Books, Movies and Magic
Saad Adnan Khan
I get very excited when there is a film adaptation of a book I love. I speculate how my favorite scenes will be shot, and what my favorite characters will look like. It gets even better, when the movies are made by filmmakers whose work I admire. I think it takes a lot of courage to film a book that everyone loves, because then there is so much expectation and dreading. What if you disappoint the readers? What if it's a complete disaster? Movies usually cannot take on the large, daunting framework that a book poses. Also, imagination runs wild when you read, and there are different visions and expectations. But then again, movies and books are two different mediums. Both have different dynamics and beauty. Movies bring people together, and that's why I'm always insistent upon showing movies in classrooms.
I have been thrilled ever since I heard that there would be an adaptation of Salman Rushdie's 'Midnight's Children.' 'Midnight's Children' is a masterpiece, and it is a very important historical fiction. What makes it so much fun to read is that Rushdie merges history with magic. The book raises few other important questions: how do we study history? Where are the private narratives in history? Is history constructed? This is a story of Saleem Sinai and the other who was born at the stroke of midnight when India gained its independence from the British Rule in 1947. The twist in the story: Saleem and all the other children, born in that hour, are born with magical powers. Saleem's life gets magically handcuffed to the history of his country; the private incidents in his life are parallel representations of the grand historical events of his nation. The story line is so dense, multi-layered and vast that I'm facing difficulty in explaining it to you right now. The book was written in 1980, and it was said that this book is 'unfilmable.' But then Deepa Mehta surprises us all by deciding to lay her hand on this super ambitious project. The reason I'm hopeful for this adaptation is because Mehta is a great filmmaker. Have you seen her elemental trilogy--Earth, Fire and Water? If you haven't, please do. They have so much to teach about history and sociology. Her last movie 'Heaven on Earth' was less understood by many, but I thought it was a great movie. So, I'm excited about Midnight's Children!
'Life of Pi' by Yann Martel is a bizarre story of a boy named Pi being stranded on a boat for 227 days in the Pacific Ocean after a shipwreck. His companions on the boat: a hyena, zebra, an orangutan and a royal Bengal tiger (called Richard Parker). By the end, Pi and Richard Parker co-exist and survive, but what precede are, events that push one's imaginationflying fish, carnivorous algae, forest and fighting to stay alive. This is not a story of survival only, but also about dealing with the harshest of realities through fiction and magic. At the end, Pi's narrative is questioned, because his story is too fantastical. Pi then gives an alternate narrative of his journey and survival, a more 'realistic' one, which turns out to be more unsettling and devastating. The movie is directed by Ang Lee, yet another great filmmaker. 'Life of Pi' is a story easy to fall in love with.
'Half the sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide,' written by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, gives real accounts of the brutal oppressions and injustices women face worldwide. I remember reading chapters of the book and literally getting unnerved at points. The book is also uplifting in many ways, because there are inspiring accounts and stories of women, who, even in situations of hopelessness, emerge as fighters. A four hour television documentary series has been directed by Maro Chermayeff based on the book. Kristof travels to 10 countries (Cambodia, Kenya, India, Sierra Leone, Somaliland, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Liberia and United States) with several celebrities, who advocate and shed light on many successful and inspiring stories. I hope the documentary is out on DVD soon.
Why am I writing about these stories and film adaptations? Why should anyone watch these movies and read these books? Well, firstly I think everyone should check these books out, because they are great reads. One must check out these movies too, because books, movies and stories like these help us open our eyes and see the bigger scheme of things. They liberate us from our petty thoughts, expectations and emotions, and aspire us to go for greater things. We understand that there are different realities and imaginations, and we become less stubborn about our own versions of reality. Also, of course, who wouldn't want a bit of entertainment? So read the books and get excited for the movies!