the other. The script is therefore a symbol of its movement into posterity carried by the young Janamejaya. Janamejaya is quiet and in deep meditative introspection as he moves into his future. Vyasa sits back in Padmasana facing his scribe Ganesha, having put his entire life in order, as a great serenity descends and the Shanta Rasa envelops the entire scenario. Somewhere, while this interaction takes place, another chant from the Svetasvatara Upanishad comes wafting in from the background. We had heard it earlier when Kunti quietly went looking for the body of Karna lying stretched out as the smoke and dust settled and night descended on a silent battlefield. The five Pandava brothers find her as she covers the body in a black cloth. She discloses Karna’s real identity to a perplexed Arjuna and a confused Yudhishthira, who comments that Krishna must have known it all the way through. Krishna’s typical philosophical reply cannot hide a certain sense of embarrassment. In the background, Sharmila Ray’s voice, almost like a Gregorian chant, tremulously fills the screen: “Srinvanta vishve amritasya putra aaye dhamani divyani tastuha …”20 (“Listen you residents of Suraloka, you children of Amrit (that which does not die) … recognize the indestructible, enlightened Greatness of Man within you …”21 (the luminous being who lies beyond all darkness). Call it catharsis, call it the descent of the Shanta Rasa—it comes right at this point and gets carried through to the last scene as both Janamejaya and Vyasa fall silent in states of deep self-realization. The Mahabharata, more than a moral allegory, is a contemplative text leading to the greatest depths of self-realization as the conflicts of good and evil, body and soul, balance themselves in Blakean 19

Dasgupta and Bonnie, 252. Ibid., 251. 21 Ibid. 20

Mind, Word, Performance, Screen: Some Journeys


contraries and its synthesizing power. More than Chopra it is Brook who is able to project this truth that lies embedded in the literary narrative of Ved Vyasa. Maybe it was the cultural distance of an international mind that created the alienation effect that made it possible to stay away from the caste and religious sentiments that most Indians would find very difficult to overcome. The Mahabharata has always challenged these sentiments and thus, despite the best efforts of Brahminical subversions and interpolations, it is a carnivalistic and polyphonic symbol of resistance. We must not forget that Vyasa descended from fisher-folk and Vidura (Vyasa’s third son) had the blood of a dasi (maid-servant) (to state just two examples). In conclusion, I must reiterate the ideas that form the backdrop for this paper. From the cultural- and language-specific roots of a literary text or oral narrative to the technical flexibility of a film or television screen, there is many a long journey. From language to paralanguage, and from the regional to the international, are fascinating journeys. Within and beyond the play of language and paralanguage, the play of the cultural and the cross-cultural, is the play of minds that creates such interaction, cutting across various mediums of expression and art forms. It is in this free play of minds, within and beyond languages and cultures, that the beauty of art lies. Often, purist and regional limitations of thinking have shown how the stature of a work can be restricted and claustrophobic. The freedom from such purist notions of caste, class and religious boundaries is important and it is in this freedom that great minds will interact. I have tried to show this through the interaction of the minds of Tagore, Satyajit Ray, Peter Brooks and, of course, the mythical Ved Vyasa.


The task I am trying to achieve is above all to make you see. —D. W. Griffith (1913)2

1. Myths of Total Cinema Given the recent claims for his abilities to “realize a politicized vision of aesthetics,”3 Satyajit Ray offers a contested point of departure. According to Ray’s idealist vision of film history, in the silent era “filmmakers of the world formed one large family. Using the technique of mime, which is more or less universally understood, they turned cinema into a truly international medium.”4 For Ray, then, the silent era represented an Edenic moment in the history of film in which filmmakers forged a genuine universal language that not only succeeded in overcoming local differences, but also united audiences worldwide in a form of global semiological transparency. This does, in fact, seem to represent the vision of directors such as F. W. Murnau, whose Der letzte Mann (1924) tells a universal [though quintessentially modern] story—that is, the gradual demotion and decline of an aging hotel doorman—in images that dispense entirely with intertitles, with all signage appearing in Esperanto.

1 2 3 4

Ray, Satyajit. Our Films, Their Films. qtd in Lewis, 119. Ganguly, Keya. 155. Ray, Sandip. 4.

Postcolonial Critique of the Cinematic Apparatus


Fig. 3.1. F. W. Murnau, Der letzte Mann (1924)

In Ray’s version of cinematic history, however, film’s fall from an Edenic language into a Babel of diversified national idioms came with the advent of sound. “The main contribution of sound,” Ray notes, “was an enormous advance towards realism, and a consequent enrichment of the medium as an expression of the ethos of a particular country.”5 Here, Ray takes his principal example from the United States: Is there a truer reflection of a nation’s inner life than the American cinema? The average American film is a slick, shallow, diverting, and completely inconsequential thing. Its rhythm is that of jazz, its tempo that of the automobile and the roller coaster, and its streaks of nostalgia and sentimentality have their ancestry in the Blues … Yet it must be reckoned with, as jazz is real and the machine is real. And because cinema has the unique property of absorbing and alchemizing the influence of inferior arts, some American films are good, and some more than good. The reason why some notable European directors have failed in Hollywood is their inability to effect a synthesis between jazz and their native European idioms.6

5 6

Ibid., 4-5. Ibid., 5.


Chapter Three

Ray’s mandarin posturing aside, this passage does seem to have hit the nail close to the head. Although most film critics today tend to appraise D. W. Griffith’s Broken Blossoms (1919) or Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights (1931) as somewhat “more than good,” most film scholars do, in fact, prefer the visual sophistication and dazzling camera work of Max Ophüls’ Madame de … (France 1953) to his melodramatic Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948), produced during his brief exile in Hollywood (1941–49), a Jewish refugee from World War II. Moreover, already in the late silent era—and certainly by the advent of the talking period—cinema had begun to fracture into a series of national dialects that did not readily transcend the country or—in the case of India—the region of origin, such as German Expressionism, Soviet Montage, Italian Neorealism, the French New Wave and so forth. In many ways, it would useful to characterize the first twenty years of Ray’s work—from Pather Panchali (1955) through Jana Aranya (1976)—as an attempt to place Bengali vernacular cinema on a more secure, internationally visible footing—a parochialism that later films, such as Shatranj Ke Khilari (1977) or Agantuk (1991), attempt to overcome.

Fig. 3.2. D. W. Griffith, Broken Blossoms (1919)

Postcolonial Critique of the Cinematic Apparatus


Fig. 3.3. M. Ophüls, Madame de (1953)

Fig. 3.4. M. Ophüls, Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948)

At the same time, however, for Ray, sound film represented “an enormous step towards realism.” This was the primary standard to which he would hold both his own work and that of his contemporaries for the duration of his filmmaking career, citing Jean Renoir, Robert Flaherty and Vittorio De

Chapter Three


Sica as his principal precursors, in particular De Sica's Ladri di biciclette (1948), which appeared only five years before Ray began working on Pather Panchali. Ray’s 1969 essay on “The Question of Reality” ends instructively with the following appreciation of Singh Sandhu Sukhdev’s India ’67: The sharpest revelations of the truth in cinema come from the details perceived through the eyes of artists … I like Sukhdev’s India ’67, but not for the broad percussive contrast between poverty and affluence, beauty and squalor, modernity and primitivity—however well shot and cut they may be. I like it for its details—for the black beetle that crawls along the hot sand, for the street dog that pees on the parked cycles, for the bead of perspiration that dangles on the nose tip of the begrimed musician.7

Fig. 3.6. S. Sukhdev, India’67 (1967) -- dung beetle

For Ray, then, cinema constitutes a regimen of “Truth,” whose verity lies in its handling of detail. Just as the eponymous heroine of ChƗrulatƗ (1964) rejects her cousin Amal’s stylized Romantic poetry to write “naturalistically” instead about her native village in Bengal, which Ray presents as a series of disparate local particulars superimposed over her pensive face, comprising a river, boats, a village fair, kites, fireworks, and an old woman spinning,8 so Ray’s sketchbooks—or his “visual 7 8

Ibid., 38. Ganguly, Suranjan, 79.

Postcolonial Critique of the Cinematic Apparatus


screenplays,” as he preferred to call them—focus in large part on the individual details that make up each shot, both as they find their place within the mise-en-cadre and as linked one to the other by montage.

Fig. 3.5. S. Ray, Apur Sansar (1959)

Fig. 3.7. S. Ray, Charulata (1964)


Chapter Three

In 1949, a year before Ray first saw De Sica’s Ladri di biciclette, Jay Leyda published an English-language version of Sergei Eisenstein’s seminal manifesto “Dickens, Griffith, and Ourselves” (1942), which traces Griffith’s legacy to world cinema back to the devices of the Victorian novel.9 A decade later, Roman Jakobson, in an equally influential essay,10 unpacked nineteenth-century European realism as an extension of the trope that classical Greek rhetoricians called metonymy, whose underlying principal, Jakobson argued, privileged relations of contiguity over similarities between details: It is still insufficiently realized that it is the predominance of metonymy, which underlies and actually predetermines the so-called “realistic” trend … Following the path of contiguous relationships, the realist author metonymically digresses from the plot to the atmosphere and from the characters to the setting in space and time. He is fond of synecdochic details. In the scene of Anna Karenina's suicide Tolstoy’s artistic attention is focused on the heroine's handbag; and in War and Peace the synecdoches “hair on the upper lip" and "bare shoulders" are used by the same writer to stand for the female characters to which these features belong … [Another] salient example from the history of painting is the manifestly metonymical orientation of cubism, where the object is transformed into a set of synecdoches. Ever since the productions of D. W. Griffith, [moreover,] the art of the cinema, with its highly developed capacity for changing the angle, perspective, and focus of “shots,” have broken with the tradition of the theater and ranged an unprecedented variety of synecdochic “close-ups” and metonymic “set-ups” in general.11

Overall, it is fair to say that like the Victorian novel, of which Rabindranath Tagore was one of the master practitioners, Ray’s films—which frequently adapted Tagore’s stories—are largely metonymic in their organization, shot through with flashes of metaphor that keep his films from disintegrating into what T. S. Eliot famously called “a heap of broken images.”12 Take, for example, Tagore’s Ghare Baire, where Part VI of Nikhil’s story begins: Panchu’s wife has just died of a lingering consumption. Panchu must undergo a purification ceremony to cleanse himself of sin and to propitiate his community. The community has calculated and informed him that it will cost one hundred and twenty-three rupees.13


Eisenstein, Jakobson, “Two Aspects of Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbances.” 11 Jakobson, On Language. 12 Eliot, T. S., line 22. 13 Tagore, 99. 10

Postcolonial Critique of the Cinematic Apparatus


The movement of this passage is entirely metonymic. It deals with the theme of contagion. One sentence leads “naturally” to the next according to the principle of contiguity—from the body of Panchu’s wife, to Panchu himself, and finally to the larger community to which they are attached. Three independent statements, bound together partially through the deixis of the pronouns (him/his), and partly through the symbolic logic peculiar to the purificatory rites at issue. Similarly, the first shot of Ray’s Nayak (1966) opens with the back of a man’s head, moves down his neck and arm to follow his actions as he packs and dresses for a journey. Set—emblematically enough—on a train hurtling from Bengal through Uttar Pradesh, the film—which portrays numerous serendipitous encounters—centres on the chance meeting of a matinee idol with a young journalist who edits a woman’s magazine. This meeting in turn eventuates in an interview where the star desultorily reveals the vicissitudes of his professional and private life. Only the journalist’s developing compassion for what she gradually recognizes as the desperate loneliness behind the star’s superficial mask of diffidence binds this concatenation of haphazard moments and contiguous subplots into an allegory of demystification. Ray referred to the “symbolic interpretation” of the film,14 which nonetheless gestures towards a phantasmatic referent (e.g. Uttam Kumar, the lead actor) beckoning just beyond the screen. Tropologically, the allegorization of metonymy proves to be definitive across Ray’s otherwise highly diverse cinematic oeuvre. In Ashani Sanket (1973), for example, the metonymic lushness of the natural environment serves visually to heighten the narrative of social breakdown that occurs under conditions of hunger and starvation. At the same time, however, the stark contrast between the oversaturated colour palette set against a diegesis of privation gives rise to rhetoric that turns the film into a parable exceeding the details of the Great Famine of 1942. We would be naive, therefore, to take Ashani Sanket as in any way an “authentic” portrayal of hunger per se. The reality, as Jacques Lacan has argued, constitutes precisely “that which resists symbolization absolutely”15—hence Jean-Luc Godard’s famous dictum from Vent d’Est (1970): “Ce n’est pas une image juste, c’est juste une image” (“This is not a just image, it’s just an image”). Like all Neorealists, what Ray trades in here is not the “real” per se; rather, he calculates his films to produce what Roland Barthes refers to as l’effet de réel—“the reality effect”16—which in Lacanian


Ray, Satyajit. Satyajit Ray: Interviews, 77. Lacan, 61. 16 Barthes, 84–89. 15


Chapter Three

Fig. 3.8, 9. S. Ray, Ashani Sanket (1973)

terms belongs in part to the imaginary (trauma), and in part to the symbolic (exchange). As Ray himself stressed in interviews from 1968 and 1978: “A film that gives the impression of spontaneity is in nine cases out of ten the result of a high degree of preparation and discipline, which are then applied to the creative process [as a whole] … It’s not naturalistic but let’s call it ‘realistic’.”17 Therefore, Devi (1960) opens emblematically with a series of jump cuts that gradually add eye paint and other adornments to an otherwise plain bust of KƗlƯ, great Mother and merciless 17

Ray, Satyajit. Satyajit Ray: Interviews, 85, 18.

Postcolonial Critique of the Cinematic Apparatus


Destroyer, thereby raising the question—which subtends the film’s diegetic indeterminacy—as to whether the serial application of particulars makes the object more “objective” or, in actuality, renders it more “phantasmatic,” a dialectic embodied in the figure of KƗlƯ herself.

Fig. 3.10, 11, 12. Satyajit Ray, Devi (1960)

Chapter Three


2. Camera Obscura Curiously, across hundreds of essays and interviews, Ray has little to say about the camera. To return to his comments on Sukhdev’s India ’67, he states: “The sharpest revelations of the truth in cinema come from the details perceived through the eyes of artist.”18 To put this another way, Ray envisions an unmediated relationship between the eye of the director and the particulars of the pro-filmic, suppressing the camera completely as if it were merely a passive device for recording or documenting what the artist sees. On the one hand, this implies, in Ray’s own words, that: “The film-maker’s ego is an indispensable part of his equipment,” suggesting— as Bidyut Sarkar noted—“that the parts of a film must cohere because the film as a whole is the film-maker or the director as a whole.”19 At the same time, however, Ray also proved himself a disciple of the formidable French critic André Bazin, who in a well-known essay of 1945 maintained: “The photographic image is the object itself … and cinema [is] a total and complete representation of reality.”20 As such, Bazin insisted on “the essentially objective character of photography,” though neither he nor Ray was so naïve as to ignore what Ray referred to as the “selectivity” of framing and montage that cinema demands. Overall, then, in Ray’s view, his craft consisted essentially of an ongoing dialectic between his own ego and the unmediated “reality” that he saw before him.21 John Wilson, an anthropologist from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, comes to wholly different conclusions than Bazin regarding what Christian Metz termed the “problems of denotation” in the cinema.22 In the course of his fieldwork in Africa, Wilson produced a short film in 1960 and showed it to a group of thirty or so Nigerian villagers: [The local sanitary inspector] made a [five minute] moving picture, in very slow time, very slow technique, of what would be required of the ordinary household in a primitive African village in getting rid of standing water— draining pools, picking up all empty tins and putting them away, and so forth. We showed this film to an audience and asked them what they had seen, and they said they had seen a chicken, a fowl, and we did not know


Ray, Sandip. 38. Sarkar, 73. 20 Bazin, 14, 20. 21 Andrew. 22 Metz. 19

Postcolonial Critique of the Cinematic Apparatus


that there was a fowl in it! Therefore, we very carefully scanned the frames one by one for this fowl, and, sure enough, for about a second, a fowl went over the corner of the frame. Someone had frightened the fowl and it had taken flight, through the right hand, bottom segment of the frame. This was all that had been seen. The other things, we had hoped, they would pick up from the film they had not picked up at all, and they had picked up something which we didn’t know was in the film until we inspected it minutely … W]hen we questioned them further they [said that they] had [also] seen a man, but what was really interesting was they hadn’t made a whole out of it, and in point of fact, we discovered afterwards that they hadn’t seen a whole frame—they had inspected the frame for details. Then we found out from the artist and an eye specialist that a sophisticated audience, an audience that is accustomed to the film, focuses a little way in front of the flat screen so that you take in the whole frame. In this sense … a picture is a convention. You’ve got to look at the picture as a whole first, and these people did not do that, not being accustomed to pictures. When presented with the picture they began to inspect it, rather as the scanner of a television camera, and go over it very rapidly. Apparently, that is what the eye unaccustomed for pictures does—scans the picture—and they hadn’t scanned one picture before it moved on, in spite of the slow [pace] of the film.23

Correlatively, the Hungarian theorist Béla Balázs recalls that “when [D. W.] Griffith first showed a big close-up in [an American theatre] and a huge ‘severed’ head smiled at the public for the first time, there was a panic in the cinema. We ourselves no longer know by what intricate evolution of our consciousness we have learnt … to integrate single disjointed pictures into a coherent scene.”24 Balázs also records similar reactions from Siberian peasants around 1910, as well as among rural Japanese who were both equally innocent of the photographic image, thereby giving the lie to Ray’s vision of the silent era as a prelapsarian moment of universal understanding. Contrarily, it would seem that cinema, as an institution and a signifying practice, only emerges after the fall, already situated east of Eden.

23 24

Wilson, 7–14. Balázs, 35.


Chapter Three

Fig. 3.12, 13 D. Kirsanoff, Ménilmontant (1926)

Even in advance of editing, therefore, one of the principal agents that sutures the fragments of living experience into film’s coherence turns out to be the camera.25 Jean Baudry, in his widely anthologized essay “Ideological Effects of the Basic Cinematic Apparatus” (1970), stresses that cinematic specificity refers to a certain work, that is, to a process of transformation or—if you will—an adaptation of the pro-filmic which the camera performs. In other words, between “objective reality” and the camera, considered as a site of inscription, and between this inscription and its projection onto a screen, a certain operation takes place that has as its result a wholly manufactured product. To the extent, however, that this product stands as cut off from the raw material that it reworks, it conceals the nature of the transformation that has taken place. The German art 25

Silverman, chap. 5.

Postcolonial Critique of the Cinematic Apparatus


historian, Erwin Panofsky—in his study of “Perspective as Symbolic Form” (1927)—was among the first to point out that the main work the camera performs consists of recasting a natural, spheroid vision into the geometric abstraction of perspective artificialis—that is, a single point perspective, an artificial spatial construction. It appears to give depth to the image or allows the viewer to peer past what is in actuality a flat plane by making all lines meet at a common vanishing point situated on the pictorial horizon. Italian artists called this perspectiva, which the German painter Albrecht Dürer translated precisely as Durchsehen, i.e. “seeing through.”

Fig. 3.14, 15. Linear Perspective

Working in Cairo in the early tenth century CE, Ibn al-Haytham laid the theoretical foundations for this abstraction in his KitƗb al-ManƗ‫ک‬ir (Book of Optics: 7 vols. 1011–21 CE), which by the middle of the fourteenth century reached Europe in Latin as well as in Italian translation. At Florence in particular, the KitƗb al-ManƗ‫ک‬ir not only influenced Lorenzo Ghiberti’s celebrated designs for the doors of the Battistero di San


Chapter Three

Giovanni; in around 1413, Filippo Brunelleschi demonstrated the geometric bases for the construction of one-point perspective, whose principles Leon Battista Alberti then codified in his handbook De picture (1435). Ernst Cassirer, in his Philosophy of Symbolic Forms (1924), explains the significant differences between natural vision, on the one hand, and perspectiva artificialis on the other:

Fig. 3.16. Ibn al-Haytham, Optical design

Fig. 3.17. Domenico Veneziano, “Annunciation” (1445Ͳ47) [Natural] perception does not know the concept of infinity; from the very outset, it is confined within certain spatial limits imposed by our faculty of perception. And in connection with the perceptual space we can no more speak of homogeneity than of infinity. The ultimate basis of homogeneity of geometric space is that all its elements, the “points” which are joined in

Postcolonial Critique of the Cinematic Apparatus


it, are mere determinations of position, possessing no independent content of their own outside of this relation, this position which they occupy in relation to each other. Their reality is exhausted in their reciprocal relation: it is purely a functional and not a substantial reality … Hence homogeneous space is never given space, but space produced by construction.26

Accordingly, Alberti refers to objects in the pictorial plane as signs (segni) whose significance as images depends entirely upon the relative relationship to one another, while his contemporary Antonio Manetti described prospettiva as: “the science of accurate and rational placement of diminutions and enlargements, as they appear in men’s eyes.”27 In essence, then, as Panofsky puts it: “perspective transforms psycho-physiological space into mathematical space. It forgets that we see not with a single fixed eye, but with two constantly moving eyes, resulting in a spheroid field of vision.”28 Historically, there is a direct line of descent from Ibn al-Haytham’s optics through Renaissance perspective painting in the imaginary space generated by the cinematic apparatus. Starting out from the venerable technology of the camera obscura, which projects an inverted image in linear perspective on a wall or screen, nineteenth-century Western Europeans developed cameras that could take pictures in rapid sequence which, when rerun through the lens of a projector, turned the moving image right side up. The details of the historical development of this apparatus are less important here than the fact that the image—as ultimately projected on a screen—reproduces the abstract geometry of linear, one-point perspective, not the conditions of natural vision. A photograph or film frame thus constitute an abstract, manufactured product that effectively conceals the double transformation—that is, the work— that the camera and the projector do, occluding in the process the means of transformation so that even the most sophisticated viewer readily accepts even a black and white film as if it corresponded to what they would actually see with the naked eye. In this sense, then, the cinema is already a form of adaptation, no matter what the source of its narrative or the preparation shaping of the raw material may be.


Cassirer, 107–108. Manetti, 124–128. 28 Panofsky, 30–31. 27


Chapter Three

Fig. 3.18

Excursus: One-point Perspective in Film (1901–1961)

. Fig. 3.19. Robert Paul, The Countryman and the Cinematograph (1901)

Postcolonial Critique of the Cinematic Apparatus

Fig. 3.20. D.W. Griffith, The Birth of a Nation (1915)

Fig. 3.21. Fritz Lang, Metropolis (1927)



Chapter Three

Fig. 3.22. Leni Riefenstahl, Triumph des Willens (1934)

Fig. 23. Jean Renoir, La Règle du jeu (1939)

Postcolonial Critique of the Cinematic Apparatus

Fig. 3.24. Ozu Yasujirǀ, Banshun (1949)

Fig. 3.25. Carl Th. Dreyer, Ordet (1955)



Chapter Three

Fig. 3.26. Satyajit Ray, Aparajito (1956)

3.27 Alain Resnais, L’Année dernière à Marienbad (1961)

Postcolonial Critique of the Cinematic Apparatus


3. Visual Investments Early Renaissance painters and theoreticians initially associated one-point perspective with the ideal viewpoint from which God sees. Panofsky, however, stresses that geometric space actually turns ousia (reality) into phainomena (appearance).29 While the cinematic apparatus purports to place a set of “real” images before the eye, the technology (1) disguises how that reality is spliced together frame by frame—the so-called “Kuleshov effect”30—and (2) reduces natural vision to one-point geometric space. This double illusion not only conceals the adaptation that goes into cinema’s production of meaning, but also, in so doing, presents as natural what is in fact an ideological construction.31 This ideology, Baudry has stressed, remains directly tied to the spectral components of cinema, which effectively position the viewer as an all-knowing subject insofar as the film appears to render them all seeing. Positioned in a theatre—that is, in a darkened room, with the eyes facing toward the screen and the projection of the film coming from behind the viewer’s head—an identification occurs between the spectator and the camera as that which has looked—before the spectator—at that which the spectator is now looking. The film therefore constructs them as a subject or, to put it another way, the autonomous subject is a reflex of the cinematic apparatus, constructed not only by the meanings of the film, but more so by the manner of its showing. Baudry spells the consequences out as follows: Film history shows that as a result of the combined inertia of painting, theater, and photography, it took a certain time to notice the inherent mobility of the cinematic mechanism. This ability to reconstitute movement is after all only a partial, elementary aspect of a more general capability. To seize movement is to become movement, to follow a trajectory is to become trajectory, to choose a direction is to have the possibility of choosing one, to determine a meaning is to give oneself a meaning. In this way the eye-subject, the invisible base of artificial perspective (which in fact, only represents a larger effort to produce an ordering, a regulated transcendence) becomes absorbed in, “elevated” to a vaster function, proportional to the movement that it can perform. And if the eye, which moves, is no longer fettered by a body, by the laws of matter and time, if there are no assignable limits to its displacement … the world will be constituted not only by this eye but for it. The mobility of the 29

Ibid., 72. Kuleshov. 31 Hayward, 25–26. 30

Chapter Three


camera seems to fulfill the most favourable conditions for the manifestation of the “transcendental subject.”32

In its realization of the Cartesian Cogito and the Transcendental Aesthetic of Kant’s first Kritik (1781), we should not fail to recognize that the subject of the cinematic apparatus is also at the same time the ideal subject of Western imperialism. The subject, which arrogates to it, is the phantasm of a movement and appropriation with “no assignable limits to its displacement.” In fact, it is precisely the dialect between autonomous objectivity and calculated control that Panofsky saw as the principal ideological underpinning of perspectiva artificialis: Perspective creates a distance between human beings and things … but then in turn it abolishes this distance by, in a sense, drawing this world of things, an autonomous world confronting the individual, into the eye. Perspective subjects the artistic phenomenon to stable and even mathematically exact rules, but on the other hand, makes that phenomenon contingent upon human beings, indeed upon the individual: for these rules refer to the psychological and physical conditions of the visual impression, and the way they take effect is determined by the freely chosen position of a subjective “point of view.” Thus, the history of perspective may be understood with equal justice as a triumph of the distancing and objectifying of the real, and as a triumph of the distance-denying the human struggle for control. It is as much a consolidation and systematization of the world, as an extension of the domain of the self … In all these questions the “claim” of the object (to use a modern term) confronts the ambition of the subject. The object intends to remain distanced from the spectator (precisely as something “objective”) … but [it] exist [s] only in the imagination of the beholder.33

In all essential respects, the birth of the cinematic apparatus was monogenetic. A product of the European West or, to be more precise, an invention of nineteenth-century London, Paris and New York, cinema remains not only coincident with but, to a considerable degree, also complicit with the “great game” of Western imperialism. Just as in the seventeenth century, Britons viewed North America phantasmatically as a vacant space which was theirs—by divine right—to co-opt, to regulate and hence to control, so later under the Raj Britons both objectified Bharata and its inhabitants, holding them at bay literally behind walls, at the same time as they invested the territory with a hierarchical precision and almost arithmetic discipline—what Matthew Arnold liked to think of as the victory 32 33

Rosen, 291–292. Panofsky.

Postcolonial Critique of the Cinematic Apparatus


Fig. 3.28. Robert Flaherty, Nanook of the North (1922)

Fig. 3.29 Pier Paolo Pasolini, Appunti per un’Orestiade africana

of culture over anarchy whose anxieties E. M. Forster gave voice to in the recesses of the Malabar Caves. It is this same phantasm of empty space, ripe for the taking and waiting to be ruled—in both senses of that term— by a subject not limited to time or confined by space, that Joseph Conrad captures, particularly with respect to Africa—no longer the origin but now wholly objectified—in the opening of Heart of Darkness (1899):


Chapter Three Now when I was a little chap … there were many blank spaces on the earth, and when I saw one that looked particularly inviting on a map … I would put my finger on it and say, “When I grow up I will go there.” The North Pole was one of these places … Other [s] were scattered about the Equator, and in every sort of latitude all over the two hemispheres. I have been in some of them, and … well, we won't talk about that. But there was one yet—the biggest, the most blank, so to speak—that I had a hankering after.34

While cinema arrived much too belatedly upon the scene to constitute an actual agent in the consolidation of high capitalist imperialism, nonetheless its peculiar mode of transcendental subject formation, whereby seeing is possessing for an eye liberated from the localized particulars to invest its vision—which is to say its ownership—elsewhere (i.e. in Africa, in Asia, in Australia, in South America), remains clearly of a piece with all colonialist and neocolonialist endeavours and continues to serve as one of the principle ideological agents of American “soft colonization” to the present day. One need only compare a seventeenth-century Mughal painting of an elephant to a Dutch print of about a century later to appreciate the difference between the classical Indic aesthetic of visual presentation and the modern Western mode of co-optation.

Fig. 3.30. Mughal miniature (c. 1640 CE)

The cinema is Western technology for pictorial reproduction that has not gone unrecognized by any means. To return for the moment to Bengal, Ray stated in 1982:


Conrad, Heart of Darkness, chap. 1.

Postcolonial Critique of the Cinematic Apparatus


Film, as a purely technological medium of expression, developed in the West. The concept of an art form existing in time is a Western concept, not an Indian one. So in order to understand cinema as a medium, it helps if one is familiar with the West and Western art forms. A Bengali folk artist, or a primitive artist, will not be able to understand … cinema as an art form. Someone who has had a Western education is definitely at an advantage.35

Fig. 3.31. Seventeenth-century Dutch illustration

The Bengali folk artist here serves the same function in Ray’s argument as the Siberian peasants do for Balázs. Conveniently forgetting that Indian music also unfolds in time, what concerns Ray in this interview is cinematic temporality per se, which involves the diegesis, a complex subject, to be sure, which Ray suggests requires an entire Western education to be fully understood. For Ray, then, cinema’s roots in Western Europe are not simply “accidental”—“ıȣȝȕİȕȘțȩȢ IJȚ,” as Aristotle would have put it—but rather of its essence (‫ۂ‬Ȟ IJ‫ ޓ‬IJȚ ‫ۂ‬ıIJ‫ ܜ‬țĮș’ ‫ڳ‬ȣIJȩ), making thorough acquaintance with Western ideology a sine qua non. Once again, Ray remains silent about the camera but—differences in temporality aside—the question that faces us today is rather this: what happens when the one-point perspective essential to the cinematic apparatus—with its inevitable imposition of the Cartesian Cogito—turns its lights on nonWestern subjects or material? With a considerable degree of passion, though perhaps also with an equal amount of naiveté, the mid-1950s generation 35

Ray, Satyajit. Satyajit Ray: Interviews, 124.


Chapter Three

Fig. 3.32. Thornton Freeland, Flying Down to Rio (1933)

Fig. 3.33. Fernando Birri, Los inundandos (1961)

of Third Cinema directors—the Argentinean Fernando Birri, for example —advocated a “cinema of discovery” that would offer a “real” image of Latin America in contradistinction to such Hollywood extravaganzas as Flying Down to Rio (1933) or the exoticism of Carmen Miranda and Yma Sumac. Both in his theoretical writings and the gritty slummy realism of his films, Birri explicitly advocated how reality is by showing it, and in no

Postcolonial Critique of the Cinematic Apparatus


other way: “By testifying, critically, to this reality—to this sub-reality, this misery—cinema refuses it. It rejects it. It denounces, judges, criticizes and deconstructs it, because it shows matters as they irrefutably are, and not as we would like them to be (or as, in good or bad faith, others would like to make us believe them to be).”36 As we have seen, the notion of a “realist” cinema at all levels is a selfserving phantasm produced by the pictorial and rhetorical organization of the films themselves, designed to “naturalize” their ideological effects. Birri does not bother to question the implications of the camera or the replacement of natural vision by the artificial devices of Renaissance perspective. One shot from Birri’s Los inundados (1961) shows how the “truth” about Argentina, when denaturalized through perspectiva artificialis, again brings in, as if through the back door, the very type of imperialist subjectivity of which Birri hopes to rid his film. The same contradiction appears in a movie such as JalsƗghar (1958), where Ray plays off zamindar’s nouveau riche neighbour—pointedly associated with Western technology, music, taste, and so forth—against the outmoded pride and privilege of the landed aristocrat. Instead, however, of juxtaposing one pictorial style against another, which would make this point aesthetically, Ray shoots both the commercial upstart and the aging zamindar not just in linear perspective, but also in deep focus, which accentuates the perspective artificialis to a maximum degree:

Fig. 3.34. Satyajit Ray, JalsƗghar (1958)


Birri, 12.

Chapter Three


What are we to make of this gesture? Is this a Western representation of a chapter drawn from colonial Bengali history, which remains complicit with the ideological oversight of the British Raj? Or, produced on the tenth anniversary of Indian Independence, does JalsƗghar repeat at the level of cinematic form the content of its diegesis—i.e., does the one-point perspective that Ray highlights in the apparatus signal the ultimate victory of Western imperialism over modern Bharata, even in her newly-won political and cultural freedom? In the undecidability of this question, JalsƗghar thus dialectically plays out Panofsky’s observation that the onepoint perspective both constitutes “a triumph of the distancing and objectifying of the real, and [at the same time] a triumph of the distancedenying human struggle for control.”37 “A serious filmmaker,” Ray told the American Film Institute in 1978, “always expresses a point of view … This is involvement, but it does not preclude objectivity.”38 Setting a wellknown close-up from Devi (1960) alongside an equally well-known shot from Shatranj Ke Khilari (1977) shows that Ray could use the cinematic apparatus “in arabesque” to work against its own ideological grain, though this was not an option that he frequently pursued:

Fig. 3.35. Devi (1960)

37 38

Panofsky. Ray, Satyajit. Satyajit Ray: Interviews, 66.

Postcolonial Critique of the Cinematic Apparatus


Fig. 3.36. Ghare Baire (1984)

For the most part, whatever claims contemporary critics may make for his diegetic critique of the post-colonial era, in film after film Ray positions the spectator as a transcendental subject and therefore complicit with the very phantasm of imperialist appropriation that both deeply scarred traditional Bengali culture, yet gave rise to the universalism of Tagore. What is more, Ray’s clear disinclination to lay bare the workings of the cinematic apparatus—hence his deeply ambivalent reflections on Antonioni and Godard39—combined with his predisposition for metonymical cinematic devices, serves to convince the spectator that this subject position, this point of oversight, is “right,” is “real,” is ultimately “true.” While the content of his oeuvre as a whole raises serious questions about colonial and contemporary Bengal, formally his films tend more often than not to systematically reinforce the visual regime of British and American imperialism. To illuminate this Occidentalism, let us turn briefly—by way of a conclusion—to the work of two contemporary filmmakers, both from highly colonized cultural contexts, whose films—in ways that turn out to be closely related—attempt to reorient the ideological baggage of the Western cinematic apparatus in the name of a postcolonial cinema that refuses the diegetic, pictorial and subjective investments of European and American film—`AbbƗs KiƗrostamƯ and Wong Kar Wai. In part, their work marks a general shift from a metonymic to a metaphorically oriented 39

Ray, Sandip. 99–106.

Chapter Three


cinema, which accordingly necessitates the deconstruction of classical narrative coherence. In this context, however, we will have to content ourselves with several images at best. In `AbbƗs KiƗrostamƯ’s minimalist Ta`me gƯlƗs (“The Taste of Cherry,” 1997), a middle-aged man intending to commit suicide later that day drives around TehrƗn attempting to find someone who will bury his body the morning after. Given that the three men whom he interviews for this venture are a Kurdish soldier, an Afghan seminarian and an Azeri taxidermist, it is not difficult to read the film as an allegory of the self-immolation of contemporary Iran, laid to rest by representatives of the peoples whom Persia colonized, and the Islamic Republic which continues today. To convey this sense of claustrophobia and confinement, KiƗrostamƯ has shot the film so that at virtually all moments the image frustrates the depth of one-point perspective, thereby effectively undermining its ideological entailments. At the same time, KiƗrostamƯ draws on indigenous forms of Iranian art, such as Safavid miniatures or Farsi calligraphy, to reframe the subjectivity of the spectator through the resources of Iranian aesthetics. On the one hand, KiƗrostamƯ’s style allows the spectator to focus on the beauties of the superficie and the evidence of the senses, such that, as Jean-Luc Nancy puts it, the film constitutes a captation rather than an agency of co-optation. [T]he image is always closer or further away than anything that could fix a “point of view”—and it is therefore not possible for the spectator of the film to identify with a certain point of view: it is a true model of what [Bertolt] Brecht called distanciation, and that names nothing but the essence of the spectacle insofar as the spectacle is nothing “spectacular” … only the gaze as carrying forward, forgetting of the self, or rather: (de)monstration that there will never have been a self (soi) fixed in a position of spectator, because a subject is never but the acute and tenuous point of a forward movement that precedes itself indefinitely. The subject has no project, it does not lead what is called a quest (there is no grail here), not because there would be nothing to hope for, but because hope is something else than a draft drawn on a future that can be expected, hence imagined: to the contrary, hope is confidence in the image as that which precedes, always.40



Postcolonial Critique of the Cinematic Apparatus

Fig. 3.37, 38, 39. `AbbƗs KiƗrostamƯ, Ta`mǦe gƯlƗs (1997)



Chapter Three

Fig. 3.40. `AbbƗs KiƗrostamƯ, Ta`mǦe gƯlƗs (1997)

The only thing that Nancy omits to mention here is the degree to which this Brechtian distanciation derives from the film’s continual foiling of the one-point perspective. As KiƗrostamƯ visualizes it, then, Iran’s larger political and cultural predicament emerges through the dialectical negation of Western imperialism, thereby corroborating the story that Abu ’l-QƗsim FerdowsƯ has to tell in the latter half of the ShƗhnƗmeh.41

Fig. 3.41. Wong Kar Wai, Ashes of Time Redux (2008)


Selden, D. “Iskander and the Idea of Iran.”

Postcolonial Critique of the Cinematic Apparatus


Fig. 3.42. Wong Kar Wai, Ashes of Time Redux (2008)

In an equally complex intertextual manoeuvre, Wong Kar Wai’s 2008 rerelease of Dong Xie Xi Du (ᮾ㑧すẘ, “Eastern Menace, Western Poison” [English: Ashes of Time Redux]) constitutes a highly self-conscious adaptation of an adaptation. In 1994 Wong had filmed Jin Yong’s wellknown martial arts novel She diao ying xiong zhuan (ᑕ㭋ⱥ㞝ബ [“Legend of the Condor Heroes”] 1958), which even at that time had already circulated in two versions. Regarding the gradual deconstruction of the diegesis, Hong Kong critic Paul Fonoroff called the original release “an exquisite photo album masquerading as a motion picture … [where] in the end, it is images … that linger in the mind far longer than any coherent impression of the movie as a whole.”42 Fourteen years later Wong remastered and re-edited the entire film, saturating its colour palette to an even higher degree than the originals and turning what was an already extremely elliptical narrative into a series of diegetic shards, thereby rendering the film, particularly in its intertextual layerings, something of a labyrinth through which—not unlike David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive (2001)—the spectator can no longer find his/her way. Even the genders of Wong’s characters in Redux are unstable. Chris Doyle’s cinematography, moreover, flattens virtually every image in the film to the farthest possible degree, so that, rather than realizing Dürer’s deal of pictorial Durchsehen,43 the shots look more like a combination of Helen Frankenthaler’s colour

42 43

Fonoroff. Ibid., xx.


Chapter Three

field compositions,44 where everything that happens happens on the surface of the picture plane, crossed with Palm Springs “mid-century modern.”45 As David Bordwell notes: Redux is a total rethink … The most pervasive change has involved the color tonalities. The 35mm prints of Ashes I’ve seen have favoured a vivid orange-brown palette, with strong blues (sky and water), red accents, and very little green. The video copies vary, but the most commonly available DVD version is notably more russet and lower contrast than the 35mm. Interiors have lost most of their hard edged chiaroscuro and become softer and paler. Exteriors, and some interiors, have been keyed toward a hard yellow. The vivid browns and oranges have gone a bit gray, and the blacks verge on green … By adding fairly consistent tints and by softening certain sequences, Wong has given the film greater tonal consistency. Further, he has upped the artificiality of the film’s look, creating a neutral ground against which certain colors, such as the wan face and ruby lips of the Woman, stand out even more vividly … I like to think that by recasting his film so markedly, Wong has brought his masterpiece back under his control. In this sense, his changes remind me of Stravinsky’s reorchestration of Petrushka and other early ballets. Stravinsky rewrote the scores in order to win performance rights, but he also brought his latest thinking to the task. In the same way, Wong has made Ashes of Time new all over again—available to many more viewers now and hereafter. This daring, fourteen-year-old exercise in avant-pop moviemaking is miles ahead of nearly everything on view right now.46

Much of the cutting in Redux proceeds not by metonymic logic, but by what Eisenstein called “tonal montage,”47 in which texture or colour combination—as in a Josef Albers or a Mark Rothko painting—have become the primary considerations. Though clearly situated in such traditional Hong Kong cinematic genres as wuxia and huángméixì, Ashes of Time Redux clearly constitutes both a displaced allegory of the contemporary situation of Hong Kong, suspended between “Eastern menace and Western poison,” as well as a sublation of the dialectic that Ray called “our films, their films.” Ultimately, what both KiƗrostamƯ and Wong Kar Wai “make us see”—in D. W. Griffith’s understanding of that cinematic mission—are the global conditions of late capitalism which, though always anchored in the local, have produced a world that has become 44

Elderfield. See A. Coquele, Palm Springs Style (2006), D. Faibyshev, Palm Springs MidǦCentury Modern (2010). 46 Bordwell. 47 Eisenstein, 1:19 et passim. 45

Postcolonial Critique of the Cinematic Apparatus


Fig. 3.43, 44, 45. Wong Kar Wai, Ashes of Time Redux (2008)

increasingly difficult, if not impossible to fully comprehend. What emerges here is a demystified cinema that, with considerable political edge, not only abandons the outworn protocols of the neo-imperialist scopic drive, but also introduces a new visual regime that, as Susan Sontag


Chapter Three

predicted half a century ago, has moved from a hermeneutics of art to an erotics.48




Literature and Cinema are two very effective mediums of communication. The two art forms—verbal and visual—are not just parallel, but interactive and interdependent. Literary texts have more often than not inspired filmmakers to take insights from them and base their films on the texts. We have a glorious tradition of this mutual reciprocity ranging from great classics to recent bestsellers. Yet the two mediums are very different and comparing and contrasting them turns out to be a fruitful exercise. The visual medium has an edge over the written narrative as it enables the filmmaker to have greater freedom and several resources—a narrator, spoken dialogue, gestures, silences, light and sound, camera, space, etc.— but this medium imposes certain limitations as it targets a mass audience and many a time becomes rhetorical and melodramatic. In this paper, I intend to discuss two partition novels—Khushwant Singh’s Train to Pakistan and Bapsi Sidhwa’s Ice Candy Man and their cinematic renderings by Pamela Rooks and Deepa Mehta, respectively. Indian independence in 1947 was a fractured freedom with countless fissures as the country was divided into India and Pakistan based on religion, resulting in the mass displacement of people on either side of an imaginary line. The first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, rightly said in his speech at the last banquet given in honour of Mountbatten in June 1948: It is difficult for me or anyone to judge of what we have done during the last year or so. We are too near to it and too intimately connected with events. Maybe we have made mistakes, you and we. Historians a

Chapter Four


generation or two hence will perhaps be able to judge what we have done right and what we have done wrong.1

The communal carnage that took place in the Indian subcontinent, especially in Punjab, Bengal and Sind, was unprecedented in world history. Terror-stricken people fled from Pakistan to India and from India to Pakistan. “An estimated twenty million Hindus moved out of West Punjab and East Bengal and eighteen million Muslims moved into Pakistan.”2 Manju Jaidka rightly asserts: History books give us the details—the grim, dry statistics, how many million people were uprooted, how many killed, the number of women who suffered in various ways, the loss of property and so on. The litany is endless … What is not recorded in the sweep of grand narrative is the impact of the event on the personal or individual level.3

The sufferings of the individuals, their small but significant efforts to remain human in the wake of inhuman situations, and the sacrifices made by them have not been recorded in the official annals. They find better expression in fictional works, whether in a novel like Khushwant Singh’s Train to Pakistan, Bhisham Sahni’s Tamas, Rahi Masoom Raza’s Adha Gaon [The Divided Village], Manu Sharma’s Mareechika, Saadat Hasan Manto’s “Toba Tek Singh” and “Thanda Gosht” [“Cold Meat”], or Bapsi Sidhwa’s Ice Candy Man. These texts have sensitized the reading public through their word pictures. Khushwant Singh’s Train to Pakistan is remarkable for its naked realism and fidelity to the truth of life in the wake of the most tragic events that took place along with the independence of India and Pakistan. Khushwant Singh had originally called the novel Mano Majra, but later changed it to Train to Pakistan. The present title seems more appealing as it is a symbol of movement, carrying multitudes of people to their destinations. Within the novel, it symbolizes a rhythmic pattern governing the life of Mano Majrans. The village “has always been known for its railway station.”4 No express trains stop at the station and only two passenger trains do so, but the timely movement of the trains has made the village conscious of them, as their daily routine is closely associated with the arrival and departure of the trains from morning to night. The train symbolizes not only life and movement, but also death and disaster in the 1 2 3 4

Seervai, 1. Das, 116. Jaidka, 48–49. Singh, 1965, 3.

Literature to Cinema: Two Novels, Two Adaptations, Two Versions


novel. In normal times, the train has a bright headlight, but one train from Pakistan comes without light and whistle and destroys the peace of Mano Majra. The novel begins on the eve of partition in 1947, but this does not mean much to the inhabitants of Mano Majra, a small village on the border of India and Pakistan. The Sikhs and Muslims have lived peacefully in the village for ages, but the further development after partition suddenly alters everything. A local moneylender Ram Lal is murdered and Jagat Singh, or Jagga, is a suspect in this case. He has a love affair with a Muslim girl Nooran and was with her at the time of dacoity and murder. At the same time, Hukum Chand, the Divisional Commissioner, is engaged in an affair with a teenage prostitute, Haseena. A Western-educated young man, Iqbal Singh, arrives in the village for social service. He is put behind bars along with Jagga on the charge of being involved in Ram Lal’s murder. Meanwhile, a train from Pakistan carrying the dead bodies of Sikhs arrives and the whole village is infiltrated with unforeseen hatred and violence. When the Magistrate and his police cannot stop the bloodshed and become an accomplice in their hatred towards Muslims, Jagga sacrifices himself to save his beloved and others of her community. His sacrifice symbolizes the better side of his character and the possibility of saving human grace in the wake of his inhuman surroundings. Singh’s intention was to write a documentary of the partition of India in the form of Train to Pakistan, but the novel has been seen not as docufiction but as a classic and authentic literary portrayal of the tragic events of the period, and has remained central in any discussion of partition literature. The juxtaposition of events and binary oppositions add special charm to the text. For example, hatred is contrasted with love, and physical passion with spiritual love. Various shades of love are depicted through the affairs of Jagga and Nooran as well as Hukum Chand and Haseena. If there is impetuosity and animal passion and the will to sacrifice in the former, there is the sense of suffering, guilt and manoeuvring in the latter. The introduction of Iqbal adds several dimensions to the novel. He is a city dweller with the stamp of “Western culture and education. He has stayed abroad and his air mattress, dressing gown, tin of sardines and bottle of whisky speak for his Western orientation. He does seem an outsider in Mano Majra and the multiple identities he professes to speak for the ambivalence in his personality. He has been sent as a social worker to serve in places affected by communal disharmony. The novelist has deliberately kept his identity fluid: “He could be a Muslim, Iqbal Mohammed. He could be a Hindu, Iqbal Chand, or a Sikh, Iqbal Singh. It


Chapter Four

was one of the few names common to the three communities.”5 If Iqbal succeeds in hiding his real identity and becomes a Sikh in a Gurudwara and a Muslim in a Mosque, Hukum Chand exploits him by proving that he is a member of the Muslim League and a suspect, putting him behind bars. The celebrated film director and screenwriter Pamela Rooks had read Train to Pakistan at 17 and wanted to play the role of Nooran in the film by Ismail Merchant, who was eventually unable to make it. Khushwant Singh has himself said that Shashi Kapoor and Shabana Azmi also wanted to film the novel, developing screenplays but leaving the idea, perhaps due to the sensitivity of its subject. Finally, in the fiftieth year of Indian independence, partition and freedom were revisited from different angles and among many other films, Train to Pakistan and Earth 1947 (based on Sidhwa’s Ice Candy Man) were adapted from two fictional masterpieces. Pamela Rooks has made several alterations in her adaptation of Train to Pakistan. Singh begins his narrative with the details of Mano Majra, its geographical situation near the river Sutlej, its Gurudwara and Mosque and the houses of the villagers, whereas Rooks begins with Hukum Chand the District Magistrate reminiscing about the partition and its aftermath. The visual medium of presentation forced Rooks to change the shooting location, as the border villages of 1997 had undergone a sea change and were devoid of any Muslim families. To cope with this, she selected other villages with Muslim populations to create the feel of Mano Majra. For the visual presentation of the religious ceremonies, she did some shooting at different places. Rooks tries to be true to the content and the spirit of the original and takes up the whole novel for adaptation. Harold Bloom looks at adaptation as an “intellectual revisionism”6 that weaves the past, present and future into one string of intertextuality. In other words, adaptation is the process of changing names, titles, locales and mediums to reach out to more readers and audiences. It may undergo a variety of changes, acquiring new forms, and a novel may become a play, a short story, or a film, or vice versa. Thus, a text acquires a new avatar and aims at a different kind of readers/audiences with different responses and new kinds of aesthetic pleasure. In this process, the adaptation has to undergo several alterations as per the attitude of the adapter to the source text, the medium of adaptation, and the target reader/audience. That the impact of the two mediums is different was proved by the trouble Pamela Rooks’ cinematic version caused from the very first premiere scheduled on Star Plus on August 15, 1997.The Indian Censor 5 6

Ibid., 38. Bloom, 82.

Literature to Cinema: Two Novels, Two Adaptations, Two Versions


Board asked Rooks to cut some objectionable scenes, which she was not prepared to do. Finally, she agreed to cut some audio clips and the film was released on Star Plus in 1998 along with its release in the United States, Sri Lanka, the United Kingdom and several International Film Festivals. It was also nominated for the Best Film at the 1999 Cinequest Film Festival. The cinematic adaptation of Train to Pakistan intends to be faithful and true to the original and succeeds in achieving its goal. The audiovisual aspects, especially the trains loaded with dead refugees near the railway bridge of Mano Majra, become the sites of climactic action. The train becomes a recurring motif in the film with all its ghastliness and horror. In normal days, the villagers could regulate their lives with the regular timing of trains, but in such turbulent times the disturbed schedule and dead passengers become sources of communal turmoil. Hukum Chand calls Jagga a “badmash”7—a notorious daredevil—but the novelist touches on the human side of Jagga. In a moment of helplessness he rushes to the Gurudwara, requests Meet Singh to read the Guru’s words for him, and decides to hear the call of his heart. He has an inkling of the diabolic intension of the Sikh refugees to kill the Muslims going towards Pakistan. He cuts the rope hastily and does not stop even when subjected to a volley of gunshots. He achieves his goal and collapses onto the track, where “[t]he train went over him and went on to Pakistan.”8 Bapsi Sidhwa, an Indian by birth but Pakistani after the emergence of the new nation, also focused on the trauma of partition. Seen through the eyes of the lame child Lenny, the novel Ice Candy Man (Cracking India in the United States) depicts the atrocities committed by the Hindus and Muslims to each other. Both titles seem equally relevant as they symbolize the dualities and paradoxes inherent in the narrative. The tragic events during partition are recalled through a young Parsi girl growing up in the city of Lahore. Naturally, the Parsi perspective emerges in the novel. This miniscule community is known for its pro-government attitude, but it is not clear what the fate of minorities like the Parsis in the wake of partition and communal riots will be. The novel is not just an account of partition; it also gives us a detailed account of the pre-partition Lahore and the sociopolitical account of the Parsi community. Manju Jaidka looks at the handicapped narrator’s version as “a historical document, a social and cultural record, as well as a personal memoir.”9

7 8 9

Singh, 167. Ibid., 190. Jaidka, 52.

Chapter Four


The love story of a Hindu maid and a Muslim masseur is a small segment of the novel, but director Deepa Mehta gives it centre stage in her adaptation Earth 1947. She employs typical Bollywood formulae like song, dance and music and converts the novel into a popular love story with a tragic end, but she retains the original perspective and historical facts: In Sidhwa’s narrative, each character has a story and the various stories merge to form the larger narrative. But in Mehta’s presentation, the attention remains focused on the story of the Ayah as visualized and narrated by Lenny, the child narrator.10

Sidhwa’s narrative includes not only the atrocities, but also the recovery and rehabilitation activities of the governments of India and Pakistan, but Deepa Mehta’s version completely omits them, excluding large amounts from the beginning and the end of the novel. In doing so, Mehta deliberately undermines the futility of such healing processes. Both novels could be treated as local readings of a macro event, influencing each other. Keeping in view the Indian philosophy yatha pinde tatha brahmande (“as in one organism, so in the universe”), one could say that what happened here happened elsewhere too. The narratives containing often unobservable and overlooked small events at local levels have in them the seeds of larger structures for future rumination. Whether it is Kanthapura of Raja Rao, Banaras of Manu Sharma, Gangauli of Rahi Masoom Raza, Mano Majra of Khushwant Singh, or Lahore of Sidhwa, the word locales have strong enough structures to retain their individuality. Perhaps this innate capacity of these literary representations challenges the directors to go for their visual presentation. Both the adaptations meet this challenge in their own ways and make the reader/viewer think about the two versions. However, it must be added that both directors have different goals. If Pamela Rooks intends to represent the novel as it is, Deepa Mehta considerably edits the source text to foreground her point of view. Both of them know the nuances of filmic reality and its wider range in terms of their viewers as films can move across the boundaries of class, region and even language.




Part I An adaptation of a story for a film presupposes a sort of “faithlessness” to the literary text. When a film is based on a novel, it is never expected that the film will reproduce it scene-for-scene, as one reads in the story. Often, film critics point out that it would be better to have a good film that is not faithful to the book than an inferior film that is. On the other hand, if the film fails to catch the essence of the story it can result in a mis-adaptation, such as R. K. Narayan’s response to the film version of his novel The Guide, which he termed a “Misguided Guide.”1 To appreciate the osmosis between cinema and literature one must understand the complex negotiation between the two forms, and this requires one to go beyond dry comparisons between film and literature. According to Welsh and Lev, after a century of cinema, significant technological and stylistic changes are clearly perceptible in movies. Mainstream cinema is still engaged in telling and retelling stories, most of which are still being appropriated from literary or dramatic sources. Adaptation has always been central to the process of film making since almost the beginning and could well maintain its dominance into cinema’s second century.2 The medium of film has its limitations; at times it is unable to probe the depths of psychological or emotional consciousness, whereas an author of a story can easily go beyond the superficiality of spoken language with written text. This limitation often poses a problem 1 2

R. K. Narayan, A Writer’s Nightmare, 206-217. Welsh and Lev, xiii.

Chapter Five


for the film maker. In this regard, we may take note of what film critic and reviewer Stanley Kauffmann suggests—the more purely “literary” the achievement of the source novel, the less likely it is to be effective or “faithfully” adapted to the screen.3 “More important than such faithfulness,” however, as André Bazin writes, is to know: Whether the cinema can integrate the powers of the novel … and whether it can, beyond the spectacle, interest us less through the representation of events than through our comprehension of them.4

The interesting thing to note is that the issue of a film being faithful to the literary text is not taken into consideration if that film is well received and a hit at the box office. Audiences, according to George Bluestone, one of the first critics to study film adaptations of literature, will likewise accept films that deviate from their source as long as the film is enjoyable. So if a film is successful—either financially, critically, or both—questions of fidelity disappear on “the assumption that [the film makers] have mysteriously captured the ‘spirit’ of the book.”5 In fact, this is turned to again and again as comprising a successful, faithful adaptation. Thus we have to remember that when a film becomes successful, it does not necessarily mean that it is faithful. Cinematic adaptation requires a process of transformation that may not attempt to capture the original text’s formal features. To be good and acceptable an adaptation may take liberties with characters and structures in order to infuse dramatic life into the movie. The filmmakers are in fact researchers, and they have a right to adapt a text according to their own individual appreciation of it. When an adaptation is compared with the basic literary text on which it is based, the focus is on how best the film negotiates the field of inter-textual connections and how it offers the means of expression to convey meanings. When an adaptation becomes a representation it does not necessitate the capturing of all the nuances and fine shades of a book’s complexities, but it becomes a new and independent work of art, a logical and realistic creation with its own intricacies of meanings. In other words, it has to remain authentic to the internal logic created by the new vision of the adapted work. It may so happen that the film makers’ appreciation and understanding of a given literary text is in disagreement with the perception of general readers, but still they excuse the changes when they spring from a well thought out scheme and can give a convincing new 3 4 5

Ibid., xxii. Bazin, 7. Bluestone, 180.

Susanna’s Seven Husbands and 7 Khoon Maaf


sense to the text. The general audience receives an adaptation when it is accompanied by creativity which, in turn, artistically defamiliarises the world and shapes it into something new. The motivation for adaptation is therefore rooted in the desire to witness the rebirth of a text. But adaptation can at times be a misadaptation for two main reasons. Sometimes, the film does not artistically distance itself enough from the source text to be considered a successful creation. In the second case, misadaptation may happen not through closeness to the source text, but by an excess of distance. In such cases the changes have been too ambitious, and the hiatus between the original text and the film script is too long, so that the negotiation between the two virtually collapses. As early as 1936, Gilbert Seldes argued in The Vandals of Hollywood that adaptations are not inherently worthless but “corrupt.” Furthermore, adaptations have no choice but to be corrupt, and most adaptations actually benefit from this corruption by distorting characters, twisting plots, changing endings or carrying different messages. Seldes argues that the two media are fundamentally different forms in that the “essence of the movie” is movement while the “essential element in the originals [the novels] is the word.” Therefore, an adaptation simply “cannot be a good reproduction” of a novel.6 Finally, for us the question is—how faithful to the original written work should a film version strive to be? George Bluestone, while writing about the adaptation of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, opines: “Add all the additional changes that a new medium demands and it becomes all but impossible to effect a ‘faithful’ rendition.”7 Some agree with Bluestone that a literal translation of a book is often foolish—even, some have said, a “betrayal” of the original work. Thus, what is needed is that the film maker should refashion the spirit of the story with his or her own vision and tools.

Part II Vishal Bhardwaj’s picture 7 Khoon Maaf is based on Ruskin Bond’s story, Susanna’s Seven Husbands. The story centres on femme fatale Susanna Anna-Marie Johannes, an Anglo-Indian woman who murders her seven husbands in a quest for a perfect life partner. In a brief meeting with Ruskin Bond at his residence in Landour, Mussoorie, in April 2013, he told me that while writing the story he had in mind Chaplin’s film Monsieur Verdoux, which Chaplin described as the cleverest and most 6 7

Seldes, 3. Bluestone, 178–179.


Chapter Five

brilliant film of his career. Monsieur Verdoux was certainly the blackest of his comedies, being the story of a serial killer who ends up beheaded on the guillotine. As Chaplin had always said, comedy is never very far from tragedy and horror: “Under the proper circumstances,” he wrote, “murder can be comic.” The idea was originally suggested to Chaplin by Orson Welles as a project for a dramatized documentary on the career of the legendary French murderer Henri Désiré Landru, who was executed in 1922 having murdered at least ten women, two dogs and one boy.8 In Bond’s story, Susanna kills each of her seven husbands as she feels betrayed by them. The film version shows how Susanna tries to find love and marital bliss, but all six (not seven) husbands have a flaw which proves fatal. Ruskin Bond sent a collection of his short stories to Vishal Bhardwaj, including the story of Susanna. According to his confession: I remember feeling amused and intrigued when I first came across the title “Susanna’s Seven Husbands” in a collection of Ruskin Bond’s short stories that he had sent me … Curious, I immediately began reading the story. The wacky side of Ruskin Bond unfolded slowly in front of my eyes. The character of Susanna captivated me, and I was amazed with Ruskin Saab’s ability to sketch a character who was so interesting, wicked, but at the same time endearing.9

Bhardwaj saw the possibility of a script in the short story and expressed his idea about a film adaptation to the writer. He said: The four-page story had the material for 400 pages and a scope for the movie … I told myself why would a woman have seven husbands and then I came to know that she also kills them! I was immediately hooked to it. It reminded me of a very old film, Bluebeard’s Seven Wives.10

While retaining Bond's theme, Bhardwaj incorporated his own elements to make the film a dark comedy. He said, “I had previously taken liberties with Shakespeare. Naturally, when you adapt a story, your vision also comes in it. But I have remained honest to its essence.”11 He included Keemat Lal, the police officer, in 7 Khoon Maaf, although the character is not in the original story. The decision to include him in the film was made as a homage to Bond. He took liberties with characters' names and traits to fit his own purpose of adaptation. Bond said that when Bhardwaj decided 8

Robinson, “Filming Monsieur Verdoux.” Bond, ix. 10 “Vishal Bhardwaj bonds with Ruskin for 7 Khoon Maaf,” The Hindu. 11 Ibid. 9

Susanna’s Seven Husbands and 7 Khoon Maaf


to adapt the story for the screen, he expanded it into a 61-page novella and began to think in terms of scenes. The novella then became a 131-page, full-length Hindi script. Bond also had to devise Indian methods of killing the husbands, which he found challenging: The challenge was devising seven ingenious ways in which she could kill her husbands without being suspected. And she does it successfully, until towards the end.12

Literally, “7 khoon maaf” means seven murders forgiven. At the same time, Vishal Bhardwaj’s movie also has Susanna killing her six husbands, (not seven, a major difference with the short story, but interestingly not with the novella where also Bond shows the murder of six husbands). The other meaning is to forgive someone forever. At the end of the film, Susanna opts for a religious life and the priest (Bond’s debut role as an actor at the age of 76!) in the church conveys to her the Christian words of peace and forgiveness. The movie starts off dramatically enough with an investigation tray carrying a box being wheeled into a government forensics lab. A unique start, at least as far as commercial Bollywood films are concerned. The box is opened by Arun, a young forensic pathologist and the narrator of the story. He looks at pictures of a presumably dead Susanna, and a tear rolls down his cheek. The rest of the film is mostly in flashback. Arun shows a photo album to his curious and inquisitive wife and the story rolls out through his narration. The killings of her successive husbands are explained by the fact that she lost her mother at a young age and was thirsty for love and affection. Arun came into contact with Susanna when he was a child, and has cherished a secret love for her ever since. It was Susanna who funded his education, making him the professional that he ultimately became, and Arun had a deep sense of gratitude to her. He tells his wife that Susanna has committed suicide and left a note congratulating him on his marriage. Arun is overwhelmed by grief over her death and narrates the story of Susanna to his wife, helping him achieve a psychological purgation. However, on examination, in the forensic laboratory, Arun finds that the body is not that of Susanna, although he confirms her death in his official report. He keeps this a secret from his wife as well. He begins to search for Susanna and when he finds her she is getting ready to start a new journey in her life as a catholic nun. After the dramatic opening and as the film moves on, we see a young Susanna at her father's funeral, and then are exposed, one-by-one, to her 12

Lahiri, “Ruskin Bond on 7 Khoon Maaf”.


Chapter Five

many fatally flawed grooms—an army officer, a guitarist, a poetic pervert, a Russian diplomat, a foolish police officer and an antiquated apothecary. While the wedding-fetishist gets rid of them all with perfect ease and maintains an astonishingly cool attitude, the master film maker loyally and at the same time dexterously serializes the process of killings. 7 Khoon Maaf is an apt title for the black comedy that Bond wanted. The setting is a typical Anglo-Indian household, dark and mysterious with costly, traditional wooden furnishings. The story and film are overarched by darkness and it reminds one of Lady Macbeth’s invocation of the thick night when the “keen knife see not the wound it makes.”13 In fact, darkness is the dominant motif of the story. Even the way Susanna is introduced to us and the way she disposes of each husband corroborate this. The scenes where Susanna, dressed in black, rings the church bell, are sinister and forebode that something terrible is going to happen. All murders, except that of Dr. Tarafdar, are committed at night. After each killing, Susanna’s calm and composed disposition makes the plot even more ominous and macabre. The background music and songs aptly contribute to the atmosphere of mystery and darkness. Bhardwaj tries to make the character of Susanna real and a contemporary by situating her story in post-independence India. We have to remember that while Bond’s story talks about colonial India, the film script speaks of incidents ranging from Operation Blue Star in 1984 to the IC 814 hijack in 1999. There is mention of the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992, as she meets the Kashmiri poet Wasiullah Khan, and even the Pokharan nuclear explosion of 1998. The film portrays Susanna in a way which evokes a mixed response from the audience. She has a mesmerizing quality, but at the same time the non-urban middle class mentality does not approve of her character, according to which she is something of a freak. Smoking, consuming alcohol and polygamy are generally considered taboo in Indian society, and all are forbidden as far as the typical non-urban Indian audience is concerned, but at the same time, for an urban audience where concepts like living together is a familiar idea, they find an obvious liking for such dalliance. Since all her husbands ultimately prove to be betrayers of some sort, they do not enjoy the viewers’ sympathy. The audience sides with Susanna not by choice, but perhaps by default. There is much drama in the film and it is made enjoyable by the intrigue, which maintains the charm for the audience who watch the murders one by one. The film ceases to be monotonous as there is a surprise element associated with each murder. 13

Shakespeare, 88.

Susanna’s Seven Husbands and 7 Khoon Maaf


The innovation lies in discovering new methods of killing. The pace of the drama never slows and therefore the film at no point appears boring. It is a gloomy tale of a woman who doesn’t win the love of her husbands, but none the less Susanna has more depth. She is a chameleon—weak and weeping in one moment, and an unfeeling skunk the next. Susanna is proud and vindictive and Priyanka doesn’t try to soften her. Instead, she revels in the chance to become cruel, dark and frankly dreadful. The switch from one husband to the next is nicely done, as is the rollicking number “Daarling.”14 Mostly this fantastical story happens in a dark Neverland. But this strange gothic world of murderous servants and their mistress, who keeps cobras as pets, is realized well, and our journey into it follows a lady who is both seductive and engaging. Still, at the end one perhaps feels that Bond’s Susanna and Bhardwaj’s protagonist are somewhat different. While we are left feeling sorry for Bhardwaj’s Susanna, Bond’s lady, as Arun says, is like the Black Widow spider—one who picks up the hapless male when she is lonely, only to suck his lifeblood and dispose of him without a second thought before moving to the next target.15 The weddings and killings, described in short episodes in the book, are somewhat abrupt. There are no prolonged courtships, no maddening falling in love, at least on the part of Susanna, who copulates and kills, like the Black Widow. Also, the time span is all but a few years, unlike the movie’s forty years, which speaks volumes about Susanna’s quaint and rushed lifestyle—a woman ahead of her times, and one who loved to lead life on her own terms. The film shows Susanna’s transformation at the end. She becomes a nun and imagines Jesus, who is the symbol of care and affection, as her husband. At this point it is worthwhile to note Bhardwaj’s own admission about the ending of the movie: “Ruskin Saab gave me three alternate endings for the novella, but Matthew and I found a fourth one when we sat down to write the adaptation.”16 Susanna’s last words to Arun convey the spirit of the ideal husband-wife relationship: “You were always there when I needed you. Better than a husband ….”17 Arun reflects on these words: “Had I been older, had she been younger, things might have worked out differently … Or had I been that all along?”18 But Bond leaves this unsaid, leaving it to the reader to draw their own conclusion. The transition of Susanna’s character at the end may seem melodramatic, but in a way that 14

This is a song in 7 Khoon Maaf. Bond, 3. 16 Ibid., xi. 17 Ibid., 60. 18 Ibid., 60. 15


Chapter Five

is perhaps the best for the film maker to give an exalted status to Susanna’s character and which also somewhat reduces the dual punch of satire and irony that persists during the six murders. Bond, however, feels that the film lacks the black humour and satire that he wanted to convey through his book. In the final analysis the film stands as a successful adaptation of Bond’s story. The audience enjoys it for a number of reasons—Priyanka Chopra in all her roles—Susanna, Sultana, Sunaina, Sussy or the mysterious Anna—shows incredible nerve; the men, who play the role of the husbands, are also engaging; the marvellous camera work which succeeds in creating an atmosphere of creeping danger; the excellent art direction; and the music and songs, which are so flawlessly matched to the movie. And on top of everything, Ruskin Bond, the writer, in a special role of a bishop, says the line that sounds a fitting finale to the film: “It all comes down to love, sweetheart.”19 Undeniably the film does it. The expectation of the audience may not be fully rewarded, but the viewers are not left without satisfaction.


Ibid., 167.


Adaptation is the process in which a work is translated and transferred from one medium to another—usually novels and stories into movies— giving rise to a new work of art. A director has to keep in mind certain factors while adapting a novel into a film. They have to complete the story of the whole novel within a time frame and identify how faithful the film is to its original text. Many a times, we see a lot of changes in the adapted films and certain deviations are made in order to generate a more intense dramatic effect which would be more appropriate for the screen. At times, certain characters are omitted, scenes are cut and a twist is created in the story. Also, new characters are sometimes inserted to develop the story. As a result, the audience often complains about the faithfulness to the original source text, comparing the film to its original text regarding how far it maintains its fidelity. Here we may quote Linda Hutcheon from A Theory of Adaptation: The morally loaded discourse of fidelity is based on the implied assumption that adapters aim simply to reproduce the adapted text … there are manifestly many different possible intentions behind the act of adaptation: the urge to consume and erase the memory of the adapted text or to call it into question is as likely as the desire to pay tribute by copying.1


Hutcheon, 7.

Chapter Six


Many writers have expressed various opinions on adaptation. According to Hutcheon, re-interpretation of the source text is essential for a successful adaptation. She also says that “adaptation is a kind of extended palimpsest and, at the same time, often a transcoding into a different set of conventions.”2 Dudley Andrew claims that the distinctive feature of film adaptation is: “the matching of the cinematic sign system to a prior achievement in some other system.”3 Generally, adaptation may be considered as the assumption of meaning from a preceding text. Here, the focus is on R. K. Narayan’s novel The Guide (1958), which was later adapted into a film of the same name in 1965 by director Vijay Anand as Guide, the first film to win all four major awards—Best Movie, Best Director, Best Actor (Dev Anand) and Best Actress (Waheeda Rehman) and a host of other minor awards at the 14th Film Fare Awards in 1967. Although Anand does his best to stay true to the story, the film differs from the novel a lot. Certain things are disregarded and there is a twist in the plot. Though deviations are made, the adaptation recreates a new text, as Hutcheon has rightly said: “as a process of creation, the act of adaptation always involves both (re-) interpretation and then (re-) creation.”4 The question of fidelity then becomes insignificant, for the main focus lies in the recreated text. Hutcheon says: Whatever the motive, from the adapter’s perspective, adaptation is an act of appropriating or salvaging, and this is always a double process of interpreting and then creating something new.5

In R. K. Narayan’s The Guide, the protagonist Raju, the tourist guide, is mistaken for a saint due to certain circumstances surrounding his arrival in the village of Mangal. The opening scene of both the movie and the novel is shown with Raju being released from the jail and, instead of going back to his village, he wanders from place to place, ultimately taking shelter in a village temple. The flashback technique is used in both the book and the movie, reflecting Raju’s past life as a guide, although his childhood is excluded from the movie. The novel gives a detailed description of Raju’s childhood experiences, his school life and the efforts his father made to set himself up by running a small shop in front of their house and how Raju used to help him. There is also a full description of

2 3 4 5

Ibid., 33. Andrew, 9. Hutcheon, 8. Ibid., 20.

Narayan’s The Guide: Film Adaptation and Re-creation of a New Text


how his father expanded his business which flourished with the coming of the train to Malgudi. Raju is a good guide whom every one seeks and he knows many languages, including English, Hindi, Bengali and Punjabi. The protagonist keeps wandering from place to place, and in the film the extent of his suffering and feelings during the whole journey is represented through a song—Waha kaun hai tera, musaphir jaoge kaha?6 Music and songs play a great role in the film and convey the message in depth, successfully explaining the situation quickly. Here, we may rightly quote the following lines of Lawrence Kramer about music in films: [It] connects us to the spectacle on screen by invoking a dimension of depth, of interiority, borrowed from the responses of our own bodies as we listen to the insistent production of rhythms, tone, colors, and changes in dynamics.7

The extent of his suffering can be felt by the audience, and at the same time a sense of remorse is also reflected by the protagonist through visual effects, which we don’t have in the novel. His condition deteriorates day by day, and one day while resting under a tree, people start throwing coins at him, taking him to be a beggar. This scene is also not in the novel— Anand perhaps inserted it to arouse sympathy in the audience’s mind. While resting under a tree in a temple, some saints give him a saffron coloured shawl. The first person to meet him in Rampuri village is called Bhola in the film, changed from Velan in the novel, and because Bhola means ignorant/simpleton this is perhaps to show the extent of his ignorance. Bhola starts telling him his problems regarding his step sister, and when he brings her to Raju we can see differences in the dialogues. In the novel, Raju, looking at the girl says: “What must happen must happen; no power on earth or in heaven can change its course of that river.”8 On the other hand, in the movie Raju artfully incites the young girl to get married and get all the pleasures which are incomparable to the love of five step-brothers and five step sisters-in-law. She becomes a totally changed person and agrees to get married to the groom arranged by her step-brother. Seeing such a drastic change in her so suddenly, Bhola starts considering him a saint, believing him blindly. Again, the film takes the liberty of adding some characters, such as pundits in the village, whose sole aim is to criticize Raju/Swami. When Raju comes to the village for a 6 7 8

Anand, Guide. Lawrence, 156. Narayan, 22.


Chapter Six

visit, the pundits, in order to test the knowledge of Swami, recite some Sanskrit slokas and ask him to translate them. Raju, being a clever and educated person, starts speaking in English which the Pundits cannot understand, adding humour to the film. The village folk take great pride in having such a knowledgeable Swami amongst them. Another difference in the film is that Raju’s mother and Rosie happen to meet outside the jail when they come to receive Raju on his day of release after two years of imprisonment. However, they come to know from the jailor that he was released 6 months earlier due to his exemplary mode of conduct. At this time, the mother is not ready to accept Rosie/Nalini, in spite of her repeated requests and pleading for forgiveness and to listen to her. She blames Rosie alone for every evil plight befallen on Raju, and asks her why she got married if she was not ready for a cordial relationship with her husband. In the film, Rosie then starts narrating her story to Raju’s mother, which in the novel was told to Raju. This is done perhaps because Rosie, as the heroine of the movie, should not be shown as having negative qualities, and this does away with bad feelings against her from the viewing public. In her story as narrated to Raju’s mother, Rosie, who belongs to the Devdasi group, “traditionally dedicated to the temples as dancers,”9 was very fond of dancing being brought up with it and, after marriage, when practicing dance, her husband shows his annoyance by kicking the table. Rosie’s husband, the archaeologist Marco Polo, is deeply engrossed in his archaeological surveys as she says to Raju: “I suppose he is wall–gazing? … He does that everywhere.”10 He gives no importance to his wife. Her life with her husband is charmless for her, and “anything except cold, old stone walls”11 interests her. Again, she is shown to be very lively and full of humour in the film. She goes alone with the guide and expresses her desire to tour the city of Udaipur. The city in the novel is the imaginary city of Malgudi in South India, which is in every work by R.K. Narayan, but in the movie it is Udaipur, a famous city in Rajasthan that many tourists from various places visit throughout the year. When we read a novel we visualize certain things in our head, imagining the things described. Rosie expresses her desire to see a cobra dancing the moment she sets foot in Malgudi and asks Raju: “Can you show me a cobra—a king cobra it must be—which can dance to the music of a flute?”12 Raju shows her one and, in the novel, she begins her own 9

Ibid., 84. Ibid., 83. 11 Ibid. 12 Ibid., 64. 10

Narayan’s The Guide: Film Adaptation and Re-creation of a New Text


rhythmic movements: “She stretched out her arm slightly and swayed it in imitation of the movement; she swayed her whole body to the rhythm— just for a second, but that was sufficient to tell me what she was, the greatest dancer of the century.”13 In the film, the whole dancing scene is shown and she is deeply engrossed in it which shows her to be a passionate dancer, but she makes sure that this remains concealed from her husband. The visual specifications play a major role in the film in which everything is explained and shown elaborately, and this particular element is absent in the novel. The husband and wife have open arguments on a daily basis, and this is clear from the comment she makes to Raju about how much they quarrel: “When we are alone and start talking, we argue and quarrel over everything. We don’t agree on most matters, and then he leaves me alone and comes back.”14 Another addition in the movie is that Rosie, out of frustration, consumes sleeping pills with the intention of committing suicide. The extreme intolerance of her sufferings is shown here when she says: “I thought that Othello was kindlier to Desdemona.”15 The doctor advises Raju not to leave her alone and give her coffee every four hours. Since Marco was not there, Raju started taking care of her. The whole suicide attempt is an addition in the movie to show the extent of her frustration over a marriage which is an utter failure. We can clearly see some kind of an internal conflict within Raju and also with the environment. All these scenes are added perhaps because the protagonist needs to have a good impression for the audience and the alterations and changes are made to justify Raju’s actions towards a married woman. Indian society is such that any woman who raises her voice against her husband and expresses her feelings of enjoying freedom is treated as being unfaithful. The film maker is perhaps trying to cover up any loopholes so that it becomes acceptable for the general public to hold the hero or heroine in high esteem. He takes every care to maintain a good impression of both, as Julianna Borbély says: “Familiarity with story and curiosity of seeing how someone else imagines what the reader/viewer has imagined may be part of this pleasure. The palimpsestic nature of adaptations is in close relations with the idea of recreation of stories.”16 Here we may quote DeWitt Bodeen: “… Adapting literary works to film is, without a doubt, a creative undertaking, but the task requires a kind of selective interpretation, along


Ibid., 68. Ibid., 83. 15 Ibid., 152. 16 Borbély, 7–8. 14


Chapter Six

with the ability to recreate and sustain an established mood.”17 In this regard, Anand has successfully adapted the novel in his film, and Julianna Borbély rightly says that: “A film based on a novel is in fact nothing more than a recreated story.”18 It is not possible to recount the novel in film, as the two works are in different media. Whatever is written in the novel cannot be transferred directly into film and therefore the director takes the liberty to omit, compress and introduce new characters, and also make major changes in the theme of the story to give full justification to the existing societal norms and traditions. McFarlane has expressed his view on the differences that occur when a film is adapted from a novel, since the two media work differently, and the very requirement of differentiation between the two arises. According to McFarlane, transfer refers: “to denote the process whereby certain narrative elements of novels are revealed as amenable to display in film, whereas the widely used term 'adaptation' will refer to the processes by which other novelistic elements must find quite different equivalences in the film medium.”19 Adaptation, therefore, is a process of interpreting and then creating something new. There may be certain changes in the adapted film since we see visual images in the film rather than the imaginary images in the novel. George Bluestone also states that “changes are inevitable the moment one abandons the linguistic for the visual medium.”20 Coming back to the adapted film Guide, we can see Marco hiring some labourers to dig out a cave and many days and nights pass in doing this. We again see the differences in the dialogue between Raju and Marco between the film and the novel. Marco ultimately succeeds in his endeavour and feels very happy. The guide keeps reminding him about his wife, but he is deeply engrossed in his excavation and new findings. Raju ultimately informs him that Rosie had consumed poison which compels him to go and see his wife. But seeing her in a good condition, he torments her that she only wants to call him near her and he has to leave more important activities just to meet her demands. Following this, she once again runs away to commit suicide, and Raju again rescues her. All this have no effect on the husband, however, and he goes back to the cave, sending a letter saying that he doesn’t know how long will it take for him to return. If she wants to go back she can return, and he sends her Rs. 17

McFarlane, 7. Borbély, 8. 19 McFarlane, 13. 20 Bluestone, 5. 18

Narayan’s The Guide: Film Adaptation and Re-creation of a New Text


1000/-. She buys anklets (ghungroos) and seeks help from Raju, also asking about Chittore. She manages to go there in a truck and behaves mischievously, enjoying herself and showing her ignorance and innocence. A song is sung—“Kaato se khich ke chale aachal, todke bandhan bandhe paayal… aaj phir jeene ki tamanna hai ….”21 She feels lively and comes back to life, enjoying her momentary freedom. Raju gives her the inspiration to move on in her career as an artist and he refers to the names of great artists like Uday Shankar, Shanta Rao and Baal Saraswati to motivate her. Anand, in the film, has Marco indulge in an extramarital affair with a lady in the “Daag Bungalow,” which is absent from the novel. Rosie pays a surprise visit and sees it with her own eyes and is filled with sadness. Raju keeps saving her from dying and she comes to Marco wearing ghungroo. He chases her in fun, taking her to be the woman he hired, but she turns out to be his wife. Marco is shown as having some of these negative qualities so that the actions taken by Rosie are justified. Anand takes every possible care to maintain a good impression of the hero and the heroine in the film, possibly because the customs and traditions of the society we are in are important, and he wants them to be accepted by this society. We have certain restrictions in Indian society and we need to act accordingly, keeping in mind its taboos. So, her coming to Raju’s house, leaving behind her husband, is not shown as a grave action taken, and the relationship they have with each other is depicted as platonic. The story Raju tells his mother about Rosie is also different. There is exaggeration in the description of the people gathering outside Raju’s house when she dances. Meanwhile, he starts quarrelling and fighting with everyone, even with his best friend Gaffur, in order to protect the dignity of Rosie. She becomes famous and people demand her performances, these achievements shown in a single song in the film. On the other hand, in the novel there is a description of every minute detail of how she practices her dance, how she performs, how she studies ancient books on dance and how, with extreme effort and Raju’s help, she rises and becomes a renowned dancer. In the movie, a lawyer comes to get a signature from Rosie to open the locker of a joint account with her husband. In the novel, instead of the lawyer, a letter addressed to “Rosie, alias Nalini” arrives by registered post “for the release of a box of jewellery left in safe custody at the Bank of …,”22 as the deposit is jointly in their names. Raju conceals the letter from 21 22

Anand, Guide. Narayan, 205.


Chapter Six

Rosie and out of fear that she will go back to her husband, Marco, and signs on her behalf as “Rosie, Nalini,” sending it back. The consequence is a case of forgery filed against him by Marco. Rosie sells all her belongings, including her diamonds and shares, and collects money to hire the best lawyer. The greatness of the lawyer and about how he handles every case easily is absent from the movie. The court scene is described with humour, which is greatly entertaining for the reader. The case is presented “as a sort of comedy in three acts, in which the chief villain [is] Marco, an enemy of civilized existence.”23 The trial is amended in the movie, perhaps because the director doesn’t want the audience to deviate from the main story. The narration of the story ends here. The detailed description of Raju’s life in jail and the hard work by Rosie/Nalini to pay compensation and clear all the debts in the novel is not present in the movie. After this, the day-to-day routine of Swamiji starts. Many development works are taken up and a school, a hospital and then, a post office, are all opened in the village under his supervision. The villagers are so pleased with Swamiji that they start worshipping him. One day, he recounts a story about drought, which was “partly out of his head and partly out of traditional accounts he had heard his mother narrate … When the time comes, everything will be all right. Even the man who would bring you the rain will appear, all of a sudden.”24 A very sad situation arises in the village when drought breaks out. Everything becomes topsy-turvy and due to the scarcity of daily commodities, things become costlier. People start fighting with one another, and due to the disturbance in the village, Bhola gets hurt and sends his brother to give food to Swamiji. Bhola tells him not to inform Swamiji about the happenings in the village, but instead he tells him everything. In the novel, Velan’s brother, a semimoron, comes to Swamiji on his own accord and informs him of the incidents in the village, even though “the fight was the last thing the villagers would have liked to bring to the Swami’s attention,”25 saying: “Velan [is] down with an injured skull and burns, and he [gives] a list of women and children hurt in the fight … He will not rest till he burns their houses.”26 Raju states that he will not eat food until they stop fighting, but this is misreported to the villagers that Swamiji will undertake a fast for twelve


Ibid., 224. Ibid., 109. 25 Ibid., 99. 26 Ibid., 96–98. 24

Narayan’s The Guide: Film Adaptation and Re-creation of a New Text


days to bring rain. Raju is then forced to fast as the villagers stop bringing him food. Velan [gives] a clear account of what the savior [is] expected to do—stand in knee-deep water, look to the skies, and utter the prayer lines for two weeks, completely fasting during the period—and lo, the rains would come down, provided the man who [performs] it [is] a pure soul, [is] a great soul. The whole countryside [is] now in a happy ferment, because a great soul [has] agreed to go through the trial.27

Hearing the words of expectation from Velan, he “now sees the enormity of his own creation.”28 He even tells the truth about his life to Bhola so that people stop having a blind faith in him. In the novel, he says: “I am not a saint, Velan, I’m just an ordinary human being like anyone else.”29 But it does not make any difference as Bhola had heard about Valmiki and Tulsidas, and seeing so much of faith in him, Swami/Raju starts his fast for the cause of the people in the village: “if by avoiding food I should help the trees bloom, and the grass grow, why not do it thoroughly.”30 Thus, circumstances compel him to become a true saint, ready to sacrifice his life for the people. He becomes famous and “the place [is] swarming with press reporters, who [are] rushing their hour-to-hour stories to their papers all over the world.”31 People from the nearby villages also start flocking to have a Darshan (look) at the great saint. His mother and Rosie also come to witness the fasting, and there is a reunion between mother and son, a re-creation missing from the novel. The temple becomes a pilgrimage with Raju, the railway guide. When a woman from an American television company asks Raju whether he thinks it will rain, he replies that since they believe in him, he has started believing in their belief. Even his friend Gaffur comes to see him. Meanwhile, his condition deteriorates day by day and the doctor advises he stop the fast, otherwise his life is in danger. Everyone in the village starts praying for his life. There is some difference in the ending of the novel and that of the movie. The last lines of the novel are: He went down to the steps of the river, halting for breath on each step, and finally reached his basin of water. He stepped into it, shut his eyes and turned towards the mountain, his lips muttering the prayer. Velan and 27

Ibid., 109. Ibid. 29 Ibid., 112. 30 Ibid., 238. 31 Ibid., 241. 28

Chapter Six


another held him each by an arm. The morning sun was out by now; a great shaft of light illuminated the surroundings. It was difficult to hold Raju to his feet, as he had a tendency to flop down. They held him as if he were a baby. Raju opened his eyes, looked about, and said, “Velan, it’s raining in the hills. I can feel it coming up under my feet, up my legs--” and with that he sagged down.32

Different conclusions can be drawn from the endings of the novel and the film. The novel has an open ended conclusion in which the final result of the whole act is left to be decided by the reader, i.e. whether he dies or not, whether it starts raining or the drought continues. On the other hand, in the film there is a unification of the saint with his mother, Rosie and his long-time close friend Gaffur before he succumbs to death due to his twelve-day fast. He finally becomes a kind holy man and starts thinking for the good causes of humans. A heavy downpour finally comes to bring relief to the people and they show their jubilation while Swami/Raju dies a peaceful death. His mother says that his spirituality will remain alive forever. A lot of changes have been made in the film and the story has taken an altogether different turn, giving rise to the re-creation of a new text. It may also be added that although many alterations were brought about, the film adaptation remains quite true to the original text. This article does not deal with the theme of the story in the novel and the movie, but instead the variations made in the film adaptation of the novel The Guide by R. K. Narayan. Undoubtedly, the film is very appealing to the public with its sound effects and visual images. Even though Raju, the railway guide, has many negative characteristics, the audience, at the end of the movie, has a good feeling for him and is fully sympathetic towards him. We have a desire for his success after his fast for the good of mankind and for him to ultimately be united with Rosie and lead a happy life thereafter. But he dies at the end of the movie so that the ill feelings culminated in the mind of the audience are overcome, and they will praise the protagonist and appreciate the will power he has to modify himself, sacrificing his life for the ignorant villagers who had to undergo the trauma of drought. The whole episode shows his transformation from a man who indulged himself in every possible way to a holy saint. Anand has successfully re-created a new text by bringing about the necessary changes and varying certain things from the main story of the novel, ultimately arousing pathos and sympathy in the mind of the audience. The film maker also takes care of the audience’s agreement and effectiveness on screen, and so brings about changes and even leaves 32

Ibid., 262.

Narayan’s The Guide: Film Adaptation and Re-creation of a New Text


certain things out, for the popularity of the movie is solely decided by them. Therefore, a new work of art is created in a different medium.


Cinematic adaptations of classic novels had been a practice long since, and so is the debate regarding the fidelity of the cinema version to the source literary work. Adaptations are often considered inferior, subsidiary and secondary products, lacking the ‘spirit’ of the source text. Literature, like other arts, suggests a vast area of communicative possibilities, through which it may interact with the audience. A filmmaker should be seen as a reader and his/her adaptation of a literary work as an individual’s perception of a creative work. An adapted version should come out as an independent, coherent creation with its own subtleties of meanings. There are various Hindi films based on novels written by Indian writers and foreign authors. For instance, Vishal Bhardwaj’s Omkara adapted from Shakespeare’s Othello; 3 Idiots based on Chetan Bhagat’s bestseller, Five Point Someone, the recent movie Lootera based partly on O Henry’s The Last Leaf, etc. The postmodern age has seen a surge in this trend. A filmic adaptation is pleasurable for us as we get to see on screen the characters we had imagined while reading the source text. The characters Raju and Rosie (in The Guide) were immortalized by Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman in its cinematic adaptation. Similarly, we idolize the actors Shahrukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai, and Madhuri Dixit, who played the roles of Devdas, Paro and Chandramukhi, respectively, in the latest Hindi version of Devdas (2002). This paper makes a humble attempt to analyze whether the filmmakers of the adaptations of The Guide by R. K. Narayan and Devdas by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay have successfully made faithful visual representations of the printed texts, and if so whether the

Cinematic Adaptations of Classic Novels


cinematic adaptation of canonical texts is a healthy practice in the long run. Literature and Cinema share an elusive relationship, which is both delicate and difficult to analyze. The problem arises when the question of “fidelity” comes into the picture. Both literature and cinema are art forms and the products of two represent the distinct imaginations of individuals. Literature describes visuals in words, while cinema brings words to life through visuals, sound, actors, music, dialogue and editing. According to Levinson: “in the cinema, one extracts the thoughts from the image; in literature the image from the thought.”1 On its homepage, Masterpiece Theatre, a leader in adapting classic novels to the screen, has this to say about the process: The major difference between books and film is that visual images stimulate our perceptions directly, while written words can do this indirectly ... Film is a more sensory experience than reading—besides verbal language, there is also color, movement, and sound.2

Regarding the Derridean notion of text, Eagleton explains that: “there is nothing in the world that is not ‘textual,’ in the sense of being made up of a complex weave of elements which prevents it from being clearly demarcated from something else. ‘Textual’ means that nothing stands gloriously alone.”3 The concept of adaptation presupposes the existence of a precursor text and a film (i.e. the adapted one) based on it. However, the precursor text or the canonized novel is always considered superior to the film. Karen Kline proposes four main paradigms concerning film adaptations prevalent in contemporary academic criticism: (i) Translation; (ii) Pluralist; (iii) Transformation; and (iv) Materialist. The Translation paradigm judges a cinematic adaptation based on its faithfulness to the source text. There are differences as well as similarities between film and literature, and the Pluralist paradigm seeks to find a balance between these two opposing tendencies. Transformation critics vary in their opinions regarding the extent to which they believe the connection between novel and film should be retained in the adaptation. Some Transformation critics believe a successful adaptation is one which “transforms” the original literary work into something new and different, but still want some traces of the original literary work in it. Other Transformation critics view the original literary work as raw material for an original work of film art. 1 2 3

Levinson, 96. “Adaptation: From Novel to Film”. Eagleton, 31.


Chapter Seven

Transformative critics like John Orr and Gabriel Miller applaud film adaptations that improve upon their source literary works. Materialist critics consider a film as the product of cultural-historical processes.4 Film adaptations are certain creative products, which are: “caught up in the ongoing whirl of intertextual reference and transformation, of texts generating other texts in an endless process of recycling, transformation, and transmutation, with no clear point of origin.”5 Andrew Bennett thinks that: “the person that writes the film script is conventionally seen as a minor player in the hierarchy of film production.”6 In a film, the director takes over as the author. An adaptation, being an independent work of art, with its own subtleties of meanings, need not capture all the nuances of the source text. However, it has to remain faithful to the ‘spirit’. This paper will attempt to analyze how far the cinematic adaptations of classics like The Guide and Devdas have retained the spirit of their respective source texts. The novel The Guide, published in 1958, is a classic in its own right, being a sort of trendsetter in depicting the life of an educated girl who escapes an unhappy marriage and defies social norms to pursue her passion for dance. It must have been a mammoth task for Vijay Anand, the director of the movie Guide, to base his film on a canonical text like The Guide. Both the novel and the cinematic adaptation deal with the transformation of a tour guide into a spiritual guru. However, both creative works explore it in their own ways. In The Guide, Narayan adopts the individual as his reference, displays the idiosyncrasies of the characters, and finally projects societal inconsistency and prejudice. Walsh writes: “There is no confusion, despite the movement of the narrative back and forth from the past to the present, and the whole novel develops smoothly from the first critical meeting of Raju and Velan.”7 The film Guide belongs to a period dominated by the use of technology in the field of celluloid. In the film, issues and personalities are treated first, followed by individuals and specific problems. Anand adopts the technique of synecdoche, and highlights the concerns of national pride, female empowerment and an endangered culture through the lives of Raju, Marco and Rosie played by Dev Anand, Kishore Sahu and Waheeda Rehman, respectively played in the cinematic adaptation. The film reflects the socio-political background of India in the 1960s. During this time, 4 5 6 7

Film Adaptation: 4 Paradigms. Stam, 66. Bennett, 103. Walsh, 61.

Cinematic Adaptations of Classic Novels


technology found its way into Indian households, and society underwent great changes in the wake of industrial development. Similarly, the Western wind of feminism also affected India. The question of equality in terms of caste, colour, gender and religion came to occupy centre stage in intellectual deliberations. The spread and popularity of the English language, which was earlier considered the language of the upper caste, are reflected in a scene where priests ask Raju (played by Dev Anand) to explain the meaning of a shloka, and the latter replies in crisply accented English. The scene where Rosie walks through the market with Raju, enjoying the music of her anklets, and the sequence in which Rosie confronts Marco in his caves, testify to the boldness of modern woman. The song, “Aaj phir jeene ki tamanna hai …”8 presents her zest for life and her desire to pursue her dancing skills. Through such robust stances, the movie voices its protest against the age-old taboos that cripple individual freedom and suffocate creative energies. Though these concerns are also an essential part of the novel, the celluloid presentation captures the imagination of the audience and urges them to reconsider the age-old primitive beliefs. The change of setting from the idyllic and fictitious South Indian town of Malgudi to the real, concrete and glamorous Rajasthan miffed R. K. Narayan, who said that by abolishing Malgudi, the filmmakers had discarded his values in the milieu and human characteristics. His characters were simple enough to lend themselves to observation. They had definite outlines not blurred by urban speed, size and tempo. Narayan’s simple tale set in an idyllic south Indian fictitious town has been turned into a film with bewitching settings. The beauty of Udaipur’s palaces and lakes, hills and mountains is presented in the film Guide as a visual feast. The novel uses the cinematic technique of flashback and flash-forward, and the authorial voice is alternated with the personal insights of Raju. The same technique is retained in the movie. The novel lays much emphasis on the circumstances that lead to the beatification of Raju, and only towards the end are the drought and his expiation in pursuit of rain mentioned. On the other hand, there is a detailed elaboration of Raju’s saintly avatar in the movie. The limited length of a film restricts a filmmaker from venturing into details. However, taking advantage of the medium, Anand depicted the pathetic images that large-scale calamities such as drought cause in the country. One of the noteworthy deviations from the text in the film Guide is the omission of Raju’s childhood. The film begins with the release of Raju from jail, while Narayan, in his novel, depicts the childhood of Raju in 8

Anand, Guide, 1975.


Chapter Seven

detail. The most striking change made in the film is the portrayal of the character of Marco. Marco in the novel is mildly irritable, largely bovine and someone caught between Bhramacharya9 and Grihastha10 phases: “He didn’t even stop to ask me what time the train would arrive. He seemed to know everything beforehand. He was a very strange man, who did not always care to explain what he was doing.”11 The film shows Marco as a misogynist who refuses the existence of Rosie and ignores her dancing talent. An aging, sinister Marco is set in contrast to the youthful, glib guide, Raju, the redeemer of Rosie. There is a stark contrast in the character portrayal of Rosie in both the novel and the film. In the novel, Rosie is a mature but unpredictable woman who lacks a sense of assertion. She is torn between her quest for identity and her spousal duty in the novel. The Rosie of the film is a much more assertive, independent woman who is clear about her goal. However, she is trapped in the midst of emptiness in the movie. The seesawing of her emotions is depicted consciously in the novel and touched on only cursorily in the movie. The transformation from “Rosie” to “Nalini” is finely portrayed in the novel, and gracefully portrayed by Waheeda Rehman with her expressive eyes and breath-taking dances in the film. One of the major differences between the novel and the film is the ending. The ending of the novel is open-ended, and whether it rains or not, is left to the imagination of the reader with a note of ambiguous epiphany: It was difficult to hold Raju on his feet, as he had a tendency to flop down. They held him as if he were a baby. Raju opened his eyes, looked about, and said, “Velan, it’s raining in the hills. I can feel it coming up under my feet, up my legs —”and with that he sagged down.12

The cinematic adaptation, however, has a more definite fate—Raju passes away, surrounded by his mother, Gaffur (his friend) and Rosie, when the rain starts pouring. The conflict between his id and ego is projected with richness and realness in the film. It ends with the saffron clad saint leaving for the heavenly abode amidst a fever pitch of song, dance, sound and light. Raju, in Guide, is shown as a wanderer rather than a tourist, who is 9

Brahmacharya is the term used for the practice of self-imposed celibacy that is generally considered an essential prerequisite for spiritual practice. 10 A person becomes a Grihastha from the age of 25; this phase ends at the age of 49. Once a man becomes a Grihastha, he is expected to settle down, get married, & produce children. 11 Narayan, 65. 12 Narayan, 247.

Cinematic Adaptations of Classic Novels


in search of a “land” or a “culture,” not circumscribed by the nation-state. The saint seems to defeat the guide at the end through his act of fasting endlessly for the cause of the villagers. Anand elevates the protagonist saint above the physical world of confusion and chaos to spiritually glorious and enlightening levels. We now turn to analyze the cinematic adaptation of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s Devdas. Devdas is a momentous twentieth-century tragic-romantic Indian novella by the master raconteur Chattopadhyay. The novella has acquired a cult status in Indian society after being cinematically adapted into many regional Indian language films, the most well-known being the three adapted versions by P. C. Barua (1935), Bimal Roy (1955) and Sanjay Leela Bhansali (2002). Barua’s Hindi version of Devdas is an iconic film in Indian cinema history. Unlike the novella, Barua’s Devdas does not introduce his main characters as children, but as naïve young adults. The film’s use of a cinematic technique to suggest a “telepathic” connection between the separated lovers remains powerful. Bimal Roy, the cinematographer of Barua’s Devdas, directed the next Hindi version in 1955. Roy’s protagonists mature gradually from children to adults. This is shown through the image of a closed and then open lotus in the river where Paro gathers water. The image also suggests the girl’s blossoming as well as the cyclical revolutions of nature, and with an object that moreover connotes the nation. Bhansali’s extravagant remake of Devdas in 2002, starring Shahrukh Khan as Devdas, Aishwarya Rai as Paro, and Madhuri Dixit as Chandramukhi, was the most expensive Bollywood film ever produced at the time of release, with a reported budget of Rs 50 crores. The film won 5 National Awards, 10 Filmfare Awards and received a BAFTA nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. It was also India’s entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars. Time Magazine named Devdas the best movie of 2002. Unlike Sarat Chandra and Bimal Roy, Bhansali presents Devdas and Paro in their adulthood stage, their childhood depicted only in brief flashbacks. In a thorough analysis, one can find the influence of the respective social contexts on the nature of adaptation by each director of Devdas. P. C. Barua followed the early cinema notions of literary adaptations being true to the book. Bimal Roy’s Devdas (1955) followed post-independence realism, a feature in vogue in the Indian cinema of the 1950s. Bhansali’s Devdas (2002) came at a time when a mood of a resurgent India (due to the “India Shining” campaign of the then NDA government) gripped the nation with a renewed focus and a sense of pride in everything Indian—its customs, way of life, music, festivals, literature, folklore, etc. This is evident in every frame of Bhansali’s Devdas,


Chapter Seven

especially in the eight melodious songs composed by Ismail Darbar, choreographed to traditional Indian folk and classical dance styles by Saroj Khan and the legendary Pandit Birju Maharaj. Devdas is no longer a character—he has become an iconic metaphor of doomed love, a popular young tragic hero, equivalent to Shakespeare’s Romeo. Shahrukh Khan as Devdas in Bhansali’s film observes: “I play Devdas as a metaphor, not as a character.”13 Devdas’s persona has become an archetype for “the genre of self-destructive urban hero in Indian cinema.”14 For Bhansali, Devdas (the novella) was a simple story, but had a soul which was big. Therefore, to do it justice, Bhansali made the film with grandeur and opulence. According to Creekmur, Devdas’s masochistic romantic relationships are echoed in several films that depict lifelong but socially thwarted passions. Devdas spawned a school full of sad children throughout the history of Indian cinema.15 Any unreciprocated, suffering lover in the Indian society, cutting across all social barriers of caste, creed, class, religion and region, is unhesitatingly termed “Devdas.” An adaptation is always an interpretation, involving somebody’s personal views of the book and decisions to retain, reproduce, change or leave out any element of the source as deemed necessary. A film is not a pictorial version of the book but a very different medium. When adapting the novel, the filmmaker has to leave out a number of things for the very simple reasons of time constraints and the different medium. On the other hand, things can be (and often are) added to the film because the medium requires it, or because they will be more effective on screen. Like a translator, the adapting filmmaker is bent on a double task—first a sort of “fidelity” to the original work, and second to create a new work of art in a different medium. Bazin observes that: “An adaptation is a refraction of one work in another creator’s consciousness.”16 Bhansali’s Devdas is a film adaptation which, while preserving the tragic essence of the original, transforms it into a refreshingly new and popular cinematic tale that reinforces and reasserts the value of a literary adaptation as a cinematic work of art on its own merits. Bhansali’s ostentatious looks and opulent settings function as important cinematic tools, giving the film a largerthan-life feel. Bhansali’s extravagant adaptation evoked criticism from groups who believed in true-to-the-book film adaptations. Such type of criticism is ridiculed by the great Satyajit Ray as “lopsided film education, [since] literal translations are impossible where a change of medium is 13

Nag, “Devdas to Dev”. Chatterjee, 62. 15 Creekmur, 176. 16 Bazin, 24. 14

Cinematic Adaptations of Classic Novels


required.”17 Because, as Stam believes: “the novel has a single material of expression, the written word, whereas the filmhas at least five tracks: moving photographic image, phonetic sound, music, noises, and written materials.”18 Bhansali’s adaptation opted for a verisimilitude in emotion, retaining the soul but giving an affluent look to the film. He argues: “We have lavishly mounted the film, without offending the spirit of Devdas. We have given the characters a lot of space to complement their largeness … They have strong minds but tender hearts.”19 Being an auteur, Bhansali deviates from the novella in many ways, retaining its soul. For instance, as mentioned earlier, he introduces his characters as young adults, not as kids, as in the novella. In the novella, Devdas goes to Kolkata for higher studies, and he returns to his place every vacation and meets Parvati. In the film, on the other hand, Devdas goes to London for ten long years, resulting in a total separation from Parvati. Being a time-bound consumption medium (cinema), the film avoids many events originally in the novella, like the nitty-gritty of Parvati’s married life, elaborated references to Paro’s charitable deeds, or the renunciation of the material world by Chandramukhi and her stay in a village called Ashathjhuri. The film instead highlights the interpersonal dynamics of its central characters through the creation of new melodramatic situations. New thrust points like Devdas’ symbolic giving away of Parvati at her grand wedding (he was never present in the novella’s marriage event of Parvati) and the Paro-Chandramukhi meeting sequence (which in the novella is a one line thought of the dying Devdas) celebrated in a musical extravaganza, with a dazzling red/white background, speak of the vision of the genius Bhansali. The motif of the train journey suggests Devdas’s inability to be anything more than a passenger on life’s journey. The reason Bhansali could take cinematic liberties was Sarat Chandra’s “open-text” narrative where characters are not described, but rather allowed to develop and reveal themselves over the course of the story. According to Guha: “Sarat Chandra fashioned Devdas a bit like an empty wine glass—an open text—as the novel lives on in your mind, it can hold any love story that you pour into it, it is able to give shape to any imaginative turn of the story you may choose to invent.”20 The core motifs of Devdas are love, loss, anguish and selfdestruction, and the 1917 novella is the story of Devdas, Parvati and Chandramukhi. This is only one of the possible ways of presenting the 17

Ray, 13. Stam, 59. 19 Bhansali, “One from the Heart,” 2002. 20 Guha, xii. 18


Chapter Seven

story. Keeping the core theme intact, other stories can be added to it, in the process making the text a palimpsest, subject to individual reinterpretations. According to Guha, the Devdas metaphor is separate from the text of Devdas, and that makes it: “open to cultural transitions, adaptations, and new versions. In this adaptability lay the principal strength and universal popularity of the novel.”21 Bhansali’s version differs in many respects from previous versions, and from the book, in that Devdas is a more forceful presence who declares his love for Paro, only to be kept apart by scheming family members. In the novel, however, it is Devdas’s own flawed character which keeps the lovers apart. He is simply too weak and indecisive to know what he wants until it is too late. Devdas has almost no personality at all. He moves through the story like a mere shadow, and we only see his character reflected in the love of the two women who worship him. Bhansali compares the love between Paro and Devdas to the divine love of Radha-Krishna. In the song, “Thumak thumak kar nach rahi thi meri Radha rani, jane kahan se raas rachane aaya chaila Girdhari,”22 Parvati’s mother dances and celebrates the love of Radha and Krishna on the banks of river Yamuna. At the behest of Devdas’s mother, Kausalya, at the godhbharai ceremony of the latter’s daughter-in-law, the sequence cuts to Parvati and Devdas who are shown engaged in a playful tussle, recalling that between Radha-Krishna. In another song in Bhansali’s version, “Chalak Chalak,”23 where Chandramukhi, Devdas and Chunilal dance (the latter two in a drunken stupor), a comparison of Chandramukhi to Meerabai is made in the line “Nache Meera jogan banke, O mere Ghanashyam.”24 The Radha-Krishna imagery introduced by the earlier song, in association with the KrishnaMeera allusion, completes the suggested eternal love triangle (i.e. RadhaKrishna-Meera) theme. Chandramukhi renounces her courtesan life, for she cannot love anybody after meeting Devdas. In the novel, Chandramukhi leaves her world and moves to a nearby village, Ashathjhuri. Bhansali’s film never mentions this, and the details are deleted from the plot. Even Bhansali modified the closing scene, where Devdas lay under a huge peepul tree outside Parvati’s house (i.e. of the zamindar of Hatipota). By the time Parvati gets the news of Devdas laying outside her Haveli (palace) in the novel, Devdas is already dead and his body pyred. Bhansali gave a twist to this by keeping Devdas alive, taking his last breath, when 21

Ibid. Bhansali, Devdas, 2002. 23 Ibid. 24 Ibid. 22

Cinematic Adaptations of Classic Novels


Parvati is shown running through the corridors and steps of her Haveli to catch a glimpse of him. However, the monster gates of the Haveli closed on her. This modification creates a much more poignant image in the minds of the audience while they see the helpless Parvati (played by Aishwarya Rai) breaking the societal norms meant for a married woman, running breathlessly just to have a last sight of her childhood love, Devdas (played by Shahrukh Khan). The background music and magnificent setting further the moving effect. According to Morcom, “The large symphony orchestra, large string ensembles, and western choruses like in Hollywood films seem to be used to create a feeling of largeness, grandeur, uplift and epic feeling.”25 It’s music gives Devdas a pan-Indian appeal cutting across the novel’s state specific (Bengal) roots. Men and women are presented in cinema in such a way that men take pleasure in looking at women, and women derive pleasure in being looked at. As Mulvey rightly observes: In a world ordered by sexual imbalance, pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female ... In their traditional exhibitionist role, women are simultaneously looked at and displayed, with their appearance coded for strong visual and erotic impact so that they can be said to connote to-be-looked-at-ness.26

Thus, Bhansali’s adaptation of the 1917 novella, while remaining true to the core text or its ‘soul’ of inspiration, gives an altogether different feel to the core theme of doomed love through additions and alterations. It proves that films are contiguous to the novel, and there is a need to deviate from the core text in an adaptation, to prove the creativity of a filmmaker who gives a different shape to the clay of the original text, establishing himself/herself in the process as a co-creator. Both Vijay Anand and Sanjay Leela Bhansali are successful in their cinematic adaptations of the classic novels, turning The Guide and Devdas into mega blockbusters. Though the 100 years of Indian Cinema have seen many successful movies based on literary texts, auteur filmmakers like Anand and Bhansali have created a niche in cinematic adaptations with Guide and Devdas. These works not only enhance the level of cinema, but also give new height to their respective literary sources.

25 26

Morcom, 144. Mulvey, 206.



Introduction Robert Louis Stevenson’s adventure classic, Treasure Island (hereafter referred to as TI), has for decades inspired ideas of heroism and survival skills. It continues to provide paradigms of knowledge in fields other than literature as it is adapted into films and digital game narratives. This paper takes a look at the adaptation of the narrative of the dangerous adventure in TI for the screen and for a digital mathematical game of fractions called The Treasure of Fraction Island. Its objectives are: (1) to explore the film and software adaptations of Treasure Island as “continuations” and/or extensions of the meaning(s) and relevance of the narrative; (2) to discuss some semiotic features that arise from these films and software mediations; and (3) to draw attention to the implications of the new media transformations of the treasure hunt narrative. The procedure adopted in the paper is as follows. First, a brief overview of TI is presented to provide a locus for the exploration on transformations and applications of the narrative. This is followed by an account of existing adaptations of the novel. Then, some theoretical issues relating to adaptation and appropriation are engaged to locate the discussion of the forms of the adaptation of TI and their relevance. It is against this theoretical background that discussion on film adaptations and software appropriations of TI is then rested, followed by an analysis of some semiotic features in these transformations of the narrative. In the concluding part, the implications of the adaptations and appropriations of the narrative are identified.

Adaptations and Appropriations of Treasure Island


A Brief Overview of TI Treasure Island is a treasure hunt/sea adventure novel that tells the story of how Jim Hawkins, a boy whose parents run Admiral Benbow Inn, becomes involved in a risky search for treasure hidden on an island in the Caribbean by a dreaded pirate, Captain Flint. Billy Bones, a fearsome pirate, lodges at the inn, a presence that eventually makes it possible for Jim to become involved in the treasure hunt. Billy Bones is in possession of the only means of getting to where the treasure is hidden—a map drawn by the late Flint, for which other pirates with whom he had sailed alongside Flint are after him. Billy Bones, an alcoholic who cannot do without rum, dies of heart failure at the inn shortly before the blind pirate Pew and his mates launch their final attack to dispossess him of the map and his money. Jim escapes from the inn along with his mother, taking the map with him. He eventually hands this map to Squire Trelawney and Dr Liversey, who is also a magistrate. Squire Trelawney fits out a ship, the Hispaniola, collaborating with Dr Liversey. The ship, captained by Smollett, and with a problematic crew unfortunately infiltrated by the pirates, including Long John Silver who had also sailed with the late Flint, sails from Bristol to the Caribbean in search of the treasure. Jim Hawkins gets to know about John Silver’s conspiracy to stage a mutiny and take over the ship, with the aim of getting the treasure. He makes this revelation to Trelawney, Liversey and Smollett, who start strategizing on how to contain the situation. The mutiny finally materializes and John Silver, who assumes the position of Captain, confronts Trelawney and the few loyal hands. The narration of the story is at this point taken over by Dr Liversey, the reason being that Jim has lost touch with the Trelawney group and could not tell what has been going on in his absence. It is during this period that Jim meets the marooned pirate Benn Gunn, and is able to win his loyalty to the Trelawney group. Jim later rejoins his group and resumes the narration. In the dwindling advantages of Trelawney and his men the boy absconds, hoping to spy on John Silver’s men and attempt to foil the mutineers’ efforts. After carrying out some incredible and heroic exploits, even accidentally killing one of the dangerous pirates, Mr Hands, who is guarding the captured ship, Jim returns to the log house only to fall into the hands of John Silver who has taken over the place with his men. Dr Liversey has tricked John Silver, surrendering the much-needed map and leaving the log house with his group. Unknown to the mutineers, the treasure is no longer buried according to the map as Ben Gunn has


Chapter Eight

discovered it and has moved the gold to a cave. As a bargain for being taken back to civilization, Gunn surrenders the treasure to the Trelawney group. In the conflict between John Silver and his enraged men, the Trelawney group regain full control, rescuing Silver and Jim. The treasure is transferred to the recovered Hispaniola. Silver pleads to be taken back and is taken on the ship, the surviving members of his group left on the island. The crafty Silver, however, escapes from the ship as they arrive at a port in Spanish America. The ship finally succeeds in getting back to Bristol and the surviving loyal crew, including Ben Gunn, are rewarded with their shares of the treasure. We are, however, told that bars of silver and arms still lie where Flint buried them on the island.

Adaptations of Treasure Island TI has been adapted many times as stage dramas, musicals, films and games. The following list from Wikipedia details some of the film adaptations (re-arrangement of dates mine): 1918 Treasure Island—Silent version released by Fox Film Corporation and directed by Sidney Franklin 1920 Treasure Island - A silent version starring Shirley Mason, released by Paramount Pictures and directed by Maurice Tourneur. Lost film. 1934 Treasure Island - Starring Jackie Cooper and Wallace Beery. An MGM production, the first sound film version. 1937 Treasure Island - A loose Soviet adaptation starring Osip Abdulov and Nikolai Cherkasov, with a score by Nikita Bogoslovsky. 1950 Treasure Island - Starring Bobby Driscoll and Robert Newton. Notable for being the Walt Disney Studios' first completely live action film. A sequel to this version was made in 1954, entitled Long John Silver. 1971 Treasure Island - A Soviet (Lithuanian) film starring Boris Andreyev, with a score by Alexei Rybnikov. 1971 Animal Treasure Island - An anime film directed by Hiroshi Ikeda and written by Takeshi Iijima and Hiroshi Ikeda with story consultation by the famous animator Hayao Miyazaki. This version replaced several of the human characters with animal counterparts. 1972 Treasure Island - Starring Orson Welles. 1982 Treasure Island - Soviet film in three parts; almost verbatim to the text of the novel. Featuring Oleg Borisov as Long John Silver.

Adaptations and Appropriations of Treasure Island


1985 L'Île au trésor 1987 Il Pianeta Del Tesoro - Treasure Planet - Italian / German SF adaptation, AKA Treasure Island in Outer Space, starring Anthony Quinn as Long John Silver. 1988 Treasure Island - A critically acclaimed Soviet animation film in two parts. Released in the USA in 1992 as Return to Treasure Island. 1995 Treasure Island - a made for TV movie directed by Ken Russell and starring Hetty Baynes as Long Jane Silver. 1996 Muppet Treasure Island 1999 Treasure Island - Starring Kevin Zegers and Jack Palance. 2002 Treasure Planet - An animated Disney version set in space, with Long John Silver as a cyborg and many of the original characters re-imagined as aliens and robots, except for Jim and his mother, who are human. 2006 Pirates of Treasure Island - A direct-to-DVD film by The Asylum. 2007 Die Schatzinsel. A loosely adapted version of the original novel in German, starring German and Austrian actors. TBA Treasure Island. Warner Bros. Announced live-action version of the original novel. An alternative detailed list of film adaptations of TI is also available from the Robert Louis Stevenson archive at: http://www.robert-louis-steven The following authentic information on software versions is also available on Wikipedia. “A computer game loosely based on the novel issued by Commodore in the mid-1980s for the Plus/4 home computer, written by Greg Duddley. A graphical adventure game, the player takes the part of Jim Hawkins travelling around the island dispatching pirates with cutlasses before getting the treasure and being chased back to the ship by Long John Silver.” Wikipedia also records that: 1. A game based on the book was also available for the ZX Spectrum. It was released in 1984 by Mr. Micro Ltd. 2. In 1985 another adventure game was named Treasure Island and based on the novel. It was published by Windham Classics. 3. Disney has released various video games based on the animated film Treasure Planet, including Treasure Planet: Battle at Procyon. (Numbering mine)

Chapter Eight


One might wonder what is in the novel that makes it particularly appealing and suitable for such numerous visual adaptations. Perhaps only the treasured could continue to attract so much attention and be adapted into various modes and genres.

Fig. 8.1. Poster of first talking film adaptation of TI, 1934 (Source: Wikipedia)

Features that make Treasure Island appealing for visual adaptations There are some features that particularly make the narrative of TI very appealing for visual adaptation. One can think of the spatial plan and settings of the inn, the ship, the sea and the island. These offer attractive scenery suitable to the kind of encounters and adventures narrated. Then, the typical characters that populate the story (such as a boy with a sense for discovering secrets and spying, and ready to take risks) and the buccaneers (with their manners, dress, weapons and fearful nature). Blind Pew, Black Dog and Billy Bones are figures who, when seen, would make a great impact on the comprehension of the novel. Long John Silver particularly gets special attention in film adaptations of the novel because of his typical nature: Long John Silver, like Shakespeare’s Richard III, is a kind of hero-villain; we are to abhor his purposes, but admire his humor, his courage, his quick adaptability. In dramatizations and film versions he always comes out as a basically sympathetic character, with a sneaking fondness, which he cannot quite repress, for Jim.1


Fraser, 220.

Adaptations and Appropriations of Treasure Island


Stevenson also uses descriptions that possess effective potentials for representation in the visual mode. The cover illustration of the 1981 edition of TI, for instance, cleverly uses Stevenson’s description of Jim Hawkins held on a leash by the frightening one-legged buccaneer, Long John Silver (alias Barbecue), as the treasure hunt party makes the final move to retrieve the buried treasure from Skeleton Island. The description in the novel says: We made a curious figure, had anyone been there to see us—all in soiled sailor clothes and all but me armed to the teeth. Silver had two guns slung about him—one before and one behind—besides the great cutlass at his waist and a pistol in each pocket of his square-tailed coat. To complete this strange appearance, Captain Flint sat perched upon his shoulder and gabbling odds and ends of purposeless sea-talk. I had a line about my waist and followed obediently after the sea-cook, who held the loose end of the rope, now in his free hand, now between his powerful teeth. For all the world, I was led like a dancing bear.2

It is as if the author, in speaking suggestively about danger, fear and urgency, is indirectly indicating the appearance to those who wish to realize the narrative in a visual mode. But, of course, the written mode of the narrative is itself a suggestion to the reader about the relevant elements that would help in processing and recreating the scene in the mind, the reader’s mind being, psychologically speaking, the stage canvas for the dramatization or site for film shooting of the script. There are also some facilitating scenic shifts. Fraser, in an Afterword to TI, points out: With its shifts of scene and narrator and its prepared surprises … we have a stop-go feeling, a sense of manipulation, sometimes jerky and abrupt. Stevenson has become obsessed with his scenic properties. This obsession, on the other hand, gives Treasure Island a physical solidity that tales of adventure do not usually possess; the scenic structure means that the story can be turned, very easily and effectively, either into a film scenario or a play.3

Above all, the adventure narrative gives attention to the exotic, the strange and the surprising.

2 3

Stevenson, 191. Fraser, 219.

Chapter Eight


The Adaptations & Stevenson’s Interest in Boys as the Primary Audience Stevenson wrote TI with children, specifically boys, as his intended audience. His adventure writings, it has been widely noted, are intended to amuse children, although of course they also have relevance for adult life. He was committed to writing stories about boys (“stories for the boy in the man,” as Fraser puts it), for boys, and as a result the novel, he reveals, was first serialized in the boys’ magazine Young Folk. Fraser also indicates that TI took as its model the existing pattern of boy’s adventure story popular in the late-Victorian England.4 Many film adaptations of TI clearly show that they are intended for children, some presented in the cartoon mode (just like the abridged written versions that try to cater for the language and style needs of modern child readers, especially in the non-native English context). Visual adaptations would rhetorically appeal to the attention of children who naturally like watching stories. Seeing the pirates could be more thrilling and frightening than reading about them. Pictures, especially those in motion, will always be worth more than a thousand words! Hutcheon has drawn attention to the differences in the way the adapted text and the visual adaptations might appeal to the audience: There are significant differences between being told a story and being shown a story, and especially between both of these and the physical act of participating in a story’s world.5

The visual adaptations could serve as helpful aids to the reading/teaching of the written narrative, as has been clearly advertised on the jackets of the CDs of some of these adaptations specially packaged for teaching English literature.

Some Relevant Theoretical Issues An adaptation is both a process and a “formal entity.”6 Sanders, explaining adaptation as a process, says that: Adaptation is … frequently a specific process involving the transition from one genre to another: novels into film; drama in a musical; the

4 5 6

Ibid., 213. Hutcheon, XV. Sanders, 2006.

Adaptations and Appropriations of Treasure Island


dramatization of prose narrative and prose fiction; or the inverse movement of making drama in prose narrative.7

Adaptations are viewed as trans-semiotic translations. But do they need to be faithful to the adapted or source text? As translations, adaptations may involve additions and subtractions. An adaptation is intertextual and dependent on the adapted text but is not necessarily inferior to the original as is suggested in some studies, for instance Newman (1985); it is creative, not merely “parasitic.” As Linda Hutcheon has argued, “to be second is not to be secondary or inferior; likewise, to be first is not to be originary or authoritative.”8 Adaptations involve ideological, cultural and stylistic forms of accommodation too: the narrative has to be adapted to the needs, interests, and tastes of the target audience. In this regard, Hutcheon again argues: Because adaptation is a form of repetition without replication, change is inevitable, even without any conscious updating or alteration of setting. And with change comes corresponding modifications in the political valence and even the meaning of stories. An extended analysis of a selection of the many different adaptations of one particular story—that of a gypsy called Carmen—suggests that, with what I call transculturation or indigenization across cultures, languages, and history, the meaning and impact of stories can change radically.9

Adaptations could be viewed as metanarratives. It is a truism that “art is derived from other art; stories are born of other stories.”10 Many adaptations and appropriations of literary texts into films “openly declare themselves as an interpretation or re-reading of a canonical precursor,”11 or rather, as re-interpretations of the adapted text. Sanders explains: Sometimes this will involve a director’s personal vision, and it may or may not involve cultural relocation or updating of some form; sometimes this reinterpretative act will also involve the movement into a new generic mode or context. In appropriations the intertextual relationship may be less explicit, more embedded, but what is often inescapable is the fact that a political or ethical commitment shapes a writer’s, director’s, or performer’s decision to re-interpret a source text. In this respect, in any study of adaptation and appropriation the creative import of the author cannot be as 7

Ibid., 19. Hutcheon, XIII. 9 Ibid., XVI. 10 Ibid., 2. 11 Sanders, 2. 8

Chapter Eight


easily dismissed as Roland Barthes’s or Michel Foucault’s influential theories of the “death of the author” might suggest (Barthes 1988; Foucault 1979). Nevertheless, the ability of these theories to destabilize the authority of the original text does enable the multiple and sometimes conflicting production of meaning … The inherent intertextuality of literature encourages the ongoing, evolving production of meaning, and an everexpanding network of textual relations.12

Geoffrey Wagner distinguishes three types of “transition of fiction into film”: (a) transposition, (b) commentary, and (c) analogy. Leitch playfully responds to this classification as representing an argument that “Not all adaptations are created equal.”13 Wagner explains the categories as follows: Adaptation Type Transposition

Commentary (alternatively “reemphasis or restructure”) Analogy

Meaning/Outlook In which a novel is given directly on the screen, with a minimum of apparent interference In which an original is taken and either purposely or inadvertently altered in some respect A fairly considerable departure for the sake of making another work of art.

Table 8.1. Wagner’s Classification of Adaptation Appropriation entails a journey in a new direction, and the link with the appropriated text is sometimes obscured. Appropriation is in fact different in its pattern of relationship with the source text: Appropriation frequently affects a more decisive journey away from the informing source into a wholly new cultural product and domain. This may or may not involve a generic shift, and it may still require the intellectual juxtaposition of (at least) one text against another that we have suggested is central to the reading and spectating experience of adaptations. But the appropriated text or texts are not always as clearly signalled or acknowledged as in the adaptive process.14


Ibid., 2–3. Leitch, 93. 14 Sanders, 26. 13

Adaptations and Appropriations of Treasure Island


There has been a tendency by many film semioticians “to represent the formal oppositions between novels and films as more fundamental than their cultural, intertextual, and social interchanges and affinities.”15

Disneyfying the Treasure Hunt—Seeing and Dis/believing Hollywood adaptations of TI have contributed to the immense interest in further adaptations and appropriations. It is as if anything Hollywood touches is never the same again. Hollywood, especially Disney, invests authority and promotes attention. Already, TI is a classic and appears to be part of the literary foundation of many child readers in English-speaking countries. A Disneyfication is not surprising, for such is the cultural and ideological attention in Disney’s reinvention of child-to-adult consumers of culture. The treasure hunt becomes part of the Disney project of moulding thinking about life’s adventure to wealth, as well as life as an adventure in encounters with cultures. As expected, Disneyfications of TI rewrite and repackage the source text; they make radical changes to the narrative of the novel, for instance introducing new incidents in the plot and recreating some of the characters. The 1950 Walt Disney version, starring Robert Newton as Long John Silver and Bobby Driscoll as Jim Hawkins, makes significant changes to the plot and dialogue. Similarly, several other adaptations, including a more recent version by Agamemnon Films, produced specifically to aid students of English Literature in their study of the novel, also introduce some changes to the storyline. Disney continued in taking the treasure hunt narrative beyond the source text by producing a sequel called Long John Silver in 1954. In this sequel, it interpreted Silver’s absconding at the port in Spanish America as a design to plan to go back to Skeleton Island to rescue his three marooned buccaneer friends. This is a way of taking the position of the reader displaying curiosity about what became of Silver after his escape from the Hispaniola. The change introduced by the adaptation, as shown in Fig. 8.2, has a special significance in the comprehension of the novel as something (predominantly) received from the young. Jim is the major witness of the events related and it is to him that Dr Liversey and Squire Trelawney understandably turn to for a narration of the story. In the film adaptation, therefore, this ownership of the story emerges symbolically through Jim’s custodianship of Captain Flint’s map. The dying Billy Bones hands the map over to Jim for safekeeping, to avoid it falling into the hands of the 15

Elliott, 1.


Chapter Eight

rampaging buccaneers. Could this be viewed as a symbolic way of making the treasure have its future in the young (who would eventually narrate the story)? The Sky/Hollywood version of TI also appears to vocalize the question of moral balance in the narrative. Squire Trelawney is presented in a way that would make a viewer shelve the simplistic notion that he is one of the good guys, while Long John Silver and the buccaneers are the villains. Perhaps this simplistic judgement emerges from the boy narrator’s level of reasoning, which is understandable.

Fig. 8.2. Billy Bones asking Jim Hawkins to go and get medical help after fainting, an addition in the 1950 version

Fig. 8.3. Billy Bones hiding the map under Jim’s shirt after receiving the black spot and fainting, another addition in the 1950 version

In the Sky/Hollywood adaptation, we are helped to see beyond Jim’s childish way of looking at life. This adaptation twist could be viewed as a way of introducing a different pattern of reasoning and some critical thinking in the child viewer. If “seeing is believing,” it may be because one is unable to question the rhetoric of the image radically. Squire, as one who struggles to inherit money stolen by sea thieves, is also a selfish sea thief of a kind. That Stevenson assigns him civility and high culture raises further issues regarding the tendency to overlook the scandals and crimes of the highly placed. The Sky version could, in its revisions, be viewed as a different story direction, exercising the right to decide how a story should end for a different set of readers. Stripping Trelawney of the status of a gentleman with good motives is perhaps a way of adapting the

Adaptations and Appropriations of Treasure Island


treasure hunt narrative to the tastes of an American audience. Indeed, an adaption, in introducing changes, emerges clearly as a way of joining the narrator(s) in telling the story, exercising strategic creative freedom in doing so. Julie Sanders has maintained in Adaptation and Appropriation that: Adaptation can be a transpositional practice, casting a specific genre into another generic mode, an act of re-vision in itself. It can parallel editorial practice in some respects, indulging in the exercise of trimming and pruning; yet it can also be an amplificatory procedure engaged, in addition, with expansion, accretion, and interpolation … Adaptation is frequently involved in offering commentary on a source text. This is achieved most often by offering a revised point of view from the “original,” adding hypothetical motivation, or voicing the silenced and marginalized. Yet adaptation can also constitute a simpler attempt to make texts “relevant” or easily comprehensible to new audiences and readerships via the processes of proximation and updating. This can be seen as an artistic drive in many adaptations of so-called “classic” novels or drama for television and cinema. Shakespeare has been a particular focus, a beneficiary even, of these “proximations” or updatings.16

Sky may be interested in adapting the narrative to the tastes of the American audience. Surely, the Americans would like the child viewer not to think that Squire Trelawney is entirely a saint in his hunt for treasure stolen and buried by thieves.

Treasure Hunt as a Paradigm for Strategic Thinking The treasure hunt embarked upon by Squire Trelawney and the crew of the Hispaniola serves as a paradigm for strategic thinking. The narrative and its supplement about the probability of John Silver returning to the island for the remaining treasure are therefore appropriated in creating the computer game, The Treasure of Fraction Island (hereafter simply referred to as TFI). Strategy, as explained by Andy Bruce and Ken Langdon, it: “concerns itself with what is ahead, looking at where you are going, and how to get there.”17 In warfare, business life, educational pursuits, social relations, etc., strategic thinking is an important means of achieving a goal. In every strategic-thinking process, considering the risk(s) of the venture and the options available are important, and making choices is essential. Treasure hunt is a context of adventure, and therefore 16 17

Sanders, 18–19. Bruce & Langdon, 7.

Chapter Eight


of risk taking. The risk taking involves considering options, and requires making (appropriate) choices. It also requires taking responsibility for one’s choices and actions. The condition of probability applies equally: failure in the adventure is fatal, while success changes the adventurer’s fortunes profoundly. It is therefore understandable why the narrative serves as a very useful frame for games that help the players to plan strategies for pursuing risky but rewarding goals.

Adventure as a Game Treasure hunt, as in Stevenson’s TI, is already a game for the fictional characters, especially the buccaneers, who are consistently described in the novel as “gentlemen of fortune” (a euphemism, like “hustling”). In turn, the TFI producers appropriate the conditions of goal-setting, risk-taking, chance, decision-making, strategizing and the outcomes present in the narrative. Modern computer technology is also an adventure, a game! Appropriating a fictional narrative for games is one of the adventures, which implicitly directs attention to computer learning and fun. Interestingly, literature and technology meet in this context of game/fun. The game mode also reconstructs the entertainment value of the narrative. Literary texts have, from classical times, been explained as teaching and entertaining (dulce et utile). It has been argued that: All good computer games must entertain, and most gain a great deal of their entertainment value from drama … The underlying rules of drama therefore still apply, because they are aesthetic rules dictated by the human mind.18

Transforming the narrative into a game reinvents literature, and opens fresh possibilities for the engagement of its aesthetic modes and meanings. Hutcheon (2006, XIV) has observed that: The different media and genres that stories are transcoded to and from in the adapting process are not just formal entities … they also represent various ways of engaging audiences. They are, in different ways and to different degrees, all “immersive,” but some media and genres are used to tell stories (for example, novels, short stories); others show them (for instance, all performance media); and still others allow us to interact physically and kinesthetically with them (as in video games or theme park rides).19 18 19

Rollings & Morris, 61. Hutcheon, XIV.

Adaptations and Appropriations of Treasure Island


She further contends that In the adaptation from film to videogame … the use of point of view challenges the truism about prose fiction’s unique flexibility. Even without the use of virtual reality, in which really is an embodied first-person perspective, computer animation allows for more variety than is usually acknowledged. Games offer either a third-person or a first-person position, with multiplayer options. There are also variants that combine both—we can act as first-person objects, but see third-person objects from behind the character or avatar. In the first-person role, players do not so much passively watch … This provides a more immediate relationship with the character and a greater immersion in the animated world of the game.20

The Treasure of Fraction Island The Treasure of Fraction Island (TFI) is a computer game appropriation of TI, with clear intertextual links to the latter. A maths adventure game produced by TAG Learning Ltd, UK, ( in 2002, TFI also has a book version which is meant to provide additional guidance to the player. TFI is designed to assist children in learning maths, allowing them to see it as fun instead of approaching it with fear. It was in the process of looking for learning aids that would help my own children deal with their fear for maths that I discovered and bought TFI, which is related to a movie they had watched and had liked so much! A highly interactive game with multimedia features, TFI very interestingly ties up the goal of the player-treasure hunt with the procedure, the equipment required and the expectations. It also offers tips and warnings, as shown in Table 8.2 below:


Ibid., 55.

Chapter Eight


Tips and warnings Beware of Captain Fraction’s treacherous traps as you explore the island. Watch out for the dreaded Captain Bunter who’ll try to stop you from reaching the treasure.

Goals indicated in the fictive context of the Game Sail for adventure and find the pirate gold! Free (my) shipmates, Duff, Quinch and Wilson, and you’ll be rewarded!

Table 8.2. A Tabular Representation of Goal Specifications and Tips/Warning for Playing/Navigating TFI The reward (of the treasure) in the narrative of TFI serves as a positive reinforcement for learning to take risks, in this case, the risk of learning mathematics. One can also see that the game implicitly recommends mathematical skills as being essential in strategic thinking. Here, the gains of mathematics and literature as subjects converge, indicating that liking one and disliking the other are not, after all, helpful.

The Flowchart orientation of TFI TFI is designed with a flowchart orientation (as shown in Fig. 8.4 below) in which an outcome depends on taking a path. This means that the player creates a path for the narrative, or as an adventurer partly creates their own story and outcome. This seems to suggest that the story of TI is not complete in Stevenson’s version. Each adaptation or appropriation provides possibilities for readers and players to continue the story paths or plots. This way, the story becomes a science, or the paths of a science. The Start point of the game is Crow’s Nest Tavern, where the playertreasure hunter meets and interacts with the benevolent Captain Grimble, who offers information and guidance for the trip. Essentially, the playerhunter interacts with cartoon text and the image and voice animations of Grimble, who is programmed as a guide and instructor. Two options, indeed two paths, are available to the player at the outset: the YES and NO paths to the question “Do you need instructions?” This polarity will continue to feature as the player proceeds. The YES path takes them to the next window where instructions are provided, whereas NO leads to the harbour area.

Adaptations and Appropriations of Treasure Island


Starting Point Crow’s Nest Tavern “Welcome to Crow’s Nest Tavern. Do you need instructions?” (Cartoon text, with the image and voice of Captain Grimble. who is programmed to offer help to the player). Clicking either ¥ or ȋ elicits a vocal articulation (of the symbol) from Grimble and takes the player to another window. ȋ ¥ ү YES Object of the Game

NO Ү Dialogue off. Ready to proceed unaided at this stage.

Ү Cuttle Street (Harbour to the North)

Ҩ Harbour (Capt. Hopkins is waiting for the player, ship nearby) (Capt. Grimble continues as a guide, identifying what Hopkins must be given before he can lend a ship) ү …

ү Cuttle Street (Harbour to the North) Ҩ Harbour (Capt. Hopkins is waiting for the player, ship nearby) (Capt. Grimble continues as a guide, identifying what Hopkins must be given before he can lend a ship) Ү …

Figure 8.4. The Flowchart Design of TFI

Right from the beginning, therefore, the player-hunter begins to take responsibility for the actions and outcomes—those who choose NO have assumed themselves sufficiently equipped to deal with the situation that later unfolds. Likewise, in TI Squire Trelawney uses advice and makes preparations, and these help to a large extent in making his hunt successful.

Chapter Eight


Gameplay Features of TFI TFI has the following very interesting game play features: ` ` ` `

Rules/conditions of play Start point Objects/icons of play (with multimedia features) Repeat or restart.

In addition, it has a journey motif, an imaginary setting, and fictive/virtual characters the player has to interact with. As a matter of fact, the playerhunter lives two lives in the game—one as a living person playing, another as a fictive character of a treasure hunter existing at the same level as Captain Grimble, Captain Hopkins, and others. In both selves, the player must solve puzzles, gamble, take chances, apart from depending on their skills, and be ready to face win-lose outcomes. TFI is also provided with an Icons Menu, which is recreated in Fig. 8.5 below:

Fig. 8.5. The Icons Menu of TFI

Gameplay Features as a Semiotic System The multimedia gameplay features constitute an essential semiotic system or code for acting in this game-adventure world, which is made in the image of the fictive world of Stevenson from his image of our historical world …! The player, in communicating with this code, reinvents the self as a treasure hunter, unlike in the film adaptation and the written text where the viewer/reader only follows the narrative and identifies with one character or the other. Iconic signs (those, for instance, marking the world/experiential locus as relating to pirates/sailors, or to temporality and culture, such as the Jolly

Adaptations and Appropriations of Treasure Island


Roger Flag used by the pirates) have an important role in constructing the visual world of the adventure and treasure hunt. Above all, these iconic signs intertextually relate to the narrative of TI. Thus, it is not just that we are made to recognize the gameplay as relating to the risky world of pirates, but we also have to notice that the visual world of TFI is made in the image of that of TI, which derives from historical and fictive stories about the buccaneers of the Caribbean. Symbolic signs (written, verbalized, visualized and instrumental signs) also feature in TFI in a significant way. TFI is already a world as well as a field of discourse. Therefore, it has a variety of languages—something we could loosely call “buccaneerspeak”—featuring as the code of expression in the game. This register is, of course, derived from Stevenson’s TI, which in turn derives its highly foregrounded sea-talk from other historical and navigational sources. Spatiality and signifiers of spatial dimensions of the narrative (distance, map, etc.) occur in the game. The journey from Admiral Benbow Inn through Bristol to Treasure Island and back already has a notable geography, which could be linked to the process of growth from weak, naïve and terrified boyhood to a courageous and strategizing manhood. Further, part of the item the player-hunter needs for the adventure (which must be handed over to Captain Hopkins before the ship can be obtained and boarded) is a map. Very central to the narrative of TI is Captain Flint’s map (See Fig. 8.6 below), which Jim obtains from Billy Bones’ treasure chest and hands over to Dr Livesey and Squire Trelawney. The buccaneers, first led by Blind Pew, then by Long John Silver, wanted this map badly.

Fig. 8.6. Captain Flint’s map

In cartosemiotics (the branch of semiotics that studies maps and map making), a map is considered “a hotbed of signs.” It combines various types of signs—such as the symbolic, the spatial and the indexical—in


Chapter Eight

giving information about physical locations, (political) relationships, weather, populations, natural resources, etc. There are also strategic maps, like those used for military campaigns and the type created by Captain Flint to indicate where his treasure is hidden and how to get there. Without the map, therefore, the treasure hunt cannot take place or succeed, as imagined by the treasure hunters. Also, anyone who possesses the map has a competitive advantage and is therefore understandably a target for attack. Kinesic signs (peculiar movements or indications of motion, e.g. the heads of spies or eavesdroppers popping out of hiding places) are also important features to consider in TFI. The game involves moving and doing things, and also involves watching and being watched. Treasure hunters in TI have to watch the movements of their competitors, including facial expressions. Every gambler has to know the secret to survival and must watch the other’s moves!

The Mathematical Semiosis The mathematical dimension of the semiosis in TFI is a very crucial consideration. Mathematics is itself a language; it has a system of signification that combines numbers with symbols, its own logic and syntax, as well as its rules and conditions. TFI tries to simplify—indeed, demystify—this language that sometimes causes terror to learners. It tries to show that a demystified language in knowledge production stimulates interest and facilitates comprehension. Knowledge is an adventure which has to be made fun to be effective and productive. It is interesting then that a cross-disciplinary production and use of paradigms (this time from literature) are means of making (science) learning enjoyable. Could models from science also make literary studies more meaningful and beneficial to humanity? The maths semiosis in TFI focuses on fractions and probabilistic thinking (forecasting). Calculations of fractions are a sign of alertness, cleverness and skilfulness in the pursuit of things that could improve one’s life. Cleverness is suggested as being essential in risk taking. Of course, chance also plays a part, but skilfulness makes a difference in the outcome.

The Gambling Angle The journey made by Squire Trelawney and the rest of the crew of the Hispaniola to recover the treasure buried by Captain Flint is a gamble, considering the risks involved. Going to Fraction Island to recover the

Adaptations and Appropriations of Treasure Island


buried gold, equipped with mathematical skills, still entails risk (although the game promises that the skills will suffice for a successful voyage). John Scarne, an authority on gambling theory and practice, maintains that: Gambling consists in risking something one possesses in the hope of obtaining something better. No one can really avoid gambling, because life itself forces us to make bets on Dame Fortune. In business, education, marriage, investment, insurance, travel, in all the affairs of life we must make decisions which are gambles because risk is involved.21

Scarne provides the following classification of games in relation to chance and skill: - Games of chance (“those in which there is no element of skill.”) - Games of skill (“those in which the element of chance is completely or nearly non-existent …”) - Games of chance and skill (those that “combine both elements and include most games played with cards …”). Very clearly, TFI is a game of skill, whereas TI itself involves both chance and skill. Other fictive characters are already programmed to behave the way they do, otherwise the outcome of the treasure hunt would depend on the relationship between the choices/skills employed by the treasure hunter and the changing circumstances arising from the behaviours of the other characters.

Implications and Concluding Remarks It is the reader-player that creates the plot and determines how the narrative of TFI ends. Recalling Roland Barthes’ notion of the “death of the author,” this player/hunter-determined orientation resembles the trends of reading choice in hyperfictions like Megan Heyward’s Of Day, Of Night. The player thus takes over the narrative from Stevenson and continues it in other strategic ways relevant to mathematics and computer skills. Viewed as standing at the threshold of adaptation and appropriation, the computer game version of TI introduces a new direction in the use of the narrative. Hutcheon argues that: “With adaptations, we seem to desire the repetition as much as the change.”22 The relationship between literature and technology is foregrounded in the adaptations and appropriations of 21 22

Scarne, 12. Hutcheon, 9.


Chapter Eight

TI. This relationship needs to be taken seriously by teachers and their students in both disciplines. The current orientation to techno-culture requires that we as trainers and trainees begin to utilize narratives in formulating and creating paradigms Learners need relevant aids, many of which exist today as software and DVDs. They need to be brought into the design of curricula and properly utilized. However, film adaptations of TI can only serve as complementary teaching aids in the literature classroom and not as independent texts in themselves. A student who watches an adaptation of TI in which changes have been made in the plot and depends on that viewing alone for an examination on the novel would run into problems. Let us say, for instance, that the examiner asks a question on how Jim Hawkins obtained the map in the first place. If students who have watched the film adaptation write that Billy Bones gave it to him before he died, the answer would be marked wrong, because this does not agree with what Stevenson wrote in the novel. Teachers therefore need to emphasize the need for their students to read the novel itself and also to understand the extent to which the film adaptation can go in assisting them in the study of the novel. Further, teachers of TI and other adapted works of literature need to teach their students the significance of adaptations and the fact that adapters sometimes find it necessary to make significant changes. That way, they would be helping them to understand that literature is subject to transformations and applications. Specific needs and cultural differences have to be taken into consideration in the packaging and use of adaptations and appropriations. The adaptation and appropriation of the TI narrative of cinematic and computational strategic thinking purposes also remind us about the interesting orientation to the adaptations and appropriations of scientific and technological processes, products and theories in literary texts, especially science fiction. As science and technology turn to literature for inspiration, literature also learns to reinvigorate itself through scientific data. The appropriation of the TI narrative in respect of the TFI computer game is explained as being favourable to strategic thinking. One can also add that, while thinking about the adaptation of literary narrative, we should also see this in the wider context of the adaptation and appropriation of cultural and technological products, especially the need to be mindful of how they address local needs and expectations. Considered as a gamble, the narrative of TI raises serious moral issues about goodness and badness, honesty and dishonesty, criminality and legality. Are there real good guys and bad guys in the treasure hunt? Are the buccaneers who stole and hid the money the bad guys and Squire Trelawney and his men the good? Applying the narrative as a paradigm

Adaptations and Appropriations of Treasure Island


also raises questions about the place of ethics in strategic business/financial growth and competitions. Although one is chasing gold, one cannot dispense with moral rectitude and humanism; otherwise one would turn into an animal (and an unfeeling one at that!) The skills we need in our educational and cultural pursuits have to be sought and obtained through ethical means.


1. Billy Bones (Oliver Reed)

2. Long John Silver (Charlton Heston)

3. Blind Pew (Christopher Lee)

4. Blind Pew with his blindfold removed in scuffle with Jim Hawkins and His Mother


Chapter Eight

5. Billy Bones receives the Black Spot, a summons for an encounter from the buccaneers.

6. Squire Trelawney (Richard Johnson), Dr Livesey (Julian Glover) and Jim Hawkins (Christian Bale) study and discuss Flint’s map.

7. The Hispaniola being readied for the adventure at the port in Bristol.

8. Long John Silver with Jim Hawkins on the leash


I. Introduction It is a truth universally acknowledged that the issue of in/fidelity must be raised regarding the adaptations of classic novels like Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. As Austen is considered to be a representative of British heritage and culture, most of the major screen adaptations (1940, 1980, 1995 and 2005) of Pride and Prejudice have tried to replicate the language, customs, manners, costume, setting, and cultural artifacts of the Regency Era as depicted in the original text. However, the recent adaptations have moved away from the traditional Heritage Film production of Austen’s novel that merely reproduced the past on screen. In my paper, I will be discussing three such adaptations where directors, more than recreating the past in their adaptations, have interpreted Austen in a new light based on the context of the production era. The adaptations that I will be analyzing are Bride and Prejudice (2004), an Indian adaptation by Gurinder Chadha, Lost in Austen (2008), a postmodern fantasy adaptation by Dan Zeff and Guy Andrews, and The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (2012), a video blog adaptation by Hank Green and Bernie Su. While tracing the issue of in/fidelity in Pride & Prejudice’s journey from page to vlog (video blog), I will focus on how these unfaithful adaptations in fact faithfully adapted Austen’s story to the changing tastes and environments of the contemporary readers/viewers. While analyzing the cultural significance of these adaptations, I will be using Gary R. Bortolotti and Linda Hutcheon’s framework for cultural adaptation discussed in their seminal work, “On the Origin of Adaptations:

Chapter Nine


Rethinking Fidelity Discourse and ‘Success’—Biologically.” In this essay, they discuss how the cultural adaptation approach can help critics to understand the complex cultural and ideological patterns behind the wilful adulterations of a source text. The application of this approach in analyzing the multiple adaptations of Pride and Prejudice reveals “why” and “how” the adaptations differ from the original text, and how they bridge the author’s context with the readers’ context. Such an approach demonstrates Austen’s relevance in the twenty-first century world as Austen is re/interpreted to fit the context of the production era. Thus, the cultural adaptation approach allows us to see fidelity even in the very infidelity of these adaptations. This paper will initiate the discussion by beginning with a brief discussion of the flaws in the fidelity discourse, moving on to a brief overview of Bortolloti and Hutcheon’s cultural adaptation approach, and finally discuss the recent adaptations of Pride and Prejudice, focusing on the cultural significance of the novel’s journey from page to vlog.

II. Fidelity Discourse vs. Cultural Adaptation Approach The conventional language of adaptation criticism has often been profoundly moralistic, rich in terms that imply that the cinema has somehow done a disservice to literature. Terms like “infidelity,” “betrayal,” “deformation,” “violation,” “bastardization,” “vulgarization,” and “desecration” proliferate in adaptation discourse.1

Robert Stam’s statement sums up the central argument of fidelity discourse and the prejudices that work behind it. Fidelity criticism has always put more emphasis on adhering to the original text, and considered screen adaptations as a blasphemous violation of classic texts. Stam suggests that the preference of a literary text due to its historical anteriority and seniority, and the presumed rivalry between print media and visual media, are responsible for the mushrooming of the fidelity discourse.2 As a result, the critics become hostile towards adaptations that appropriate and adulterate the source text. However, fidelity discourse is flawed as it denies other viable options for discursive criticism of the adaptations and limits the scope of cinema criticism into a narrow comparison with the source text. Again, there are various controversies even within fidelity discourse. Firstly, “complete faithfulness” to the source text is impossible because of the essential 1 2

Stam, 3. Ibid., 4.

Pride and Prejudice from Page to Vlog


difference between print media and visual media.3 Secondly, the critics set “intensely subjective criteria” to “determine the degree to which the film is ‘successful’ in extracting the ‘essence’ of the fictional text.”4 Thirdly, fidelity discourse often becomes irrelevant if the adapted work becomes a commercially successful venture or if it becomes a new work of art in itself, standing independently from the source text.5 Fourthly, it denies the possibilities of a wider cultural analysis of the multiple adaptations of a source text as it gives precedence to the culture of the source text. Moreover, fidelity discourse often overlooks the practical realities involved in the production of a commercially successful film.6 Gary R. Bortolotti and Linda Hutcheon, in their seminal work “On the Origin of Adaptations: Rethinking Fidelity Discourse and ‘Success’— Biologically,” dismiss the fidelity criticism as a “reductive judgmental discourse.”7They point out that the tendency of judging “an adaptation’s success only in relation to its faithfulness or closeness to the ‘original’ or ‘source’ text … [overlooks] the common and persistent way humans have always told and retold stories.”8 They further argue that such an approach fails to determine the “artistic significance [and] … cultural impact [and] vitality”9 of the adapted version of a classic text. They suggest a new approach for interpreting adaptations based on cultural relevance to the production context. According to Bortolotti & Hutcheon: [If we take culture and history into account, then] we can understand how a specific narrative changes over time … [And] what constitutes an adaptation’s success than does misleadingly evaluative discourse of fidelity … A more descriptive approach to the elements of cultural adaptation allows us a different way of thinking about why we choose to retell stories and how these retellings function within a culture.10

To trace how a specific story or narrative changes over time, Bortolotti and Hutcheon draw a parallel between the biological adaptation of genes and the cultural adaptation of art. They find that a “homology between cultural and biological evolution can provide [us] an alternative means of deciding what we could consider the success of an adaptation—that is, not 3

Ibid., 17. Whelehan, 3. 5 Bortolotti & Hutcheon, 443. 6 Stam, 17. 7 Bortolotti & Hutcheon, 444. 8 Ibid. 9 Ibid. 10 Ibid., 444–446. 4

Chapter Nine


as simply faithful or unfaithful in relation to a ‘source’.”11 They point out that, like biological adaptation, “stories, in a manner parallel to genes, replicate; the adaptations of both evolve with changing environments.”12 Such a viewpoint helps film critics to move beyond the narrow and “dismissive evaluation”13 of the fidelity discourses, and allows for a broader discussion of the changing ideological and cultural patterns of adaptations. Again, as the culture of the source text is given precedence in fidelity discourse, the adaptation is judged against that source culture, and the cultural and contextual diversity explored in the adaptations is underestimated. However, Bortolotti & Hutcheon say that the case of biological adaptation is exactly the opposite, as it celebrates the “diversity of life forms” while at the same time recognizes the “common origin.”14 Thus, diversity becomes an important factor in analyzing an adaptation, especially in terms of multiple adaptations of a single text, because with each adaptation the story evolves and takes the form of a new text, intertextually linked with the source text. Like genes in biological adaptation, film adaptation also evolves, meaning it “replicate [s] and change [s].”15 Again, “contrary to the fidelity discourse of adaptation theory, in a cultural context, copying actually means changing with each replication—more often, changing medium.” Bortolotti & Hutcheon point out that, like biological adaptation, in film adaptation selection is also very important in terms of the changes that are made. How far directors/auteurs are going to adhere and how far they are going to change are important, through which the transformation will be obvious. They say: The unit of selection by which we can understand change over time [is important to trace the] process of cultural adaptation … the narrative could be said to have undergone an appropriate transformation to the change in the environment, that is, an adaptation … [Thus the older stories are] reshaped to fit the preoccupations and tastes of modern cultures … the success [of an adaptation] is the product of the process of selection.16


Ibid., 446. Ibid., 444. 13 Ibid., 443. 14 Ibid., 445. 15 Ibid., 446. 16 Ibid., 447–448. 12

Pride and Prejudice from Page to Vlog


Acknowledging the primacy and importance of culture in the adaptations, Bortolotti & Hutcheon suggest a formula for the cultural adaptation of classics. According to them: “Narrative idea = cultural environment = adaptation.”17 This formula is very significant in judging an adaptation, because “when an environment changes in one particular identifiable direction” it is expected that the original story will be de/contextualized by the director/auteur to make it fit in moving toward “a new cultural norm.”18 Bortolotti & Hutecheon say: In cultural terms … change in a narrative … [is] meaningful with respect to allowing a better fit to an environment … What we then end up with is the product of cultural selection; what have survived are mutations that allow the story to better fit (adapt to) its culture or environment.19

Therefore, we need to concentrate on whether the cultural selection made by the auteur/director is relevant to the environment of their contemporary audience. In the case of the cultural adaptation approach, the success of an adaptation does not depend upon being faithful or unfaithful, but rather on the afterlife and cultural validity that each adaptation gives to its source text. Therefore, “what [makes a] narrative successful … is what [makes] it thrive in occupying a particular cultural space.”20 Bortolotti & Hutcheon suggest two considerations for measuring success: one is the “temporal stamina”21 of an adaptation, that is the ability of a work to survive and remain relevant over time; the other is “diversity”22 that refers to both the diversity of media and diversity of cultural context. Such diversity ensures the “longevity”23 of the source text as it affirms the text’s adaptability and translatability across time and space. Thus, each adaptation becomes a vehicle that carries the source text from the author’s world to the readers’/viewers’ world.


Ibid., 448. Ibid., 449. 19 Ibid. 20 Ibid., 450. 21 Ibid. 22 Ibid. 23 Ibid., 451 18

Chapter Nine


III. Tracing In/Fidelity in Pride & Prejudice from Text to Vlog Bride and Prejudice (2004) In Bride and Prejudice, director Gurinder Chadha replaces Austen’s characters with twenty-first-century Indian characters living in Amritsar— Mr. Bakshi (Mr. Bennet), Mrs. Bakshi (Mrs. Bennet), Jaya (Jane), Lalita (Lizzie), Maya (Mary), Lucky (Lydia), Chandra Lamba (Charlotte), Mr. Kohli (Collins), Balraj (Bingley), and Kiran (Caroline). In this adaptation, Chadha has taken Austen’s theme of class prejudice one step further as she explores how local class division is influenced by the global politics of power. Along with class difference, she focuses on racial prejudice across borders to demonstrate the prevalence of colonial prejudices even in the globalized twenty-first century world. Chadha says: “Whereas Austen was exploring class distinctions, I wanted to modernize and Indianize the story and look at the first impressions we make of each other cultures around the world.”24 To explore the theme of transnationalism, Chadha has set her film in three different locations: India, England and the United States. Chadha says: “I didn’t want to just make it Indian, I wanted it to be international because I wasn’t interested in making a film just in India.”25 In terms of production style, Chadha blends Bollywood musical romance with Western filmmaking. Although David Cornelius finds this blending “a recipe for disaster,”26 it fits Chadha’s intention of exploring Austen’s story in a transnational space. In Culture and Imperialism (1993), Edward Said first identifies the hidden contours of the British Empire and its colonial prejudices in Austen’s work, and Chadha capitalizes on such hidden lineaments of power politics in her adaptation. While the British Heritage adaptations of Austen’s novels reminisce about the idyllic life in the rich English countryside to affirm the Eurocentric supremacy on screen, Chadha shows us the American supremacy in the global politics and economy since World War II. Using this backdrop, Chadha also explores the sense of nationality and nationhood in her film through the confrontations of the East and the West. Manohla Dargis calls the movie a “multiplex


Cooper, Paragraph 2. Connell, Paragraph 15. 26 Cornelius, Paragraph 3. 25

Pride and Prejudice from Page to Vlog


multiculturalism”27 as it explores the issue of shifting national identity in the twenty-first century multicultural world. Aldea suggests that Chadha’s transformation of Pride and Prejudice into an “interracial romance … metaphorically represents the re-emergence of past prejudices in contemporary encounters of Eastern and Western Cultures.”28 Zygmunt Bauman identifies that even after globalization, the West could not come out of its global fear regarding the East. In the eyes of the West, India is still the place for making money.29 Darcy, an extremely rich American hotel executive, comes to India to expand his business as India offers tremendous possibilities for a luxury hotel business. During an intense argument between Darcy and Lalita, she exclaims: “when are we going to get rid of imperialists like you?”30 It affirms the prevalence of Western neo-colonial commercial ventures in the East. The Guardian’s film reviewer Peter Bradshaw comments that Bride and Prejudice fails to demonstrate any “prejudice.”31 However, seen from an Eastern perspective, the movie upholds the issue of race prejudice that Bradshaw’s white male eyes have failed to notice. Instead of appreciating the cultural diversity of India, Darcy makes fun of Indian marriage, Indian dance, unreliable internet connections, traffic, etc. His biased opinion about India and Indian culture shows his superiority complex, as he belongs to the First World. Such prejudice is not limited to Indian culture and customs only, as Indian women are also exoticized as “pure” and “simple,” perfect as “housewives.”32 The commodification of the Indian brides comes out in Lalita’s sarcastic remark that “any man with big bucks must be shopping for a wife.”33 Chadha’s exploration of this race/class prejudice is not only confined to the West’s misunderstanding of the East, but extends to Indian society as well. In Indian society, Indian bachelors holding European or American citizenship are highly prioritized over those who do not. Mrs. Bakshi and Mrs. Lamba’s sole wish is to see their daughters settle in England or America. On the other hand, the British-Indian diasporic people consider local Indians to be below their class, which is illustrated through Kiran’s snobbery with her always referring to the Indians as “they” and Indian culture as “their” culture, rather than acknowledging Indians as her own 27

Dargis, Paragraph 2. Aldea, 168. 29 Bauman, 2007. 30 Chadha. 31 Bradshaw, Paragraph 8. 32 Chadha. 33 Ibid. 28

Chapter Nine


people. The Westernization of her name from Kiran to Karen reveals her identity crisis. Mr. Bakshi and Lalita are the only exceptions who have a strong sense of their Indianness, and always protest when India is misunderstood or misrepresented by other characters in the film. Along with the local citizenship, all the characters are judged against their global citizenship to demonstrate the tensions due to their shifting identity. Austen shows how class barriers can be broken through love and understanding. Chadha also demonstrates how race barriers can be broken through love and understanding of cultural and geographical difference. In the end, Bride and Prejudice projects the triumph of multiculturalism through Darcy and Lalita’s interracial marriage. In the final scene of the movie, Darcy is seen playing an Indian traditional musical instrument, suggesting his immersion in Indian culture. Thus, the movie makes an “anti-racist statement”34 by focusing on the importance of acknowledging one another’s difference rather than continuing with an East-West rivalry. Chadha’s attempt to transpose Austen into a twenty-first-century transnational film has given rise to controversies among reviewers. Tracing the fidelity issue, Philip French says: “‘Bride & Prejudice is not even a baby Austen.”35 However, Tiffany Sanchez acknowledges the director’s freedom of choice to fit her intention: … [Chaddha] may not strictly adhere to Austen’s brilliant narrative, taking artistic liberties to give the film a modern twist. However, what she does accomplish with Bride & Prejudice is to maintain the novels’ piercing wit without compromising its fundamental themes about love, reputation, and class.36

Drawing a parallel between Austen and Chadha’s geographical, cultural and temporal location, Sanchez further comments: Chadha lampoons the archaic notion that a woman’s sole value is based on how well she marries, portraying the rural Indian village of Amritsar as a class conscious society—similar to Longbourn, England—where a single, young woman, need only marry a wealthy, prominent husband to improve her social standing.37

Chadha’s selection of setting, character system and production style fulfils her intention of projecting the “geopolitical determinants of capital and 34

Connell, Paragraph 7. French, Paragraph 7. 36 Sanchez, Paragraph 5. 37 Ibid., Paragraph 6. 35

Pride and Prejudice from Page to Vlog


power”38 in forming race relationships. Though many reviewers criticize her for exploiting Jane Austen, she has done justice to her cosmopolitan audience, which is fully aware of the local and global identity issues. In the words of Arthur J. Paris, it can be said that through its “unfaithfulness” to the original text, Bride & Prejudice “reinvigorates”39 Austen for the modern audience across borders.

Lost in Austen (2008) In Lost in Austen, director Dan Zeff and scriptwriter Guy Andrews use the time-travel trope to chronicle the magical journey of an Austen reader from twenty-first-century London to Georgian England. The plot revolves around Amanda Price, a girl who is dissatisfied with her life in modern London and finds refuge in her favourite novel, Pride and Prejudice. However, one night Amanda discovers Elizabeth Bennet, the protagonist from the novel, in her bathroom, and Elizabeth shows her a trapdoor that leads to Georgian England. Eventually, Amanda is trapped on the other side of the door, leaving Elizabeth in twenty-first-century London. Though Amanda claims she knows the novel intimately, to her surprise she discovers that there is a gap between her understanding of the novel and its actual happenings. When the book unfolds in the wrong ways, Amanda tries with her heart and soul to set things right, but inevitably makes mistakes, and things get worse. So far, the adaptations of Pride and Prejudice discussed focus on the plot and characters of the original text only. However, for the first time, Zeff and Andrews take us into a reader’s consciousness, showing us her experience of reading a book. By adopting the time-travel trope, they have brought out the culture-clash and time-clash between the author’s world and the reader’s world, and showed how a reader’s understanding can have gaps because of this difference, even though spatially the reader and the author belong to the same geographical location. Amanda Price: It is a truth generally acknowledged that we are all longing to escape.40


Bradshaw, Paragraph 1. Paris, Paragraph 7. 40 Zeff. 39


Chapter Nine

The first line in Lost in Austen marks a significant shift in the cultural scenario of England. While in the original text the need to get a good husband was a generally acknowledged truth, in Amanda’s world the need for escape from the harsh realities of life has become the truth for a modern woman. As the story unfolds, it becomes apparent why Amanda wishes to escape—her reality does not match the fantasy created by Pride and Prejudice. Her values, sense of honour and attitudes towards family, social relationship and love are all influenced by the Georgian ideals as depicted by Austen. Amanda does not have a family except for her mother who occasionally visits her. She is going through a relationship crisis because her unromantic boyfriend is incapable of understanding what she wants, and eventually she decides to break up. Amanda longs for a relationship that is based on mutual love, affection and understanding, rather than just sex. Amanda goes through a psychological trauma as there is a gap between her fantasy world and her real world, and her only escape is Pride and Prejudice, as it offers her a refuge in an idyllic world. However, Zeff and Andrews intend to show that both eras have their flaws and strengths, which is apparent from Amanda’s and Lizzie’s decisions regarding their lives. In the twenty-first-century world, Amanda is an independent woman with a job, but she does not like the freedom and prefers to stay in the patriarchal society of the book, as she considers London a trap, devoid of human feelings and emotions. A peaceful life devoid of modern complexities is more important to her than her freedom. However Elizabeth, who was born and brought up in a male-dominated society without any income of her own, prefers her individuality and decides to stay in twenty-first-century London. Here, Zeff and Andrews seem to bring in a serious debate on what is more important—relationships or individuality. Though the dichotomy remains unresolved, the difference in the attitudes of Amanda and Elizabeth brings out the shifting preferences of women within the same culture. The juxtaposition of the author’s world and the reader’s world reveals the changes that have taken place in England since the Georgian Era. Linguistic norms, social behaviour, family relationships, attitudes towards sexuality, the position of women, and attitudes towards life have gone through a sea-change, and this is captured in this adaptation through wit, irony and humour stemming from the misunderstanding between Amanda and the fictional characters. Amanda’s dress, her colloquial expressions, her music—everything shocks the fictional characters as they cannot relate to it. Similarly, Amanda also finds it difficult to cope with the dress code,

Pride and Prejudice from Page to Vlog


social manners, language and norms of that society, though she claims to “know the place so intimately … as if [she is] actually there.”41 Changes can be observed in the socio-cultural attitude towards sexual purity and sexual orientation. Living together with a boyfriend and losing her virginity is acceptable for Amanda and her society. However, in Georgian England sexual purity was highly prized and a sexual relationship out of wedlock led to a serious social scandal, bringing disgrace to the girl’s family. In the original text, Austen shows us how much disgrace the Bennet family has to endure after Lydia’s infamous elopement with Mr. Wickham. In Lost in Austen, after the first proposal Darcy rejects Amanda when she confesses that she is not a virgin. Again, though there is no reference to homosexuality in the source text, Guy Andrews also brings in this issue by portraying Caroline as a lesbian who wants to have a sexual relationship with Amanda, though she will be married to Mr. Darcy. By penetrating the reader’s consciousness, Zeff and Andrews seem to illustrate that within the same culture things are not static. Though their selection of the spatio-temporal locations, twists in the plot and the character system makes the adaptation different to the original text, the positive critical reception and huge audience response suggest the commercial success of the film as “it gave a significant boost to the commercial network’s upmarket profile.”42 Reviewer James Walton says that Lost in Austen: “does triumphantly achieve its main aim of being enormously good-natured fun.”43 Sarah Dempster comments that: “so perfectly drawn is the world that begins to unfurl—and so sincere and endearing is Guy Andrews’ script—that suspension of disbelief becomes part of the fun.”44 By foregrounding a twenty-first-century Austen reader’s experience, Zeff and Andrews have re/contextualized Austen, focusing on her universal appeal even after so many years. Zeff and Andrews’ selection of the time travel trope makes it possible for them to explore the strengths and weaknesses of the two worlds.


Ibid. Lost in Austen, “Ratings”. 43 Walton, Paragraph 1. 44 Dempster, Paragraph 3. 42


Chapter Nine

The Lizzie Bennet Dairies (2012) The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is a complete breakaway from the previous adaptations of Jane Austen because it has been posted on YouTube and an official website in the form of video blogs (vlogs). In this adaptation, Green and Su have replaced the Georgian characters with the twenty-firstcentury cyber-generation, whom Marc Prensky terms “digital natives”45 or “digital immigrants.”46 In this adaptation, Lizzie is a student of mass communication who is recording videos based on her life experiences for a project at her graduate school. The whole story is narrated through Lizzie’s vlog posts along with the frequent interventions of those from other characters. The characters’ names and occupations are altered to fit the cultural scenario of the cyber-generation. Bing Lee (Charles Bingley) is a rich medical student; Darcy is a proud and rich Hipster, owning a web design company named Pemberley Digital; Gigi Darcy (Georgiana Darcy) is a web-designer; Mr. Wickham is a swimming coach; Jane is a fashion designer; Ricky Collins (Mr. Collins) is a web designer; and Lady Catherine De Bourgh is an investor in Collins’ business. As technologically the world has moved far from Georgian England, the attitudes and preoccupations of the young people have gone through a sea change. In The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (LBD), as the characters are born and brought up in a cyber culture, their identity formation, social relationships, self-expression, work ethic, cultural artifact, and personal and social relationships are influenced by their involvement in social media. They now communicate with one another through social networking sites rather than society balls or Sunday morning visits to church. The social space gives way to virtual space as the characters meet their friends, find their soul mates online, and track one another through Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, YouTube, etc. Their social statuses no longer depend on inherited land and property, but on how much the young people have earned through their IT businesses. Unlike his fictional counterpart, Darcy in this adaptation owns a web design company named Pemberley Digital, and he has become rich through it. His sister Gigi is also involved in this business, and is no longer a shy girl dependent upon her brother’s income. Mr. Collins and Lady Catherine are also involved in IT business. People are described in IT terms, so Lizzie describes Darcy as “a robot with buggy programming for social interaction.”47 The definitions of civilized and uncivilized are also based on the nature of the technology 45

Prensky, 1. Ibid., 2. 47 Green & Su. 46

Pride and Prejudice from Page to Vlog


people consume. Caroline calls Longbourn people “uncivilized” as they enjoy “top 40 radio, laughter, and non-organic produce.”48 Moreover, their “cultural consumption includes a large number of media artifacts such as television sets, VCRs, landlines and cell phones, video games, compact disc players, MP3 players, and computers.49 Lydia says: “This phone is my only connection to the outside world. If you are receiving this communication I may already be dead … of BOREDOM.”50 Excessive involvement in social networking has led to changes in the family structure. The young generation has “created a bedroom culture that facilitates their media consumption without parental supervision or limitation.”51 In LBD, though Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and Lady Catherine are mentioned several times, they do not appear on screen. Lizzie re-enacts their speech while recording her vlogs. Again, as these young people are “acting in a media-rich environment and a bedroom culture … [They] express different values, attitudes, and behaviors than previous generations.”52 While re-enacting Mrs. Bennet’s speech, Lizzie makes fun of her mother and says that though her mother thinks every rich single guy is looking for a wife, “what if he is gay?”53 Lizzie’s comment demonstrates the wide gap between Lizzie’s generation and that of her parents. In LBD, the economic crisis in the Bennet family has also taken a new shape. Now their financial difficulty is not due to primogeniture, but rather to the student loan taken out for the Bennet daughters’ education. Unlike their Georgian counterparts, Lizzie and Jane work hard to pay for their tuition; however, their income is not sufficient to meet their educational expenses. Therefore, the Bennet couple wants to marry their daughters off to rich husbands to pay off the loan. Again, an extremely rich husband is more desirable for the girls to get established in a career rather than to gain social security. Unlike their fictional counreparts, a career is more important in the Bennet and Lucas daughters’ lives rather than husbandhunting. Collins here comes with a job proposal rather than a marriage proposal, and Charlotte Lu takes up this advantage when Lizzie rejects it. Along with different aspects of life in a techno-driven world, Green and Su explore the issue of cyber-bullying by giving the Lydia-Wickham relationship a new twist. The infamous elopement from the source text is 48

Ibid. Mesch, 5. 50 Green & Su. 51 Mesch, 51. 52 Ibid., 51. 53 Green & Su. 49


Chapter Nine

remade in LBD when Wickham captures the moment of his sexual intercourse with Lydia and posts the video on his vlog as a “sex-tape” to scandalize Lydia and the Bennet family. Though Lydia and her family are saved from social disgrace as Gigi is able to take down the video, unlike her fictional counterpart, Lydia goes through a traumatic phase and needs Lizzie’s moral support to get back to her normal life. This reveals the darker side of the cyber-world, wherein cyber-bullying is becoming a growing concern, destroying the lives of young women. To capture the essence of social network generation, Green and Su have selected a Transmedia production style. In a Transmedia adaptation, the story is told through different social networking sites. Along with the vlogs posted on YouTube and The Lizzie Bennet Diaries official website, this adaptation uses other social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Tumblr where the actors and actresses have accounts and are connected to the viewers. Therefore, the viewers have to follow their posts and vlogs to keep up with the story. Through their selection of production style and the character system, Green and Su wanted to capture the symbiotic relationship between society and technology. Though for Austen purists Green and Su’s adaptation is unfaithful to the source text, LBD’s commercial success and huge audience response suggest that it is well-received among the young generation as it transposes Austen into their context. A Tv Tropes reviewer says: “what was surprising was the exciting and devoted fan reaction: the show boasts close to 200,000 YouTube subscribers and its DVD release raised 500% of its goal on Kickstarter within just one week of its month-long fundraising drive.”54

IV. Conclusion In short, a cultural analysis of Bride and Prejudice, Lost in Austen and The Lizzie Bennet Diaries allows us to decode the different layers of social cultural, economic and political changes that each adaptation foregrounds. While adapting Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, each of the directors has taken the narrative idea from the source text and incorporated geographical, temporal and cultural transformations to fit the context of their respective audiences and commercial needs. If these adaptations are seen from the point of view of fidelity criticism they will lose their vitality, and the critics will miss the important points that these directors want their readers/viewers to acknowledge. However, an analysis through Bortolloti and Hutcheon’s cultural adaptation approach allows the readers/viewers to 54

Tvtropes, Paragraph 3.

Pride and Prejudice from Page to Vlog


discover the “why” and “how” behind the modifications to the original text, foregrounding the transformations in culture and history across time and space. Such a reading brings Austen adaptations out from the narrow moralistic jargon of faithfulness/unfaithfulness, fidelity/infidelity or bastardization and places them in a broader cultural space to make Austen’s narrative adapt to and thrive in the altering spatio-temporal and cultural environment of its readers, lending cultural validity, diversity and longevity to it. Echoing Roland Barthes, we can say that Austen is dead in these adaptations because of the violation of the main story. However, these adaptations lend Austen an afterlife where we can understand her in our context and discover the dynamism of a text that has successfully survived for centuries.


If we look at the annual Academy Awards since it began in 1929 we will find one conspicuous thing—more than three quarters of the Best Picture awards have gone to films which are adaptations of novels. Since time immemorial, written texts have captured the imaginations of its readers, but with the advent of cinema a fascinating world of dreams and illusions, a unique, dynamic, magical world came into being. Cinema has come a long way since the Lumiere Brothers opened their Cinematographe in Paris to 100 paying customers on December 8, 1895, where the audience was treated to a mesmerizing and intriguing experience of still photographs coming to life and moving across a flat screen. This experience has become so ordinary for us today that we can only but imagine the impact these moving images had on their first audience. But if we are to understand those images, we have also to understand the astonishing power of cinema, and how its hypnotic quality has made motion pictures the most stimulating art form of the present century. This paper will study the process of transforming literature into film, which is very interesting. It will attempt to elucidate what happens when a narrative is first expressed in words, and then told in the language of sound and moving pictures. A study of the adaptation process from novel to film offers an insight into the nature of expression through words and pictures, respectively. Actually, adaptation is not a new phenomenon at all as stories have always derived from other stories. Even the great Greek playwrights like Sophocles and Euripides based most of their plays on myths and stories that were already being told. In India too, mythologies have found their way into screen adaptations, be it film or television—

Striving for Grace: A Study of the Adaptation of Disgrace


stories from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata are the most popular. However, adaptation proper, when a literary work is rendered in a multimodal medium, is a relatively modern feature. It is often seen that film makers, and some very successful ones at that, decide to adapt literary texts instead of telling their own tales. Film making involves a lot of financial risk; therefore, if films are based on bestsellers there is a fair chance that the popularity of a novel will translate into popularity of a film, ensuring a blockbuster. Readers of the literary text will automatically be interested to see how the film turns out; and even if they are disappointed with the way the director has rendered it, it will at least hopefully not incur a disastrous financial loss. Adaptations may either show complete fidelity to the original work by being an accurate rendering, or else may be loosely based on the book. Whatever the case may be, the point to keep in mind is that an adaptation is always an interpretation, involving the film maker’s choices in retaining, excluding or adding elements to the original text. The film maker has to refashion the spirit of the story using his or her own vision and tools. Popular film is the result of applying the conventions of cinematography to the conventions of fiction. It is a given that the demands of the material by the conventions imposed on it by the art form or the expectations of the audience will necessarily give rise to differences between a novel and the movie based on it. There are some departures which are obvious and others which are difficult to perceive. Each genre also has its own tradition of presentation, adaptation and reception. Writing a film adaptation is itself a creative undertaking, and films that are adaptations are generally popular and successful. There is also the matter of prestige involved in a film’s close relationship to literature. The interrelation between fiction and film not only developed a cinematic imagination in novelists, but also added new dimensions to the modernist worldview. This interrelation finds expression through the works of modern littérateurs, some arguing that the two media are distinctive, while others believe that the two genres are parallel and analogous. However, the film genre is sometimes considered to be a lesser art form, a genre which is only fit for popular culture studies. But, it is also a fact that moving images have, in a very short time, become the central conveyors of narrative in our culture. Therefore, this medium tried to do away with being called light and superficial entertainment by associating itself with the more respectable medium of the written word. It is also a fact that the best story is often found within the pages of a novel or a short story, and this looks set to remain the case. It is of vital importance, therefore, that the novel and the film be studied and compared on an equal level,


Chapter Ten

irrespective of their semiotically different ways of expression. In the case of literary film adaptations, the two media can be seen as complementing each other. The relatively brief history of film and film making is often dwarfed by the approximately thousand-year history of manuscript culture, and the five-hundred-year history of printing press culture. Yet, its rapid development speaks of the fact that the genre has gained maturity because of the contributions from other art forms. In order to understand film adaptations, it is helpful to understand the way literary expression has informed, extended, shaped and limited it. Similarly, twentieth century literary expression, or the “cinematic novel,” reveals the influence of cinema at its cultural and stylistic levels, themes and motifs, and philosophical preoccupations. The relationship between fiction and film adaptation has been fraught with controversy since the early days of cinematography. The similarities and differences between the two media can be identified by studying the literature of various periods and comparing them with their film adaptations. It can be seen that there is a literary quality inherent in almost all cinema. The narrator guides us in our reading of a novel, and we understand the characters not only through their dialogue, but also through what they are thinking or what the narrator says about them. In the film, the narrator almost disappears, sometimes making their presence felt through voice overs, and film makers have to reproduce what was initially thought, felt and described in words. One thing common to most art forms is narrative, which constitutes impulse and meaning. Another commonality is the semiotics underlying both media, which sends out clues for interpretation. The various interpretations also provide the ground for working out the dynamics of the relationship of the viewer with the text. A narrative, in simple terms, is basically a story, whether in prose or verse, which involves incidents and characters, and what the characters say and do. The novel and film have narrative in common in the recounting of a sequence of events. A narrative is usually told in the first, second or third person. It is a semiotic representation of a series of events connected to a temporal world. Narratology, or the study of narrative, treats “a narrative not in the traditional way, as a fictional representation of life, but as a systematic formal construction.” Structuralists and narratologists try to analyze the way in which a “narrative discourse fashions a ‘story’—the mere sequence of events in time—into the organized structure of a literary plot.”1 1

Abrams, 124.

Striving for Grace: A Study of the Adaptation of Disgrace


Novelists use various narrative strategies to arrest the reader’s attention, and in the opinion of Mark Currie: … Narrative is central to the representation of identity, in personal memory and self-representation or in the collective identity of groups such as regions, nations, race and gender … Narrative is as inescapable as language in general, or as cause and effect, as a mode of thinking and being.2

There might even be different levels of narration, in the sense that there might be narration of a story as well as narration within a story. Lockwood in Wuthering Heights narrates the story of Heathcliff and Catherine, but he is also a character in it. The postmodern novel displays a flexibility of narrative manipulation and the multiplicity of interpretation, which are central to postmodernist thought. Like a novel, a narrative film is actually a narrative fiction, which is controlled by a narrative voice that lets the viewers see what it wishes. Showing and telling are much more powerful than simply reading. Like a novel, a film may also have leaps in time and space—sometimes the events happen in a day, sometimes they span centuries. The French critic Jean Mitry says that: “a novel is a narrative that organizes itself into a world, a film is a world that organizes itself into a narrative.”3 A good novelist writes scenes which became memorable, as a visual imagination is used for verbal descriptions, just as a filmmaker uses a camera lens to select, highlight, distort and enhance. Geoffrey Wagner divided film adaptations into three “modes”: the transposition, in which a novel is literally transferred on the screen with minimum changes; the commentary, where an original story is either purposely or inadvertently altered in some respect; and the analogy, which must depict a marked departure in order to make another work of art.4 Sometimes, viewers feel betrayed when they see that the film is not a literal transcription, but as Joy Gould Boyum argues: A film might be faithful to its source, to the extent that its implicit reading remained within the confines of that work’s interpretative possibilities, to the extent that it neither violated nor diminished them.5

2 3 4 5

Currie, 2. qtd. in Mandal, 259- 260. Ibid., 259. Ibid., 260.

Chapter Ten


However, it needs to be kept in mind that a good film never gives explanations and never makes overt statements. The onus is on the audience to make meaning out of the cinematic experience. This paper will study J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace (2000) and its film adaptation by director Steve Jacobs (2008), examining how visual images can stimulate our perceptions directly, whereas written words can only do so indirectly. The film provides a more direct sensory experience with the use of colour, movement and sound along with verbal language. For the discerning reader, Disgrace disturbs. Kochin says it is a “highly disturbing novel” because, “it seems to present a world dying without hope.”6 The novel can be read as a political text dealing with the difficulties confronting the white community living in post-Apartheid South Africa and some of the choices available to them, along with the challenges that they have to face. Readers will become aware of the linkage between historical events and their fictional reprisal in the works of Coetzee. Cooper states that Disgrace paints “an anxious, comfortless picture of post-apartheid South Africa.”7 It is the story of David Lurie, a professor teaching Romantic poetry at the Technical University of Cape Town, South Africa. The first sentence of the novel gives no inkling about the grim and terribly dark events that are to unfold: For a man of his age, fifty-two, divorced, he has, to his mind, solved the problem of sex rather well.8

David has no idea how big a problem sex is about to become for him. When the book begins, we see that David derives his sexual satisfaction from weekly visits to a prostitute he knows as Soraya, but the whole arrangement soon falls apart due to a little indiscretion. However, this is unacceptable to him, and the alternatives do not leave him in a good state, so much so that he even thinks of castrating himself. David employs a private detective to track down Soraya, but backs off when she makes it clear that she wants nothing to do with him. The problem is that all the alternatives showed a lot of passion, and lacking passion himself he finds it distasteful in his partner. What David wants is domination in a relationship, not mutuality, and the conquest of women is flattering to his vanity. That is why he embarks on an impulsive affair with a young student, Melanie Issacs. The relationship has overtones of rape; this young, 6 7 8

Kochin, 9. Cooper, 22. Coetzee, 1.

Striving for Grace: A Study of the Adaptation of Disgrace


vulnerable, attractive girl, confused about what she wants, gives in to her prurient professor’s inappropriate advances and remains passive throughout the act. But the affair soon sours, and as his ex-wife Rosalind says, it is the story of his life, a failed compatibility with the woman he is with. The cost of failure is not divorce this time, but disgrace. David is denounced, charged with sexual harassment and summoned to appear before a committee of inquiry instituted by the University. David is willing to admit his guilt, but refuses to yield to pressure to repent publicly. In his own words, he was “possessed” and “became a servant of the god Eros,” and therefore chooses not to defend himself, saying: “… I make no confession. I put forward a plea, as is my right. Guilty as charged. That is my plea. That is as far as I am prepared to go.”9 David is not ready to go along with the charade of the university and render an insincere apology; therefore, he resigns from his job and retreats to his daughter Lucy’s isolated smallholding in the Eastern Cape. The situation is such that David is in disgrace, gossiped about, ostracized and, like the chamber opera on Byron he is writing, in which Byron flees overseas, David too seeks refuge with his daughter on her farm. For a while, his daughter’s simple life and the simple pleasures of existence, her calming influence and the natural rhythms of the farm, hold an assurance of harmonizing his discordant life. But an even greater disgrace is about to unfold, and what David had seen as a refuge becomes a nightmare. The balance of power is shifting in the country, and history soon catches up with him in that David and Lucy become victims of a savage and disturbing attack which brings the fault lines of their relationship into focus. Lucy is raped by three black Africans, and David is brutally beaten up and set on fire, leading to the loss of his hair; the house is ransacked, the dogs are shot and David’s car is stolen. As Michael S. Kochin says: The world outside the university is represented in Disgrace by postapartheid South Africa in all of her brutal violence and the economic squalor that the violence leaves in its wake.10

Lucy later describes that the violation of her private space was not about sex at all—it was not an act of “slavery,” but of “subjection” and “subjugation.”11 She also chooses not to report the rape to the police, limiting the incident only to the attack on her father and the loss of 9

Coetzee, 51. Kochin, 5. 11 Coetzee, 159. 10

Chapter Ten


property. She is determined to stay on in her isolated patch of land, even though her father pleads with her to leave the place. David sees this decision as a mistake, but Lucy sees it as something else: They (the three men) see me as owing something. They see themselves as debt collectors, tax collectors. Why should I be allowed to live here without paying? Perhaps that is what they tell themselves.12

Lucy sees her rape as paying for the sins of not only the fathers, but also her own father, whose seduction of Melanie was also a kind of rape, as it had an element of coercion. The anger from a history of oppression and violence cannot be controlled, and the consequences will definitely be felt. She withdraws into a terrible silence and totally rejects her father’s advice to bring the perpetrators of the crime, at least one of whom is clearly identified, to justice. Lucy is of the opinion that the authorities are in no way equipped to deal with what happened to her in this modern South Africa. And David, faced with Lucy’s entirely new stance, finds himself in a deeply compromising situation because he is acutely aware that he was a near-rapist himself, however much he tries to aestheticize his passions. We also see how the injustice of disgrace falls on the victim rather than her male rapists: She would rather hide her face … Because of the disgrace. Because of the shame. That is what their visitors have achieved … Not her story to spread, but theirs: they are its owners. How they put her in her place, how they showed her what a woman was for.13

The change in the power dynamics can be seen when Petrus, Lucy’s farmhand and a possible suspect in the savage attack, asserts his independence, getting his own plot of land with Lucy only able to survive on his bounty. The settlement reached at the end of the novel between Lucy and Petrus is disconcerting. There is proof that Petrus had a hand in the attack on the farm, with one of his relatives being a rapist, but Petrus uses Lucy’s vulnerability to make a move on her property. We should also not forget that Lucy, a lesbian, ultimately pregnant with a black man’s child, refuses an abortion, makes peace with her situation and agrees to become a part of Petrus’s polygamous household in order to not be defeated and driven off the land. It is a world in violent transition, and Lucy’s decision may be seen as: 12 13

Ibid.,158. Ibid., 115.

Striving for Grace: A Study of the Adaptation of Disgrace


… Representing the extreme case in the working out of what it might mean for a white person to take on an African identity … Furthermore, Coetzee’s reprisal of the postcolonial trope of the expectant mother-of-the-nation makes the nation (if such this is) the producer of a bitter, and ambiguous legacy.14

What does David do now to redeem himself? He realizes that his purpose in life is not about writing a famous opera on Byron, nor is it about becoming an animal rights activist, but lies in the humble task of disposing of dead dogs with dignity. The Animal Welfare clinic run by Lucy’s friend Bev Shaw and her husband Bill is the final refuge for discarded animals, and David assists Bev in the euthanasia of the dogs. He also embarks on a desultory affair with the unattractive Bev, even though he had commented earlier that he was “out of the way of temptation”15 in Grahamstown. In her clinic, Bev, “the priestess of dignified animal death,” as Kochin says, “teaches Lurie to give suffering animals the last grace of a painless death.”16 One of the greatest transformations that we see in David in the novel is in his attitude towards animals. For a person who hated the smell of animals, liking them only because he eats them, we see how assisting in the treatment and euthanasia of animals changes his perspective. This is not just an act of charity; rather, it seems that David feels it is ethically right to put these diseased, unwanted animals out of their misery. At the end of the novel we find David holed up in Grahamstown, awaiting the birth of his grandchild, as he has come to accept Lucy’s decision. He also helps Bev in a work where there is no place for routine or habit. This is a work which the more they do, the harder it gets. But David is at peace. He: finds meaningful work, reaches acceptance, and so achieves a measure of tranquility, if not the higher serenity … Leaving the path of pleasure for that of joy, he moves from disgrace toward grace, from the loss of social position and reputation to an individual, secular salvation.17

According to David Attwell:


Attwell, 866. Coetzee, 148. 16 Kochin, 5. 17 Sarvan, 29. 15

Chapter Ten


There is no redeeming consciousness in the humanity depicted in the novel; therefore, if grace is available at all, it will lie in simple acts of love that will enable the world’s creatures to die graciously.18

Reading the book, there is an overwhelming feeling of lingering menace and the movie version captures this just right. Although the rape is discreetly handled, there is a great deal of unpleasantness, which at times is suffocating. It is a disturbing tale of troubled people in troubled times, a father and daughter trying to find their place amid the new realities of post-apartheid South Africa. Disgrace was adapted for the screen by Anna Maria Monticelli and the film premiered at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival with her husband Steve Jacobs as the director. In the movie, the director captures with great dexterity the white dilemma in South Africa combined with breathtakingly beautiful shots of its countryside. While a film can offer the excitement of sensory pleasure, it is limited by the constraints of time, which is not the case for a novel. Meaning in a novel is controlled by the author, but a film is the collaborative effort of a lot of people. Although it is often said that good novels make bad films, it is seen that the film adaptation of Disgrace follows the bones of the novel in a meticulously faithful way. The story traces the life of a disgraced poetry professor of an unnamed university in Cape Town who goes to stay with his daughter on her remote farmstead and is soon compelled to face an even greater disgrace than his own. The film manages to faithfully portray the life of the whites living in post-apartheid South Africa and has at its centre two great performances by John Malkovich (David Lurie) and the South African actress Jessica Haines (Lucy Lurie). The novel deals with a host of issues ranging from desire, politics, the distribution of wealth, abuse of power and racism, and the film tries to collate all these issues with Lucy being portrayed as the embodiment of hope in a complex society, sharing what she has in order to move forward. Crime in South Africa remains a massive problem, but Monticelli, after much research, believes that it can be resolved with “tolerance, forgiveness and courage.”19 The book begins with a graphic description of David’s visit to Soraya, but in the film’s first scene we see David’s eyes gazing through a Venetian blind and telling a woman that he is worried about his daughter. There is then a scene with Soraya, but the accidental encounter with her which led to the arrangement breaking off is completely done away with. Also, the 18 19

Attwell, 867. Richey.

Striving for Grace: A Study of the Adaptation of Disgrace


fact that Melanie’s father invites David over for dinner at their house does not find a place in the film. Another important difference is that Melanie Issacs is a mixed-race student in the film, whereas there is no mention whatsoever in the novel of her colour or race. David’s seduction of Melanie initiates the first phase of his appalling personal downfall. According to Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian: Liberal academic males of a certain age defy the approaching chill of death and professional obsolescence, clinging fiercely to their passionate rapture for women’s bodies and a refusal to concede culpability in the face of political correctness.20

The film follows the book in the way Lurie contemptuously refuses to cooperate with the university disciplinary committee and is forced to resign from his well-paying job and retreat to his daughter’s farm, where the two of them initially experience some harmony and Lurie finds peace with himself. But the country’s winds of change are felt in a devastating way when Lucy is brutally raped by three black Africans and David is locked in the lavatory and set on fire with methylated spirits. The director builds the suspense leading to Lucy’s rape and David’s torture so brilliantly that one is left almost with a feeling of claustrophobia as the happy family moment gives way to an incident of terrifying proportions. According to Bradshaw: “It is a story of almost transcendental humiliation—it could be called biblical, except that unlike Job, Lurie has no God to confront.”21 The graphic descriptions of diseased animals have been retained in the film, with one omission—in the novel, the crew at the incinerator beats the rigor mortis affected corpses of the dogs with shovels so that they can be disposed off properly. The fully grown buck, savaged by dogs, with a scrotum wound alive with white grubs waving their blind heads in the air while Bev ministers to it in her clinic is vividly depicted. The poignancy of the scene where Bev invites David to seduce her and they make love on the floor of the clinic, even though he never dreamed that he would sleep with her, is retained in the film with a beautiful performance by the Australian actress Fiona Press. In the novel we can feel the palpable rift that grows between David and Lucy after the sexual assault. However, in the film we can actually see the growing tension and distance that David’s inability to protect his daughter from the intruders has brought about. This is conveyed through Lucy’s 20 21

Bradshaw. Ibid.


Chapter Ten

actions and behaviour, and the way she responds to his pleading suggestion that she should go to her mother in Holland, leaving behind post-apartheid violence in South Africa. The film foregrounds many of the problems and struggles faced by whites in the new South Africa, ranging from post-apartheid revenge to land reclamation. Violence in the novel is left as an open-ended discourse because the audience is left to question what is defined as violence and how we should respond to different types of violent acts. Is the “highly unequal relationship,”22 as Peter Bradshaw calls it, of David with Melanie Issacs violent, or is the attack on Lucy more violent? The fact that not all violence in contemporary South Africa is directly related to race can be seen in the massive slaughter of a large number of dogs. In the book as well as the film we see how there is a generation gap between the thinking of the old and young, as David believes that racial segregation is necessary to maintain order. David jumps up from his sleep on the couch when he sees Petrus coolly come in, seating himself on an equal level on the couch and making himself at home, watching TV. On asking Lucy he is left amazed at the way she replies that to keep a hold on her property in an increasingly unstable environment, negotiation over violence is necessary, giving rise to the cordial, almost filial relationship she maintains with the blacks, even though Petrus seems to be implicated in the attack on her. This can be envisaged when she tries to reconcile her father to the reality of their situation by saying “Wake up, David. This is the country. This is Africa.”23 The scene where David spies Pollux, one of Lucy’s rapists and also Petrus’s nephew, deriving voyeuristic pleasure from watching Lucy bathe is very powerful in revealing the “elemental rage” that David feels. He strikes the boy hard and “phrases that all his life he has avoided seeming suddenly just and right: Teach him a lesson, Show him his place. So this is what it is like, he thinks! This is what it is like to be a savage.” The nephew responds by trampling on Lucy’s potato beds and shouting that they will “kill them all.”24 In the film, this scene manages to portray very well the disgust that David feels for the boy, and how he cannot fathom the protection that Lucy offers him in spite of everything. Hatred, anger, pique, care, sympathy, frustration and lust are all part of the narrative, and the characters are embroiled in this bubbling cauldron of emotions. David cannot understand his daughter’s way of seeing things but is bound to take


Ibid. Coetzee, 124. 24 Ibid., 206–207. 23

Striving for Grace: A Study of the Adaptation of Disgrace


directions and guidance from her, the child literally becoming the father of the man. The landscape also plays an important role in shaping the characters in the film and helps in visually enhancing the issues that the novel deals with, thus becoming a character itself. The numerous shots of the vast swathes of amazingly beautiful, yet uncannily isolated countryside give David the impression that Lucy is alienated and therefore at risk of being robbed or raped. For the stubborn Lucy, however, it is a different situation altogether; it is a place where she is part of a larger community of farmers, living their lives in mutual helpfulness, the peaceful environment having positive effects on their lives. The images of the rugged terrain underscore the pull of the land in a way not possible in the novel. This is the biggest advantage of the film over the novel, as the bleakly picturesque shots of the farm and its surrounding areas seem to partially justify Lucy’s powerful love of the land. David returns to the city to find his house ransacked, no doubt a consequence of the Melanie affair, and even though Lucy is not willing to let him live on the farm, he soon returns to be with his daughter, who is expecting a child. Father and daughter now try to find a middle ground between his apartheid-era way of dealing with problems and Lucy’s postapartheid way of sharing what she has with respect to the community she lives in. The director Steve Jacobs captures the splendour and raw beauty of the South African cities as well as the countryside, along with drawing convincing performances from his actors. The heightened emotions of the characters can be internalized when we watch the film, which may not be very well understood when we read the text. The vision of violence and forgiveness that the film portrays has the power to provoke and also divide audiences. The novel ends with David giving a fatal injection to the stray dog that has become his companion and that he has come to love, surrendering his attachment to it; a despairing, miserable end. The film, however, although it includes this scene, has a different ending with David visiting a pregnant Lucy at her farm and then walking into the distance, the long road to hope, a new start; a more positive conclusion, possibly keeping in view the common fact that audiences do not like downbeat endings. In the words of Anna Monticelli: I love the ending in the book, but I don’t think it is right for a cinematic experience. The film is about Africa and not just the relationship of David

Chapter Ten


Lurie and the dog. I felt that was too existential for the canvas that we wanted the film to be.25

Watching the movie, one feels that to compress a host of issues, including political correctness, crime and rape, sex and exploitation and animal treatment into one compact, unified narrative and to capture ideas about South Africa in transition without bitterness, showing that there are no short-term solutions to the damage wrought by long decades of oppression, in less than two hours is no mean task. The director has done a credible job, no doubt helped by the intensely gripping plot of the novel. As for Coetzee, the author, the only remark that he had to make about the film was that Steve Jacobs had done a beautiful job in “integrating the story into the grand landscape of South Africa.”26 Films and literature are both products of culture and the producers of culture. Although there are some discreet differences between the book and its film adaptation, it should be kept in mind that a direct translation from literature to film is not possible because of the obvious change in dimension and the techniques of the two media. The legacy of the written word is of course unbeatable, but the legacy of the film genre definitely has its means of compensation; therefore, as mentioned earlier, these two forms of expression can be seen as complementing each other, particularly in the case of literary film adaptation. Another positive aspect of adapting a novel for film is that it sometimes stimulates the reading of the novel itself, thus generating a great demand for the book. The subtle, multi-layered story of Disgrace manages to captivate readers and audiences alike by virtue of the sheer beauty of its pure and lyrical prose and the grandeur of its cinematography. It manages to convince readers and viewers that although the appalling violence in the text may seem worlds away to us, it nonetheless remains a fact of life for some South Africans who may have to face situations akin to David’s and Lucy’s, and who may have to make decisions by listening not only to their hearts but also to their heads.

25 26

Romei. Tait.


During the twentieth century, Shakespearean text and the theatre shared a symbiotic relationship. Amidst the Shakespearean texts, parallel enterprises of theatrical adaptations gained recognition and approval. Yet in the nineteenth century, such negotiations were unheard of. The printed Shakespeare was sacrosanct and open to contemporary criticism and approaches (the Romantic criticism), some popular examples being Charles Lamb’s comments on Malvolio in Twelfth Night (1823) or Thomas De Quincey’s On Knocking at the Gate in Macbeth (1823) (since then, the oeuvre of Shakespeare scholarship has increased in size at an amazing speed and with great variety). Yet, Shakespeare productions on stage were hardly recognizable during these two centuries. Now that the theatre has become a part of high culture (distinct from the popular Elizabethan shows), theatrical productions, as Graham Holderness would say, present no impediment to the assimilation of a Shakespeare recognizable to literary criticism.1 In so far as cinema is concerned, literary criticism is reluctant to come to terms with it for fear of a “filmed Shakespeare” having a harmful effect on literature. Terms such as “mass media,” “lowest common denominator” and associations with commercial exploitation or crude populism made the critics (such as Denys Thompson and F. R. Leavis) build arguments against the acceptance of media production as a culture. The academy deeply mistrusted cinema, with its objective to please a mass audience. As Robert Shaughnessy puts it: 1

Holderness, x.

Chapter Eleven


Although a wide variety of cinematic versions, treatments, adaptations of, and borrowings from Shakespeare’s plays have been a part of the film industry’s stock-in-trade from its earliest days … the belief that there may be a fundamental and irreconcilable antipathy between film (good or bad) and Shakespeare has persisted.2

As a result, Shakespearean films as an educational resource were, until recently, never recognized. The same reasoning would dissuade scholars at home (India) to embark upon projects which pursue Shakespearean appropriation in films, especially commercial ones in Bollywood. Notwithstanding the fact that there are acknowledged masterpieces of cinematic Shakespeare in the world—Olivier’s Henry V, Kurosawa’s Macbeth (Throne of Blood), Orson Welles’ Othello, Kozintsev’s King Lear—the moment it comes to experimentation in terms of cultural displacement, organic unity, logic and theme, cinema ceases to be a representative of high culture. Such productions, although abundant in the last quarter of the twentieth century, are looked upon as materials providing alternative approaches to Shakespeare. The fact remains that only authentic text editions are recommended to the students. Any other enterprise (at least to an academician) is a thing for the less intelligent masses. Such attempts to discover Shakespearean ingredients in Bollywood cinema are not profitable tasks in academic circles. Bollywood productions like Omkara (2006) and Maqbool (2004) dish out a palatable Shakespeare for the Indian groundlings with all the masala (stuff) typical of Indian cinema. Moreover, they are laced with all the accommodating spirit that academic circles allow today. Omkara and Maqbool would never be part of a scholarly world unless they were for specific inquiry, reminding us of Holderness observation that, in the cinema and on television, the plays enter a dimension of potential contamination by exposure to the limited intelligibility threshold of the average spectator, who is likely to confuse Vishal Bhardwaj’s Omkara with Shakespeare’s “true original copie”. However, there is a reason behind the apparent simplification and acculturation of Shakespeare’s texts. The modern spectator and reader has a different taste and understanding, far removed from the Renaissance audience who loved fleeting glimpses of social issues, rather than deep insight into individual complexities. Times have changed, and so have the issues and audience. Shakespeare is no longer circumscribed in Avon or beside the Thames—Shakespeare is a global phenomenon with a universal appeal. There is, in fact, almost a 2

Ibid., xi.

Adaptation and Demystification


frantic effort to acculturate the playwright in every culture and province. Shakespeare has ceased to be English and so have his ideas. Adaptation and appropriation are symptomatic of the Shakespeare mania in the East, so much so that there is an Indianization of the plays in the reflections of the originals in popular cinema as already talked about, alongside the assimilation of the basic Shakespeare structures and plots in Bollywood productions, for example Qayamat se Qayamat Tak (1988) directed by Naseer Hussain, which is a virtual remake of Romeo and Juliet. A classic pair of lovers and warring families traces their roots back to Romeo and Juliet as well as floating legends of India and Pakistan like Heer Ranjha, Sassi Punmun and Sohni Mahiwal. However, the absence of avenues to spread the word about these regional love stories suggests that under all practical circumstances, the story of star-crossed lovers and their subsequent deaths is a Shakespearean inspiration, with which even the least academic laymen are familiar with, surprisingly. This brings us to a very interesting and pertinent observation by Holderness, who has a powerful conviction that: Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is a simple, identifiable cultural artifact. We also feel at the same time that it is (paradoxically) complex enough to contain all this imaginative, critical and interpretative activity, some of which seems so varied and free-ranging as to throw the play’s uniform identity into question. But from a common sense point of view we assume the presence of a straightforward narrative and dramatic construction, which remains always in any of its manifestations “Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.” After all, the play’s basic “story” seems both simple and unconnected to specific circumstances, of time and place and history.3

It is because of the disconnectedness of the play to a specific time and place that the basic story becomes a staple and archetypal ingredient in the hands of the film makers who uproot the Juliet and the Romeo from Verona to transplant them in the northern or southern states of India, but in a typically cut-paste-copy form of plagiarism, which makes thoughtful audiences/spectators squirm in their seats. A departure from such crude imitation is Deepa Mehta’s Water (2005), a Canadian production with a Bollywood cast which not only considerably reconstructs Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, but also deconstructs it by shifting the perspective and focusing on the Indian Juliet and her travails rather than upholding Romeo’s chivalry and family issues. The transcreation in the celluloid is alarming to the point of being berserk. 3

Ibid., 151–152.

Chapter Eleven


Mehta freely deconstructs and reinvents the staple Romeo and Juliet plot. She conveniently shifts the setting of Romeo and Juliet (second quarto) from 1599 Verona to 1938 Varanasi in colonial India, eschewing the family feud between the Montagues and the Capulets, supplanting it with socio-cultural constraints inhibiting the freedom of women (typical of Indian society). Such is the transformation that Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet becomes a distant refrain in the whole movie—a substructure upon which Mehta builds her own superstructure beyond recognition. In a way (and as mentioned earlier), Water is about women from a woman’s gaze. This helps Mehta to question the sustaining metanarratives of Indian culture. Such a film (to borrow De Lauretis’ comments on her work, Technologies of Gender): Besides being a rereading of our culture’s master-narratives, is also a “radical rewriting” of them, and that such rewriting inscribes the presence of a different and gendered social subject.4

In this context, Mehta’s objective is clear; the archetypal love story of the unfortunate lovers becomes subsumed under the powerful crusade against the oppressive institutions (read—patriarchy) existing in the contemporary Indian society. Such cinema may be called “women’s cinema.” Sohini Chaudhuri defines this kind of cinema in a number of ways: “as films by women, made for women, or dealing with women, or all of these combined.”5 Water addresses a specific social problem that was glaring and topical in the India of 1938. Mehta’s Juliet is Kalyani, who restrains within herself a cascade of emotions and exuberance which she never lets go in the hostile environment of the vidwhaashram (widow's home). Mehta deliberately eschews the warring families, and Kalyani does not therefore have the Capulets to restrain her; it is instead substituted by sociocultural restraints which circumscribe her liberties. When the film begins with Chuia’s bangles being broken, the scene is silhouetted against the flames of her husband’s funeral pyre. Mehta’s intentions are clear—here is a Bollywood filmmaker who is going to tell us the story of women from a woman’s point of view. The critic may be baffled even before they begin the inquiry—where do they place Shakespeare in the wilderness of colonial India in 1938? This brings us to a significant debate regarding literary production. Does a deconstructive approach destroy the original text and its essence? 4 5

Chaudhuri, 62. Ibid. 68.

Adaptation and Demystification


Or is it a malleable tool which appropriate and meaningful interpretations in specific contexts and cultures can be added to? Baudrillard offers an apocalyptic characterization of the postmodern in the construction of the real, as the film is said to mark the destruction of reality. His famous account of four successive phases of the image lays out the trajectory of his own disaster movie scenario. In the first, the image performs its traditional mimetic function (and operates as the reflection of the basic reality). The second phase refers to a Marxist conception of mass culture as that which covers over the material conditions of production. The image has an ideological function in that it masks and perverts the basic reality. Baudrillard (quoted in Constable) argues that the decisive break occurs in the third phase, in which the image is said to mask: … The absence of a basic reality. The annihilation of the real is laid bare in the fourth phase, where the image bears no relation to any reality whatever: it is its own pure simulacrum.6

Following Baudrillard, if one supposes Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to be the real text, then Mehta’s image, Water, not only masks and perverts the basic reality, but often breaks so decisively from it that the image often bears no relation to any reality. However, this in no way should let one presuppose the absence of a text or multiple texts underlying the image. This paper attempts to locate and identify the points of adherence and more decisively points of departure of the image from the text. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet lays its scene in “fair Verona,” a city in Italy, foreign to English culture and manners. Italy serves as a source of many Shakespearean plots, and thus he did not want the play to essentially be a reflection of native customs and manners. As Dympna Callaghan says: “In Shakespeare’s plays Italy serves both as a foreign place, a reference point for a sophisticated yet alien culture and as a literary source for many of the plots.”7 Although for some Italian literature was a corrupting influence, it opened up multiple avenues to the play’s interpretation. When Mehta chooses to set her film in India, she also chooses an alien culture completely different from that depicted in the original play. The corruption that Mehta brings to her image is something which even Shakespeare had practiced while appropriating Romeo and Juliet from Luigi da Porto’s novella Historia novellamente ritrovata di due nobili amanti or “The Recovered Story of two Noble Lovers,” first published in 6 7

Constable, 44. Callaghan, 155.


Chapter Eleven

Venice in 1530, in which the author refers to a jovial or jocund ending, implying not the lovers' suicide but the families’ reconciliation. It is to be noted that iterability (that is, to the extent that the story is recyclable), rather than originality, is the prized quality in a Renaissance story line. It is exactly this quality which makes the story of Romeo and Juliet a staple ingredient for many Western authors, e.g William Painter’s Rhomeo and Julietta, Arthur Brookes’ (d. 1563) long poem, The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet, or French versions like Matteo Bandello’s Romeo e Guilietta (1554). Again, it is this appealing quality that goes into the making of Indian films like Qayamat se Qayamat Tak. In a similar manner, Water draws its inspiration from the seminal story, but chooses to see it from a local Indian woman’s angle. As the child widow Chuia reaches the interior of the vidwhaashram (widow's home), she realizes that she is in a prison, surrounded by shaven headed ladies of various ages who are united in sharing a life of deprivation and denial. Mehta provides the rationale behind the Hindu shaven headed widows, citing the Laws of Manu: A widow should be long suffering until death, self-restrained and chaste. A virtuous wife who remains chaste when her husband has died goes to heaven. A woman who is unfaithful to her husband is reborn in the womb of a jackal.8

Not only is this a world alien to Western sophistication, but also a world unknown to an audience watching Bollywood movies in the twentieth century, having read about such inhuman practices only in detailed history books and government documents. Mehta starts unravelling the story of Kalyani through the eyes of Chuia, a new widow in the fold. The resistance provided by the Capulet father (patriarch) in the case of Juliet is substituted by the Madhumati (matriarch), who is a smaller and a localized form of a larger and abstract form of patriarchal authority. The chase for Chuia within the Ashram premises, right at the beginning, provides a discourse of defiance and resistance to this matriarchal authority. However, Mehta does not see her Juliet in Chuia, although she could well have done given that Shakespeare’s heroine was of a tender age. In fact, she is not even of a marriageable age, as the drama mentions:


Chapter 5, verse 156–161 from Dharam shashtras (rough translation of the sacred Hindu texts).

Adaptation and Demystification


Capulet … My child is yet a stranger in the world; She hath not seen the change of fourteen years, Let two more summers wither in their pride, Ere we may think her ripe to be a bride.9

Paradoxically, at a tender age, Chuia is not only married but widowed too. Mehta, on the contrary, decides to make Chuia a catalyst to build upon the story of Kalyani and Narayan. In Kalyani we find echoes of Shakespeare’s Juliet, a beautiful, fragile, hazel eyed beauty who is truly too gentle to tolerate Madhumati’s exploitation. Mehta’s Kalyani shares that beauty with which Romeo describes and addresses Juliet: Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon, Who is already sick and pale with grief, That thou her maid art far more fair than she.10

Again, Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven, Having some business, do entreat her eyes To twinkle in their spheres till they return. What if her eyes were there, they in her head? The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars, As daylight doth a lamp;11

Just as Romeo longs to become a glove upon Juliet’s hand and touch that cheek, Narayan stands under the balcony pining and yearning for the love of Kalyani. However, Kalyani has something in her face to tell the audience about the still, sad music of humanity. She is God-fearing, paying her obeisance to the Hindu god, Krishna, with her uninhibited love for children and animals. Unlike Juliet, her life is one of hardship and denial. Madhumati wields the same domination over Kalyani as lady Capulet does over Juliet: Well, think of marriage now; younger than you, Here in Verona, ladies of esteem, Are made already mothers: by my count, I was your mother much upon these years That you are now a maid.12 9

Romeo and Juliet, Act I, Scene i. Ibid., Act II, Scene ii. 11 Ibid. 10

Chapter Eleven


Kalyani’s (a Hindu widow) desire to marry Narayan and her venture to move out of the clan carries the same dangerous implications as Juliet’s desire to marry Romeo and thus belong to an enemy clan. Therefore, an important theme in both the text and the film is freedom in love—whether individuals have the freedom to marry (or remarry) and choose their life partners or whether they ought to submit to the choices made for them by their social superiors. In the case of Romeo and Juliet, such a theme is pertinent because (as Callaghan elucidates): The choice of a marriage partner became increasingly controversial throughout the course of the sixteenth century, primarily as a consequence of the Reformation Protestant reform in relation to marriage which was in part a reaction to the hypocrisy of the medieval Catholic Church, which, while it formally asserted that a monastic life devoted to God was the highest form of existence, in practice permitted morally dissolute behavior by an ostensibly celibate clergy. Thus, marriage became a newly respected condition in the protestant religion, and married chastity and not sexual abstinence, was now espoused as the highest virtue and a model of a godly life. The success of these new ideals, however, required that marriage partners take their vows of their own free will and not because of parental pressure or social coercion.13

However, when it came to the real implementation of such laws for women, this was far from the truth. Again, after Callaghan: No puritan was likely to uphold the right of his child to marry a Catholic, for example. Further, orthodox Elizabethan political and religious ideology held that the family was the microcosm of the state. This meant that if it was permissible to disobey fathers in the domestic realm over the matter of choosing a spouse, then, by analogy, the way was open for sweeping changes in the structure of political authority. In effect, legitimizing a child’s right to choose a spouse over the duty to obey a parent was, when taken to its fullest extreme, akin to endorsing treason.14

Romeo and Juliet’s marriage is controversial because it is clandestine and therefore covert, secret, furtive, unauthorized and illicit. In another principal source of the play, Arthur Brookes’ Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet (1562), the highlighted idea associated with marriage was not love, but controversy, scandal and shame. Therefore Romeo and Juliet have nobody to blame but themselves for their deaths, because it is a 12

Ibid., Act I, Scene iii. Callaghan, 245. 14 Ibid., 246. 13

Adaptation and Demystification


transgressive act that violates social convention. Incidentally, it was not until Hardwicke’s Marriage Act of 1754 that the procedure of marriage was formalized in England and for the Elizabethan, as Sasha Roberts says: Elite marriage was marked by a protracted series of public rituals and social transactions—generally encompassing betrothal (a formal commitment to marry), a public announcement of the intended marriage in church on three separate occasions … a publicly witnessed wedding, church blessing, family celebrations and finally the bedding ceremony in which the marriage was consummated.15

Although Romeo and Juliet’s marriage was in theory legally binding, it disregards this long accepted social practice. Mehta precisely takes up this theme of transgression of social practices through the act of attempted remarriage by a widow (Kalyani) in the Indian context, where such attempts were threatening to the order. Although the Hindu Widows Remarriage Act came into operation in1856 and the processes to make it legally effective had started well before in 1837, the widows (including Kalyani) presented in Water are carefully kept in ignorance. When the Indian Law Commissioners, by their letter dated June 30, 1837, sought the opinions of the Sudder courts in Calcutta, Allahabad, Madras and Bombay as to whether there would any objections to a law authorizing the remarriage of Hindu widows, the Calcutta Sudder court had no hesitation in stating that such a law could not be passed without open violation of the pledged faith in government (like that of the Elizabethan marriage practices). The court felt that: The Hindus did not regard marriage as a mere civil contract, and in all its stages, from the betrothal in infancy to its final consummation, the ceremonies consisted of a series of observances altogether religious; and it was distinctly clear by their shashtras, and universally believed by them, that the remarriage of a widow involved guilt and disgrace on earth and exclusion from heaven.16

As such personal choices had far-flung repercussions in the Elizabethan world, they were likely to have similar effects in India, which was at the threshold of transition. The Madras Sudder and Fuajdaree courts followed the suit on the grounds that: “The Hindus of the regenerate classes would

15 16

Roberts, 15. Law Commission of India: Eighty First Report, 15.


Chapter Eleven

look upon such a measure as an attempt to confound them with the inferior and outcast tribes ….”17 It is against this Historical background that Mehta pits the relationship of Kalyani and Narayan, scion of a wealthy upper class zamindar who sexually exploits helpless girls, especially young widows like Kalyani. Although the clouds of disaster loom large over the lovers, the usual Shakespearean touches of romance and lyricism are absolutely present in the otherwise grim and disturbing film, which reveals the ugly truths of life. Take, for example, the character of Narayan, who shows the classic traits of melancholy as he speaks to Ravinder, his friend, about his love sickness for Juliet much in the same manner as Romeo divulges his love for Rosalind, and later for Juliet: Alas, that love, whose view is muffled still, Should, without eyes, see pathways to his will!18

Keeping in mind that, for a learned Indian, Romeo and Juliet as a legendary pair of lovers are as common as Heer and Ranjha or Sohni and Mahiwal, Ravinder’s analogy never seems out of place. Incidentally, Romeo in the Indian context has been more often an adjective rather than a noun, indicating a typical symptom of passion filled with despair. Since Narayan knows that his love for Kalyani is more likely to be fruitless, he shows characteristics typical of Romeo. Burton’s allusion to Romeo and Juliet in the context of an analysis of melancholia is revealing. Narayan exhibits the symptoms Burton observed of the male love melancholia in The Anatomy of Melancholy: “that they delight in floods and waters, desert[ed] places, to walk alone in orchards, gardens, private walks, back lanes; averse from company.”19 Whereas male melancholics should be persuaded out of their passion by friends and family, female melancholics are irredeemable. Thus, Narayan dances through the rain with abandon. He frequents deserted river banks and arranges surreptitious and furtive meetings with his lady love Kalyani, however fruitless it is. Therefore, it is the duty of Ravinder to persuade him out of the impractical affair. In a similar manner, Benvolio tries to cheer up Romeo and give him a practical piece of advice: “Be ruled by me, forget to think of her.”20 This should make us observe that in both the play and the film, male love in general is 17

Hindu Widows Re- marriage Act, 15. Romeo and Juliet, Act I, Scene i. 19 Roberts, 20. 20 Romeo and Juliet, Act I, Scene i. 18

Adaptation and Demystification


perceived as selfish, short lived and temporary, as Friar Laurence would say: “young men's love then lies / Not truly in their hearts, but in their eyes.”21 Also, illicit sexual affairs, bawdy jokes, puns and quibbles by the nurse in Romeo and Juliet, and Gulabi the eunuch and Madhumati (the matriarch) in Water, impinge upon the idea that love is perceived more as a physical affair (often conceived as lust), and that both Narayan and Romeo suffer because they choose to be different and break away from the social conventions. Take the case of Mercutio and Benvolio, who happen to be friends of Romeo. They make fun of Juliet’s nurse and her man in Act II Scene iv. Their bawdy jokes make her angry with Peter, who refuses to defend her: Nurse An a' speak any thing against me, I'll take him down, an a' were lustier than he is, and twenty such Jacks; and if I cannot, I'll find those that shall. Scurvy knave! I am none of his flirt-gills; I am none of his skains-mates. And thou must stand by too, and suffer every knave to use me at his pleasure? 22

Mehta, realizing the inherent problem of justifying adolescent love and marriage in a conservative culture, makes Narayan a grown man inclined to the cause of nationalism and Gandhian politics, whereas she makes Kalyani a mellow beauty, aware of the cruelties of life. However, the suggestions of a hidden desire and a passion for sexuality lie throbbing throughout the film. The huge wooden gate which debars Narayan from meeting Kalyani and the small window through which Shakuntala tells Narayan, in a no-nonsense tone, “No males are allowed here,”23 suggest that the vidhwaashram is a kind of prison-house, thus creating a further impassable gulf between the two lovers. But the huge wooden gate could also be interpreted as the maidenhead, impossible to rapture and thus take possession of the maiden, because Kalyani is a widow and a concubine for several lusty men. But for a true lover she remains as ephemeral as a virgin. For a Renaissance play it was natural that Romeo gets access to Juliet, even if only for a night, but in a closed, Eastern society, climbing such walls by a lover remains a dream. Narayan is content to look up and see Chuia and Kalyani standing on the portico which Romeo could have climbed, but he cannot. 21

Ibid., Act II, Scene, iii. Ibid., Act II, Scene iv. 23 Water. 22

Chapter Eleven


Further, the concept of women’s freedom and security is dwelt upon in both Water and its inspiration Romeo and Juliet. When Chuia and Kalyani walk about the streets with Kalu (their puppy) or take a dip in the Ganges, Kalyani exhibits an uncanny discomfort or fear, perhaps because they are even more marginalized than unwed or married women. Kalyani cowers when Narayan attempts to speak to her and know her address. Chuia’s attempt to buy laddus (sweets) for the ailing old widow in the ashram is met with ridicule. The restrictions imposed on the movement of women in general are awesome in the contemporary society, comparable to women’s circumscribed lives in Renaissance London. Although London was conceived of as feminine, Laura Gowing maintains: Women’s use of streets, fields and civic spaces of early modern London was neither simple nor free. The rhetoric of enclosure and identification of female mobility with sexual and economic disorder shaped female identities and woman’s use of space. In this context, women’s part in street life could be self-conscious and anxious.24

That is why, even in Romeo and Juliet, we only see the nurse on the open streets as a messenger of Juliet, generally viewed as a garrulous, obscene, low woman, opposed to high class, chaste women. For the same reason, in Water widows can only move in groups and visit places considered to be pious and holy, such as the banks of the Ganges to listen to the holy man or the temple to participate in the kirtans (hymns to god). It is difficult to say whether Shakespeare was pointing to a degenerate and alien culture for his English audience or was self- critical about his own city and its culture, but Mehta definitely hints at a moribund and dead culture which denies freedom and space to its women. Shakespeare’s Juliet dies because of a mistake. Friar John, sent by Friar Lawrence, fails to deliver the letter because he was detained in Verona. Mehta’s Kalyani dies because of guilt and shame, on being denied refuge by Madhumati. She realizes that she could never marry Narayan, because his father has been exploiting her sexually. Both Juliet and Kalyani are victims of society. Romeo dies because Shakespeare could perhaps not think of alternatives other than a picture of grieving families, but Narayan does not die, because through him Mehta chooses to show the face of a changing society. He has to mourn the loss of Kalyani, defy his father, but live, because for Mehta the story continues with the coming of Gandhi and his new Bharat (India). In Romeo and Juliet, the nurse could ultimately save Juliet. In Water the nurse takes up various images, the 24

Gowing, 145.

Adaptation and Demystification


ultimate one being Shakuntala, who carries the battered body of Chuia, (a replica of Kalyani) and hands her over to Narayan at the railway station. The train leaves with followers of Gandhi, and Shakuntala has the satisfaction that in the society of the future, Kalyanis would live and dare to fall in love. Shakespeare wanted Juliet to die because he was not scripting Juliet’s story, but that of a pair of lovers. Mehta made Kalyani die and Narayan live, along with Chuia, because she was scripting the story of hundreds of Kalyanis manifested in Chuias. Therefore, what Water becomes is a deconstructed version of Romeo and Juliet, not a reconstructed one like other Bollywood films. The film is not fragments shored against a ruin, but complete sentences connected by an invisible but quite unproblematic grammar. Lev Kuleshov (quoted in Wood) wrote in 1929 that: “separate shots … did not constitute cinema, but only the material for the cinema and Montage is the organization of cinematic material.”25 In a way, the separate shots in Water do remind us of Romeo and Juliet, but the final montage is far different from what the dramatist had projected. The director does not draw the strings. She fails to, because: The film is an infernal machine. Once it is ignited and set in motion it revolves with an enormous dynamism. It cannot pause. It cannot apologize. It cannot wait for you to understand it. It cannot explain itself. It simply ripens to its inevitable explosion. This explosion we have to prepare like anarchists, with utmost ingenuity and malice.26

Mehta is, in a way, an anarchist, exploding the myths of well-made films aping the originals, because if we follow Barthes’ idea as propounded in The Death of the Author, then the author (Shakespeare) is not the owner of the meaning of the text (Romeo and Juliet). Rather, texts are created through the impersonal force of language or discourse rather than the author’s personal choice. Barthes removed the biographical author as the transcendent source of the text’s meaning “outside” the text and relocated them “inside” it, so that the author is produced by the text instead of being its originator. With the death of the author, Barthes proclaimed the birth of the reader (and also the film maker), liberated by the author releasing his or her hold over the text’s reception and meaning. Seen in this way, Water becomes a woman’s way of depicting and viewing Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in India.

25 26

Wood, 223. Ibid., 218.


Chapter One Amrita Bazar Patrika. December 4, 1929. Chatterji, Shoma. “Shoma A Chatterji—From Literature to Cinema.” Muse India Archives 27, 2009. 671. Dasgupta, Chidananda. Talking about Films. Hyderabad & New Delhi: Orient Longman, 1981. Dasgupta, Priyanka. “Riya is misunderstood: Rituparno Ghosh”. Times of India, November 17, 2010. Dasgupta, Sibaditiya & Sandipan Bhattacharya (eds). Ritwik Ghatak Face to Face: Conversation with the Master1962–1977, trans. Chilka Ghose. Kolkata: Cine Central, 2003. Ghose, Gautam. The Telegraph. May 15, 2012. Ghosh, Rituparno. 2005. Interview. Rituparno Ghosh and the “Intellectual Film” in India—Asia Society. film/ rituparno-ghosh-andintellectual-film-india. —. Dir. Chokher Bali. DVD. Mumbai: Shemaroo Entertainment Pvt. Ltd, 2007. Humboldt, Charles. “The Art of Ingmar Bergman.” The Massachusetts Review 4 (2) Winter, 1963. 356687&uid=2&uid=70&uid=3&uid=2482356677&uid=60&sid=2110 4384354927. Mandal, Somdatta. “Cinematic Adaptations of Rabindranath.” SILHOUETTE MAGAZINE: A Publication on Cinema & Allied Art Forms. December 29, 2011. Montague, Ivor. With Eisenstein in Hollywood. Germany: Seven Seas Publications, 1974. Mukhopadhyay, Suman. “Cinema: Tagore on Screen: Filming ‘Chaturanga’.” Siliconeer: A General Interest Monthly Magazine for South Asians in the U.S.

Adaptations: Some Journeys from Words to Visuals


Ray, Satyajit. Bishay Chalachitra. Calcutta: Ananda Publishers Limited, 1976. rpt.1982. http://learningandcr Robinson, Andrew. Satyajit Ray: The Inner Eye. London/New York: I.B Tauris and Co., 2004. Roy, Arun Kumar. Rabindranath O Chalachitra. Kolkata: Chitralekha, 1986. Tagore, Rabindranath. Chithipatra. Vol.XVI. Kolkata: Visva-Bharati Granthan Bibhag, 1995. Tarkovsky, Andrey. SCULPTING IN TIME. The Asian Conference on Literature & Librarianship 2012. finish_0012.pdf.

Chapter Two All About Rabindra Sangeet. “Lyrics of Rabindrasangeet.” http://www.geetabita Brook, Peter (dir.). The Mahabharata. 1989. DVD, Image Entertainment, 2002. Dasgupta, Gautam & Bonnie Marranca. Interculturalism and Peformance: Writings from PAJ. New York: PAJ publications, 1991. Dutta-Roy, Sonjoy. (Re)Constructing the Poetic Self: Tagore,Whitman Yeats, Eliot. New Delhi: Pencraft International, 2001. Robinson, Andrew. Satyajit Ray: The Inner Eye. London/New York: I.B Tauris and Co., 2004. Sayan’s Blog, Srimad Bhagavad Gita. Swami Vivekanand Quotes. Tagore, Rabindranath. I Won't Let You Go: Selected Poems. Trans. Ketaki Kushari Dyson. New Delhi: Penguin Books, 2011. —. “Nashtanir” (“The Broken Home”). Three Novellas. Trans. Sukhendu Ray; New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2010.



Chapter Three Arnold, Matthew. Culture and Anarchy: An Essay in Political and Social Criticism. London: Smith, Elder & Company, 1869. Balázs, Béla. Theory of the Film. London: Denis Dobson, 1952. Barthes, Roland. “L’effet de reel.” Communications 11. Paris: Seuil, 1968. Baxandall, Michael. Painting and Experience in Fifteenth Century Italy. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988. Bazin, A. What is Cinema? vol .1, H. Gray (ed and trans.). Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967. Birri, Fernando. “Cinema and Underdevelopment.” Twenty-Five Years of the New Latin American Cinema. London: British Film Institute and Channel Four Television, 1983. Cassirer, E. Philosophieder symbolischen Formen, vol. 2: Das mythische Denken. Berlin: CassirerVerlag, 1925. Dudley, Andrew. What Cinema Is! Bazin’s Quest and its Charge. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. Eisenstein, S. M. Selected Works, R. Taylor (ed.), 3 Vols. London: IB Tauris, 2010. Elderfield, John. Painted on 21st Street: Helen Frankenthaler from 1950 to 1959. New York: Abrams Books, 2013. Eliot, T. S. “The Waste Land.” 1922. Great Books Online. http://w Faibyshev, Dolly. Palm Springs Mid-century Modern. Atglen: Schiffer Publishing, Ltd, 2010. Fonoroff, P. South China Morning Post. Sept 23, 1994. Forster, Edward Morgan. A Passage to India. London: Edward Arnold Publishers Ltd., 1924. Ganguly, Keya. Cinema, Emergence and the Films of Satyajit Ray. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010. Ganguly, Suranjan. Satyajit Ray: In Search of the Modern. Lanham (Md): Scarecrow Press, 2007. Hayward, Susan. Cinema Studies: The Key Concepts. London: Routledge, 2000. Jakobson, Roman. “Two Aspects of Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbances,” rpt. Language in Literature, Krystyna Pomorska & Stephen Rudy (eds). Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1987. Jakobson, Roman. On Language, Linda R. Waugh & Monique Monville-Burston (eds). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990. Kuleshov, Lev Vladimirovich. Iskusstvo kino: Moi opyt. Moscow: TeaKino Pechat’, 1929.

Adaptations: Some Journeys from Words to Visuals


Lacan, J. (1953–54). Le Séminaire. Livre I. Les Écrits Techniques de Freud. Paris: Seuil, 1998. Manetti, Antonio. Filippo Brunellesco, Heinrich Holtzinger (ed.). Stuttgart: 1887. Metz, Christian. Essais sur la signification au cinéma. Vol. I. Paris: Editions Klincksieck, 1971. Nancy, J. L. L’Évidence du Film (2001): 67–78. Cited in H. Ford, “Driving into the Void.” is_Taste_of_Cherry. Panofsky, Erwin. Perspective as Symbolic Form, C. S.Wood (trans.). New York: Zone, 1997. Ray, Satyajit. Satyajit Ray: Interviews, Bert Cardullo (ed.). Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2007. —. Our Films, Their Films. New York: Hyperion Books, 1994. Ray, Sandip. Satyajit Ray on Cinema. New York: Columbia University Press, 2011. Rosen, Philip. Narrative, Apparatus, Ideology: A Film Theory Reader. New York: Columbia University Press, 1986. Sarkar, Bidyut. The World of Satyajit Ray. New Delhi: UBSPD, 1992. Selden, D. “Iskander and the Idea of Iran.” In The Romance between Greece and the East, Tim Whitmarsh & Stuart Thomson (eds). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013. Silverman, Kaja. The Subject of Semiotics. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983. Sontag, Susan. Against Interpretation and Other Essays. USA: Picador, 1966. Tagore, Rabindranath. The Home and the World, Surendranath Tagore (trans.). New York: Penguin, 2005 [1919]. Walberg, Eric. Postmodern Imperialism: Geopolitics and the Great Games. Atlanta: Clarity Press, 2011. Wilson, John. “Film Literacy in Africa,” Canadian Communications 1 (4) Summer 1961.

Chapter Four Bloom, Harold. “The Covering Cherub.” In Poetics of Influence, John Hollander (ed.), 77–99. New Haven: Henry R. Schwab, 1988. Das, Gurcharan. A Fine Family. New Delhi: Penguin, 1990. Dudrah, Rajendra Kumar. Bollywood: Sociology Goes to the Movies. New Delhi: Sage, 2006.



Jaidka, Manju. A Critical Study of Deepa Mehta’s Fire, Earth and Water. New Delhi: Readworthy, 2011. Jain, Jasbir & Rai, Sudha (eds). Films and Feminism: Essays in Indian Cinema. Jaipur: Rawat Publications, 2002. Mehta, Deepa (dir.). Earth 1947. Deepa. Perf. Maia Sethna, Nandita Das, Amir Khan and Rahul Khanna. New Yorker Films, 1998. Rooks, Pamela (dir.). Train to Pakistan.DVD, . N.F.D.C./PAN Pictures Rooks association with Channel Four and Mohan Chopra Production,1998. Seervai, H. M. Partition of India: Legend and Reality. Bombay: Emmenem Publications, 1989. Sidhwa, Bapsy. Ice Candy Man. London: Heinemann, 1988. Singh, Khushwant. Train to Pakistan (1956). New Delhi: Penguin and Ravi Dayal, 2009.

Chapter Five Bazin, Andre. “M. Ripois, With or Without Nemesis,” trans. Bert Cardullo. Literature / Film Quarterly 30 (1) (2002): 7. Bluestone, George. "Word to Image: The Problem of the Filmed Novel." The Quarterly of Film Radio and Television 11 (2) (1956). Bond, Ruskin. Susanna’s Seven Husbands, with a screenplay by Vishal Bhardwaj and Matthew Robbins. New Delhi: Penguin Books, 2011. Chakraborty Lahiri, Samhita. "Ruskin Bond on 7 Khoon Maaf." The Telegraph, February 17, 2011. /1110217/jsp/entertainment/story_ 13592167.jsp. Narayan, R. K. “Misguided Guide.” A Writer’s Nightmare. New Delhi: Penguin Books, 1988, 206.217 Robinson, David. Seldes, Gilbert. The Saturday Review of Literature, October 17, 1936. apages=0003. Shakespeare, William, Macbeth, Bernard Groom (ed.). New Delhi: OUP, 1939. The Hindu. "Vishal Bhardwaj bonds with Ruskin for 7 Khoon Maaf." 17 February 2011. vishal-bhardwaj-bonds-with-ruskin-for-7-khoonmaaf/article1463646.ece. Welsh, James M. & Lev, Peter (eds). “Introduction.” The Literature / Film Reader: Issues of Adaptation. UK: The Scarecrow Press, 2007.

Adaptations: Some Journeys from Words to Visuals


Chapter Six Anand, Vijay (dir.). Guide. Videocassette, Delhi: T-Series, 1975. Bluestone, George. Novels into Films. London: Cambridge University Press, 1957. Borbély, Julianna. “Jane Austen Adapted—Recreated Stories: Changes in the Latest Two Adaptations of Sense and Sensibility.” /elpub2/FF/Ferencik2/ pdf_doc/2.pdf. Dudley, Andrew. “The Well-Worn Muse: Adaptation in Film History and Theory.” Narrative Strategies: Original Essays in Film and Prose Fiction, Janice R. Welsch and Syndy M. Conger (eds). Macomb: West Illinois University Press, 1980, 9-17. Hutcheon, Linda. A Theory of Adaptation. New York: Routledge, 2006. Lawrence, Kramer. “Musical Narratology: A Theoretical Outline.” Indiana Theory Review 12 (1991): 141–62. McFarlane, Brian. Novel to film: An Introduction to the Theory of Adaptation. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966. Narayan, R. K. The Guide. Chennai: Indian Thought Publication, 2012.

Chapter Seven “Adaptation: From Novel to Film.” Learning Resources. n.html. Anand, Vijay (dir.). Guide. Videocassette, Delhi: T-Series, 1975. Bazin, A. “Adaptation, or the Cinema as Digest.” Film Adaptation. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2000. Bennett, Andrew. The Author. New York: Routledge, 2005. Bhansali, Sanjay Leela (dir.). Devdas. DVD, Mumbai: SLB Films, 2002. Bhansali, S. L. “One From The Heart.” 2002. Chatterjee, G. Awaara. New Delhi: Penguin Books India, 2003. Creekmur, Corey K. “Remembering, Repeating, and working through Devdas.” Indian Literature and Popular Cinema: Recasting Classics, Heidi R. M. (ed.), 173–190. Pauwels, New York: Routledge. 2007. Eagleton, T. “Great Thinkers of our Time—Jacques Derrida.” New Statesman, July 14, 2003. Film Adaptation: 4 Paradigms. on.htm. Guha, S. “Introduction.” Devdas. New Delhi: Penguin Books India, 2002.



Levinson, Andre. “The Nature of Cinema.” In Theatre Arts Monthly, Lewis Jacobs (ed.), Introduction to the Art of the Movies. New York: Noonday Press, 1960. Masterpiece Theater Homepage. “Adaptation: From Novel to Film.” February 14, 2005. html. Morcom, Anna. Hindi Film Songs and the Cinema. Hampshire: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2007. Mulvey, Laura. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” In The Routledge Critical and Cultural Theory Reader, Neil Badmington and Julia Thomas (eds), 206. New York: Routledge, 2008. First Indian Reprint, 2012. Nag, Amitava, “Devdas to Dev.” Himal South Asian. das-dev/. Narayan, R.K. The Guide. Mysore: Indian Thought Publications, 1968. Ray, S. Our Films, Their Films. Kolkata: Orient Longman Private Ltd, 1976. Stam, R. “Beyond Fidelity: The Dialogics of Adaptation.” In Film Adaptation, James Naremore (ed.). New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 2000. Walsh, W. R. K. Narayan: A Critical Appreciation. London: Heinemann, 1992.

Chapter Eight Bruce, A. & Langdon, K. Strategic Thinking. London: Dorling Kindersley, 2000. Cartmell, D. & Whelehan, I. (eds). Adaptations: From Text to Screen, Screen to Text. London: Routledge, 1999. Elliott, K. “Novels, Films, and the Word/Image Wars.” In A Companion to Literature and Film, Stam, R. & Raengo, A. (eds). Oxford: Blackwell, 2004. Fraser,G.S. “Afterword.” Treasure Island, R.L. Stevenson. New York: Penguin/Signet Classic, 1981. Hutcheon, L. A Theory of Adaptation. New York: Routledge, 2006. Leitch, T. Film Adaptation and Its Discontents: From Gone with the Wind to The Passion of Christ. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007. Newman, C. The Postmodern Aura. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1985.

Adaptations: Some Journeys from Words to Visuals


Rollings, A. & D. Morris. “Excerpt from Game Architecture and Design.” Game Development: Management and Design. Boston: Pearson, 2004. Sanders, J. Adaptation and Appropriation. New York: Routledge, 2006. Scarne, J. Scarne’s Complete Guide to Gambling. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1961. Stevenson, R. L. Treasure Island. New York: Penguin/Signet Classic, 1981. The Robert Louis Stevenson Archive. “Film Versions of Treasure Island.” Treasure Island. Turner Pictures, Turner Network Television Incorporated, 1989. Wagner, G. The Novel and the Cinema. Rutherford, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson Univ. Press, 1975. Wagner, Roger. The Treasure of Fraction Island. Maths Adventures: TAG Learning Ltd, 2002. Wikipedia. “Treasure Island.”

Chapter Nine Aldea, Elena Oliete. “Gurinder Chadha’s Bride & Prejudice: A Transnational Journey Through Time and Space.” International Journal of English Studies 12 (1) (2012): 167–182. Bauman, Zygmunt. Liquid Fear. Cambridge and Malden: Polity Press, 2007. Bortolotti, Garry R. & Linda Hutcheon. “On the Origin of Adaptations: Rethinking Fidelity Discourse and ‘Success’—Biologically.” New Literary History 38 (3) (2007): 443–458. Bradshaw, Peter. “Bride and Prejudice.” 2004. /News_Story/Critic_Review /Guardian_Film_of_the_week/0,,1321756,00.html. Chadha, Gurinder (dir.). Bride and Prejudice. DVD, UK: Pathe Pictures International, 2004. Connell, Matt. “Bollywood: ‘Bride and Prejudice’ Director Gurinder Chadha Interview.” March 2, 2005. Female First. Cooper, Peta. “Gurinder Chadha—Bride and Prejudice.” 2005. cfm?id=229. Cornelius, David. “Bride & Prejudice.” 2005. .php?movie=11131&reviewer=392.



Dargis, Manohla. “Mr. Darcy and Lalita, Singing and Dancing.” 2005. Dempster, Sarah. “Lost in Lost in Austen: Episode 1.” 2008. http://www. ep1. French, Phillip. “Bride and Prejudice.” 2004. Green, Hank & Bernie Su. Dir. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. U.S.A.: Agreeable Entertainment, 2012. Video Blog. Lost in Austen. 2008. “Ratings.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. http://en. Mesch, Gustavo S. “The Internet and Youth Culture.” The Hedgehog Review 11 (1) (2009): 50–60. Paris. Arthur J. “Bride & Prejudice gets good UK opening.” 2004. Prensky, Marc. “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants Part 1.” On the Horizon 9 (5) (2001): 1–6. Sanchez, Tiffany. “Bride and Prejudice.” 2004. reviews/Bride-and-Prejudice-858.html. Stam, Robert. “Introduction: The Theory and Practice of Adaptation.” In Literature and Film, Robert Stam & Alessandra Raengo (eds), 1–52. Massachusetts: Backwell Publishing Inc., 2005. Tvtropes. “Web Video: The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.” 2012. aries?from. Walton, James. “Last Night on Television: Lost in Austen (ITV1).” 2008. Whelehan, Imelda. “Adaptations—The contemporary Dilemma.” In Adaptations—From Text to Screen, Screen to Text, Deborah Cartmell and Imelda Whelehan (eds), 3–19. New York: Routledge, 2007. Zeff, Dan (dir.). Lost in Austen. DVD, UK: Mammoth Screen Ltd., 2009.

Chapter Ten Abrams, M. H. A Glossary of Literary Terms. 6th ed. Bangalore: Prism Books, 1993.

Adaptations: Some Journeys from Words to Visuals


Attwell, David. “Coetzee and Post-Apartheid South Africa: Rev. of Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee.” Journal of Southern African Studies 27 (4) (2001): 865–867. Bradshaw, Peter. “Disgrace.” The Guardian. 04/disgrace-film-review. Butler, Christopher. Postmodernism: A Very Short Introduction. New York: OUP, 2002. Cambridge IELTS 6. New Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 2007. Coetzee, J. M. Disgrace. London: Vintage, 2000. Cooper, Pamela. “Metamorphosis and Sexuality: Reading the Strange Passions of ‘Disgrace’.” Research in African Literatures 36 (4) (2005): 22–39. Currie, Mark. Postmodern Narrative Theory. London: Macmillan, 1998. Gregson, Ian. Postmodern Literature. London: HHD, 2004. Hill, John & Pamela Church Gibson (eds). Film Studies: Critical Approaches. Oxford: OUP, 2000. Kochin, Michael S. “Postmetaphysical Literature: Reflections on J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace.” Perspectives on Political Science 33 (1) (2004): 4–9. Macey, David. The Penguin Dictionary of Critical Theory. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2001. Mandal, Somdatta. Film and Fiction—Word into Image. Jaipur: Rawat, 2005. McDonald, Keiko I. From Book to Screen: Modern Japanese Literature in Film. New York: M. E. Sharpe, 2000. Rapold, Nicolas. “Tough Terrain to Document: South Africa.” New York Times, September 6, 2009. Richey, Anne. “Disgrace: Anna Maria Monticelli on the Script.” Screen Hub. =27622. Rimmon-Kenan, Shlomith. Narrative Fiction. London: Routledge, 2002. Romei, Stephen. “Coetzee’s Disgrace.” A Pair of Ragged Claws Books Blog. ments/coetzees_disgrace. Sarvan, Charles. “Disgrace: A Path to Grace?” World Literature Today 78 (1) (2004): 26–29. Stam, Robert & Toby Miller (eds). Film and Theory: An Anthology. Oxford: Blackwell, 2000.



Tait, Theo. “Is the film of JM Coetzee's Booker-winner Disgrace a Success?” The Guardian, November 28, 2009.

Chapter Eleven Callaghan, Dympna (ed.). William Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet, Texts and Contexts. Bedford: St. Martin’s Press, 2003. Chaudhuri, Sohini. Feminist Film Theorists. London: Routledge, 2006. Constable, Catharine. “Postmodernism and Film.” In Postmodernism, Steven Connor (ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Gowing, Laura. “Freedom.” Domestic Dangers: Women, Words And Sex In Early Modern London. London: Oxford University Press, 1999. Hindu Widows Re-marriage Act, 1856. Holderness, Graham. Visual Shakespeare: Essays in Film And Television. Hertfordshire: University of Hertfordshire Press, 2002. Law Commission Of India: Eighty First Report. “Appendix.” Historical Background of Hindu Widows Re-marriage Act, 1856. Roberts, Sasha. William Shakespeare: Romeo And Juliet. Plymouth: Northcote House Publishers Ltd, 1988. Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet. Wood, Micheal. “Modernism And Film.” A Cambridge Companion to Modernism, ed. Michael Levenson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.


A AbbƗs KiƗrostamƯ 59-62 Abrams, M. H.144 Academy Awards 142 Agantuk 32 Akashpradeep 22 Albers, Josef 64 Alberti, Leon Battista 44, 45 Aldea, Elena Oliete 133 Amrita Bazaar Patrika 8, 9 Analogy 112, 145, 162, 164 Anand, Vijay 2, 82-83, 86-87, 90, 94-95, 97, 101 Anand, Dev 82 Bazin, André 40, 74, 98 Andrew, Dudley 40, 82 Andrews, Guy 127, 135, 137 Annunciation 44 Appropriation 2, 52, 59, 104-105, 107, 109, 111-113, 115, 117119, 121, 123-125,156-157 Appunti per un’Orestiade Africana 53 Arnold, Matthew 52 Ashani Sanket 37, 38 Ashes of Time 63-65 Atithi 13 Attwell, David 149-150 Austen, Jane 126-128, 132, 134138,140-141 B Balázs, Béla 41, 54 Banshun 49 Basu, Madhu 7 Baudrillard, 159 Baudry, Jean 42, 51

Bauman, Zygmunt 133 Bennett, Andrew 94 Bhansali, S.L. 97-101 Bharadwaj, Vishal 1, 2, 75-77, 92, 154 Birri, Fernando 56-57 Bishay Chalachitra 12 Biswarjan 7, 10 Bluebeard’s Seven Wives 76 Bluestone, George 74-75, 86 Bodeen, DeWitt 86 Bond, Ruskin 2, 75-80 Borbély, Julianna 85-86 Bortolotti, G. R. 127, 129-131 Boyum, Joy Gould 145 Bradshaw, Peter 133, 135, 151-152 Bride and Prejudice 2-3, 127, 132134, 140 Broken Blossoms 32 Bronte, Emily 75 Brunelleschi, Filippo 44 C Calcutta 7, 9-10, 163 Callaghan, Dympna 159, 162 canonical texts 1, 93 Cassirer, Ernst 44-45 Chadha, Gurinder 127, 132-134 Chaplin, Charlie 32, 75-76 Charulata 12, 19, 21-25, 34-35 Chattopadhyay, Sarat Chandra 2, 16, 92, 97, 99 Chaturanga 16-17 Chaudhuri, Sohini 158 Chhayachitra 8, 10 Chokher Bali 10, 14 Chopra, B. R. 26-29

180 Cinema 1-2, 6-12, 15-20, 22, 24-25, 30-32, 34, 36, 40-41, 51-52, 5457, 59-60, 66-67, 69, 71, 73-74, 92-93, 97-99, 101, 115, 128, 142, 144, 155-158, 167 cinematic adaptations 1-2, 10, 1314, 18, 20, 92-95, 97, 99, 101 cinematic oeuvre 37 Cinematographe 142 Cinematography 9, 24, 63, 143-144, 154 City Lights 32 Coetzee, J. M. 3, 142, 146-147, 149, 152, 154 Cogito 52, 55 Commentary 112, 115, 145 Connell, Matt 132, 134 Constable, Catharine 159 Cooper, Pamela 146 Cooper, Peta 132 Cornelius, David 132 Cracking India 71 Culture and Imperialism 132 Currie, Mark 145 D Dargis, Manohla 132-133 Dasgupta, Chidananda 11, 27 Daughters of this Century 13 De picture 44 Dempster, Sarah 137 Der letzte Mann 30-31 Devdas 2, 92, 94, 97-101 Devdasi 84 Devi 38-39, 58 Digital immigrants 138 Digital natives 138 Disgrace 3, 142-143,145-147, 149151, 153-154 dismissive evaluation 130 Dixit, Madhuri 92, 97 Dreyer, Carl Th. 49 Durchsehen 43, 63 Dürer, Albrecht 43, 63 Dyson, Ketaki 22

Index E Eagleton, T. 93, Earth 1947 70, 72 Epiphany 96 F faithlessness 73 femme fatale 75 fidelity 1-3, 12, 68, 74, 81-82, 9293, 98, 127-130, 132, 134, 140141, 143 fidelity discourse 1, 128-130 film Adaptation 2-3, 7, 10, 74, 76, 81-83, 85, 87, 89-91, 93-94, 98, 103, 106-108, 110, 113, 120, 124, 130, 142-146, 150,154 Film Eye 12 Film Script 7-8, 13, 75, 78, 94 Five Point Someone 92 Flaherty, Robert 33-34, 53 Flashback 18, 77, 82, 95, 97 Flying Down to Rio 56 Fonoroff, Paul 63 Forster, E. M. 53 Fraser, G.S. 108-109, 110 Freeland, Thornton 56 French, Phillip 134 G Galpaguccha 15 Georgian Era 136 German Expressionism 32 Ghare Baire 12-13, 36, 59 Ghatak, Ritwik 13-14 Ghiberti, Lorenzo 43 Ghosh, Rituparno 7, 14-15, 16 Gowing, Laura 166 Great Famine of 1942 37 Green, Hank 127, 138-140 Griffith, D. W. 2, 30, 32, 36, 41, 47, 64 Guha, S. 99-100

Adaptations: Some Journeys from Words to Visuals H Haider 1 Hamlet 1 Hawks, Howard 9 Heart of Darkness 53-54 Heer Ranjha 157 Henry, O 92 Hermeneutics 66 Holderness, Graham 155-157 Hollywood 7, 9, 12, 31-32, 56, 75, 101, 113-114 Hussain, Naseer 157 Hutcheon, Linda 81-82, 110-111, 116, 123, 127-131, 140 I Ibn al-Haytham 43-45 Ice-Candy Man 2, 67-68, 70-71 India ’67 34, 40 Indian cinema 1, 2, 15, 97-98, 101,156 intellectual revisionism 70 Iskander and the Idea of Iran 62


KitƗb al-ManƗ਌ir 43 Kline, Karen 93 Kochin, Michael S. 146-147, 149 Kritik 52 Kuleshov, Lev 51, 167 Kumar, Uttam 37 L L’Année dernière à Marienbad 50 Laboratory 7, 17-18, 77 Lamb, Charles 155 Landru, Henri Désiré 76 Lang, Fritz 47 Leavis, F. R. 155 Leitch 112 Letter from an Unknown Woman 32-33 Levinson, Andre 93 literature and cinema 1, 22, 67, 93 literature and film 1, 3, 21 Living or Dead 13 Lootera 92 Los inundandos 56 Lost in Austen 3, 127, 135-137, 140 Lurie, David 146, 149-151, 154 Lynch, David 63



Jacobs, Steve 146, 150, 153-154 Jaidka, Manju 68, 71 JalsƗghar 57-58 Jana Aranya 32 Jazz 31 Jean-Luc Nancy 60

Madan Company 7, 15 Mahalanobis, Prasanta 7 Malabar Caves 53 Malancha 18 Malgudi 83-84, 95 Manbhanjan 7-8,11 Mandal, Somdatta 1, 6, 13-14, 145 Manetti, Antonio 45 Maqbool 1, 156 Marxism 14 Masterpiece Theatre 93 Max Ophüls 32 McFarlane, Brian 86 Mehta, Deepa 2-3, 67, 72, 155, 157159, 160-161, 163-167 Ménilmontant 42

K Kabuliwala 13 Kadambini 13 Karenina, Anna 36 Kauffmann, Stanley 74 Khan, Shahrukh 92, 97-98, 101 Khsudita Pashan 13 Kirsanoff, D. 42



Mesch, Gustavo S. 139 Metropolis 47 Metz, Christian 40 Miller, Gabriel 94 Miranda, Carmen 56 Mitra, Naresh Chandra 7, 15 Monsieur Verdoux 75-76 Monticelli, Anna 150, 153 Morcom, Anna 101 Morris, D 116 Mulholland Drive 63 Mulvey, Laura 101 Murnau, F. W. 30-31 Musalmanir Galpo 17

Peter Brook 1, 22, 25, 29 Philosophy of Symbolic Forms 44 Prensky, Marc 138 Presidency College 7 Pride and Prejudice 2, 127-129, 131, 133, 135-137, 139, 141 problems of denotation 40


Rai, Aishwarya 14, 92, 97, 101 Raja Harishchandra 1 Rao, Shanta 87 Ray, Sandip 30, 40, 59 Ray, Satyajit 1, 2, 12-13, 19, 21-25, 27, 29- 41, 50, 54, 57-59, 64, 98-99 Raza, Rahi Masoom 68, 72 Regency Era 127 Rehman, Waheeda 82, 92, 94, 96 Reinvigorate 124, 135 Renaissance 18, 45, 51, 57, 156, 160, 165-166 Resnais, Alain 50 Richey, Anne 150 Riefenstahl, Leni 48 Roberts, Sasha 163-164 Robinson, Andrew 14, 22-23 Robinson, David 76 Rollings, A. 116 Romei, Stephen 154 Romeo and Juliet 3, 155, 157-167 Rooks, Pamela 2, 67, 70-71 Rothko, Mark 64 Roy, Bimal 97

Nanook of the North 53 Narayan, R. K. 2, 73, 81-85, 87-92, 94-96 Narratologists 144 Nashtanir 12, 21-25 Nayak 37 Neorealists 37 New Theatre 7, 11 Newton, Robert 106, 113 Nitin Basu 7, 15 Notir Puja 1, 7, 9, 11 Noukadubi 7, 11, 14, 15-16 O Objective reality 42 Occidentalism 59 Omkara 1, 92, 156 Ordet 49 Orr, John 94 P Panofsky, Erwin 43, 45, 51-52, 58 Paris, Arthur J. 135 Pasolini, Pier Paolo 53 Pather Panchali 12, 32, 34 Perspectiva 43 perspectiva artificialis 44, 52, 57

Q Qayamat se Qayamat Tak 157, 160 Quincey, Thomas De 155 R

S Said, Edward 132 Sanchez, Tiffany 134 Sanders, J. 110

Adaptations: Some Journeys from Words to Visuals Santiniketan 9-10 Saraswati, Baal 87 Sarvan, Charles 149 Sassi Punmun 157 Satyajit Ray: The Inner Eye 22-23 Scarne, J. 123 Screenplay 8-9, 35, 70 Selden, D. 2, 30, 62 Seldes, Gilbert 75 Shakespeare, William 1, 16, 76, 78, 92, 98, 108, 115, 155-161, 166167 Shanta Rasa 21, 26, 28 Shatranj Ke Khilari 32, 58 Shaughnessy, Robert 155 Sidhwa, Bapsi 2, 67-68, 70-72 Singh, Khushwant 2, 67-72 Sohni Mahiwal 157 Stam, Robert 94, 99, 128-129 Stevenson, R. L. 2, 104, 107, 109110, 114, 116, 118, 120-121, 123-124 Streer Patra 13, 18 Structuralists 144 Su, Bernie 127 Sumac, Yma 56 Susanna’s Seven Husbands 2, 73, 75-77, 79 symbiotic relationship 1, 3, 140,155 symbolic interpretation 37


The Lizzie Bennet Diaries 3, 127, 138, 140 The Mahabharata 1, 21, 25-29, 143 The Ramayana 26, 143 The Taste of Cherry 60 The Vandals of Hollywood 75 Thompson, Denys 155 Train to Pakistan 2, 67-71 Transcendental aesthetic 52 Transposition 112, 115, 145 Treasure Island 2, 104-109, 111, 113, 115, 117, 119, 121, 123, 125 Triumph des Willens 48 Twelfth Night 155 U Uday Shankar 87 Upanishad 27-28 V Veneziano, Domenico 44 Victorian novel 36 Video blog 127, 138 Vidhwaashram 165 Visva-Bharati 7 Vyasa, Ved 21-22, 26-29 W

T Tagore, Rabindra Nath 1, 2, 6-25, 27, 29, 36, 59 Tait, Theo 154 Tapati 8-9 Tarkovsky, Andrey 19 Technologies of Gender 158 Thaak 25 The Death of the Author 167 The Guardian 133, 151 The Guide 2, 73, 81-83, 85-87, 8992, 94-96, 100 The Illustrated Weekly of India 9 The Last Leaf 92

Wagner, Geoffrey 112, 145 Wai, Wong Kar 59, 63-65 Walsh, William 94 Walton, James 137 War and Peace 36 Water 3, 155, 157-160, 163, 165167 Welsh 73 Western culture 6, 69, 133 Western imperialism 52, 58, 62 Whelehan, Imelda 129 Wilson, John 40-41 Wood, Micheal 167 Wuthering Heights 75, 145





Yasujirǀ, Ozu 49 Young Folk 110

Zeff, Dan 127, 135-137 7 Khoon Maaf 1, 2, 73, 75-79