(On Bimal Roy’s 110thBirth Anniversary, Ratnottama Sengupta traces his enduring affair with books.)

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Bimal Roy (12 th July,1909 – 8th January,1966)

 

“Bimal Da and I – particularly I, being a writer – always looked to literature for story, the raw material of cinema.  People can and do write original scripts for the silver screen, but we did not prefer that because it tends to be hurried writing. We preferred to source our films from books because a writer has already worked on an idea, on the character, on the logic of their action, and its final resolution…”

–Nabendu Ghosh(1917-2007) in And They Made Classics…

He was already a recognised name in Bengali literature when Nabendu Ghosh met Bimal Roy, his film guru. Bimal Roy was a voracious reader. The reasons for this were many.

To begin with Bimal Roy, since school days, had been friends with Sudheesh Ghatak, brother of Manish Ghatak who is better known to Bengali readers as Jubanaswa, a radical writer of  the Kallol era introducing modernism, who drew litterateurs like Tarashankar Bandopadhyay (1898-1971) to his house. The entire family had the gift of story-telling — and not only the eldest brother but also his daughter Mahasweta Devi (1926-2016) and his youngest brother Ritwik Ghatak (1925-1976). Even Sudheesh Ghatak has won accolades for this art.

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Poster of Tagore’s Natir Puja from NT

Eventually, Bimal Roy’s penchant for photography took him to New Theatres (NT) which had, since its inception, transcreated the major novels and stories of writers like Rabindranath Tagore, Bankim Chandra and Sarat Chandra. In fact NT produced not only Tagore’s own Natir Puja (The Dancer’s Prayer, 1932) but also the comedy, Chirakumar Sabha (Bachelor’s Conference, 1932) and Arghya (Offerings, 1937), besides Kapal Kundala (Bankim Chandra, 1933), Dena Paona (Give and Take, 1931), Palli Samaj (Rural Society, 1932), Grihadaaha (House on Fire, 1936), Devdas (1936), Bardidi (Elder Sister, 1939), Kashinath (1943), Biraj Bou (Biraj the Wife, 1946), and Ramer Sumati (The Redemption of Ram, 1947) — all from Sarat Chandra stories.

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By Mitali Chakravarty

Three Idiots, The Reluctant Fundamentalist and  Crazy Rich Asians have made history in cinema and they started out as mere books, Five Point Someone by Chetan Bhagat, The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Ahmad and Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan.

Bhagat was cited by The New York Times as “the biggest selling English language novelist in India’s history” and was also included in the Time magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people. Ahmad’s book made it big not just in its own rights, climbing up to #4 on the The New York Times Bestseller list and winning multiple awards and accolades, the film catapulted his book as one that addressed humanitarian concerns and won the German film award for peace and at least five more international awards. Kwan also made it to the Times list of the hundred most influential people and was named as “five writers to watch” on the ‘Hollywood’s Most Powerful Authors’ in The Hollywood Reporter. Their cinematic launches helped them make it huge!

But did you ever wonder how their books made it to the big screen? How did they sell their film rights? And as an author, what all should you be looking out for when you sell your book’s film rights?

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Siddharth Jain

Today, we meet the man who can help authors evade controversies and make it from books to movies… He is the man who has made it a business to help writers sell their books to film-makers. Meet Siddharth Jain, the founder of The Story Ink (TSI), India’s first story company for premium content for screen. It is also “India’s No.1 Book to Screen Adaptation Company” and has sold the adaptation rights of almost 70 books to Producers/Studios in India. It is now expanding its footprint by solving the story problem for Indian regional language content producers and international producers, who are searching for local stories for global audiences.

TSI was founded in April 2018 by Jain who had earlier worked for India’s largest OTT (over the top) — Hotstar.com (now acquired by Disney from Fox), iRock Films, Adlabs Films (Reliance Entertainment), Hyperion Studio — Los Angeles and Baazee.com (Ebay India). In a recent  interview with scroll.in , Jain said that five years from now he sees himself “reading a book a day” and curating great stories for films.  In this exclusive interview, he explains how books are made into films… through options agreements.

 

Kitaab: What do you mean by an options agreement?

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Ratnottama with her Lifetime Achievement Award at the Indywood Festival, December 2017

This is the second part of the interview with Ratnottama Sengupta, national award winning journalist, writer and filmmaker, an exclusive, where she talks of not only legends like Meena Kumari and Utpal Dutta but also takes us on a journey of cinematic history and discusses the impact of social media on cinema along with more about translated books of Nabendu Ghosh.

A quick recap of the earlier interview  leads us into the world of glittering Bollywood where the former Arts Editor of The Times of India, Ratnottama Sengupta, spent her formative years to emerge as a writer and filmmaker; her childhood amidst legendary stars; her observation as a curator of exhibitions which bring out the hidden voices of less known languages, art forms; her experiences as a biographer, author and translator.

Reader Ramashish Roy writes on our website: “Many thanks to ‘Kitaab’ for publishing this interview which portrays commendable work done by her( Ratnottama Sengupta) and most importantly it also depicts the nuances of the unforgettable golden era of Classical Hindi Cinema. Will eagerly wait for the next episode of this interview.”

Reader Antara Mondal writes: “Simply brilliant! Excellent and expansive interview…Loved the elaborate answers. Looking forward to Part 2 eagerly.”

Please enjoy the concluding part of Ratnottama Sengupta’s interview with Team Kitaab.

 

Part 2

Team Kitaab: Your father, Nabendu Ghosh, other than being an eminent scriptwriter, was a well-known Bengali writer.  Do you agree the he is a master storyteller with his pen on the pulse of the need for social, economic and political reforms? Can you tell us a little more about how relevant are the stories that you are translating to the current socio-political set up?

Ratnottama: In other words, the social, political and economic relevance of Nabendu Ghosh’s writings more than half a century after they were crafted.

Baba never let me do anything on his behalf, to ‘promote’ him. He’d say, “As long as I am there, you don’t worry about my writing. You concentrate on yours.” And by God’s grace, he lived to write till the ripe age of 90. But since he was in Bombay after 1951, and writing amid people who didn’t know Bengali, he came to be better known as a screen writer. Within a year of going to Bombay, Baba had taken a conscious decision to write screenplays on the stories and novels of other writers — if they had cinematic possibilities. For, celluloid lives only when it beams dreams and dramas of jubilation on a larger-than-life canvas. And since literature for him was ‘pointing fingers’ he continued to write about deprivations, injustices, inequities.

When I took to translating his stories, I was amazed at the wealth of social, historical, and economic documentation contained in them especially about the 1940s, which are the founding years of the nation. “Learn from those you admire but write from life around you,” his father had said to him when he started writing as a schoolboy. And he did just that and became the voice of 1940s. Quit India movement, riots before and post Partition, the Bengal Famine, these realities we more or less know about. But the rationing of clothes during WW2, the tribals’ fight for fishing rights in the wetlands of Chalan Beel now in Bangladesh, the thugees, the price paid by industrialisation in terms of family values, the corruption of morals in political life, the flights of science and the weakening of faith are some of the issues he addresses. Frankly I did not know so much wealth was lying to be tapped. And once I chanced upon it, I could guide a student of Banaras Hindu University who has just claimed a Doctorate for his work on “Contemporary Politics and the novels of Nabendu Ghosh”.

DSC00174(1)Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

Clichéd but true: because I have to. Even if things had gone very differently for me (as they might easily have) and I had ended up working in a profession unrelated to writing, I suspect I would still have made notes, just for myself, in a little pad or on a blog every time I watched a film or read a book that stimulated me.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

Oh, there are always many writing projects on hand – I think of even a 1000-word review or an 800-word column as a project that one has to devote serious thought and effort to. But my latest book, published in September 2015, is The World of Hrishikesh Mukherjee: The Filmmaker Everyone Loves – it is a critical study of the director’s work, which is widely categorised as “middle cinema” or “middle-class cinema”. I found myself wanting to write about him because I properly discovered these gentle films relatively late in my life, and found myself unexpectedly drawn to many of them – to the ways in which they made little observations about the workings of a society, couched in simple, comforting narratives.

Describe your writing aesthetic.

Sorry?

HNY

Shahrukh Khan has kept on juggling roles and pushing himself higher over the years, and in a career which spans almost two and a half decades he has finally emerged as one of the biggest entrepreneurs of the country. It is his image of that of a family man, his frank admission of his success and failures, candid confessions of fears and setbacks that make him a familiar face and household name, says Dr. Anindita Chatterjee in this review of Koral Dasgupta’s Power of A Common Man: Connecting with Consumers the SRK Way (2014).

SRK_bookPower of A Common Man: Connecting with Consumers the SRK Way.

Author: Koral Dasgupta

Publisher: Westland Books

Date of Publication: 2014

ISBN: 978-93-84030-15-5

Pages: 310 + xv

Price on cover: Rs 395

Celebrity culture consists of every possible component that is publicly available about an individual, such as images, writing, autobiography, interviews and movies. ‘Celebrity ecology’, as Pramod Nayar identifies it in his seminal work Seeing Stars: Spectacle, Society and Celebrity Culture is the apparatus of this representation, production, circulation and consumption of iconic figures, events and actions. The celebrity, today, is thus a cumulative effect of her or his achievements as well as of the media coverage of these achievements. It can now be safely asserted that celebrity is thus a socially constructed identity that consists of two basic dimensions:

haiderThe jury is still out there over the ultimate philosophy propagated by director Vishal Bhardwaj’s Shakespeare-inspired film Haider. While the argument continues, here’s a look at Bollywood’s ever lasting love affair with literary classics. Bhardwaj himself brought to celluloid two other Shakespeare masterpieces: Maqbool and Omkara. While the former was based on Macbeth, the latter found its cue in Othello. 

GulzarIndian literature is very rich and directors should be careful when they adapt them into a film or a TV series. It should not have unnecessary tinge of entertainment, feels poet-lyricist Gulzar.

The 79-year-old director, who is this year’s Dadasaheb Phalke awardee, adapted the works of well-known Indian writers for the big and small screen.

Gulzar said literature can not be reformer, it can only remind or record the past era.

SabaSaba Mahmood Bashir is a freelance editor based in Delhi. She is a gold medallist in MA, English Literature from Allahabad University and has completed her PhD from IIT Delhi. Her first book, Memory-Past, a collection of poems, was published by Writers Workshop in 2006.

Her latest book is I Swallowed the Moon: The poetry of Gulzar (HarperCollins India, 2013). The book focuses on the poetry of Hindi film lyricist and poet Gulzar, placing him as a Progressive Poet in Popular Culture.

Kitaab recently interviewed Saba through e-mail:

Your book on Gulzar is based on your PhD thesis. Why did you zero in on Gulzar as a topic of your research?

This is a question which has often been asked. Honestly, there is no specific answer for the same. I was always intrigued with the imagery and the way Gulzar saheb weaves his words in his writings. I have been reading his poetry, and listening to the songs written by him ever since I was child, and could always feel a distinct difference in his writings and that of his contemporaries. It was just that parallel that I could see between his writings, that I wished to analyse and dot the connecting points in his poetry.