Filming Fiction

Apr 02, 2012, 11:32 IST | Lindsay Pereira

'Ray fails to deliver on his promise of a provocative "postcolonial aura" for Tagore's transgressive, if colonially modernist, fiction, in his cinematic rendering of Noshto Neerh.'

If a sentence like that leaves you gasping for air, ignore this collection of essays and purchase another copy of Pather Panchali on DVD instead. If you adore cinema, but can't be bothered by film theory -- which, unlike criticism, tries to establish a relationship between film and real life, the arts, viewers and society -- you might want to skip this too.

Then again, as anyone familiar with the Oxford University Press catalogue will tell you, this isn't for casual readers. It has a definite audience in mind, one presumably erudite enough to appreciate an essay titled 'Space, identity, and affect in Charulata and Ghare Baire.'

The editors -- Professor M Asaduddin and Assistant Professor Anuradha Ghosh, Department of English, Jamia Millia Islamia -- point out that the book is the outcome of a seminar on Satyajit Ray's interpretation of Tagore and Premchand. It aims to examine the admittedly complex process of translating words into images on screen.

In doing so, it also hopes to explain how these legendary writers, and the filmmaker who was inspired by them, helped shape the intellectual life of twentieth-century India.

To the contributors' credit, a majority of papers reproduced here are extremely lucid. The only thing that stood in this critic's way of understanding them better was a lack of familiarity with the source texts. For this, he accepts the blame.

-- Filming Fiction: Tagore, Premchand, and Ray, edited by M Asaduddin and Anuradha Ghosh, Oxford University Press, Rs 695.

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