Rabindranath Tagore, Premchand, and Satyajit Ray have deeply influenced the intellectual and cultural life of twentieth-century India, and their legacy continues well into the present. Filming Fiction addresses the mutual relationship between literature and film in the Indian context involving these iconic figures.
An exclusive study of this complex process of meditation from printed words to screen images, the book focuses on the work of two legendary writers and a celebrated filmmaker. While the first section, ‘Fiction into film adaptation of novels in the west and South Asia, the next cluster of essays (‘Tagore, Ray, and Their Women’) focuses on Satyajit Ray’s adaptation of two Tagore novels in his films, Ghare Baire and Charulata (‘Noshto Neerh’), and three short stories ‘Postmaster’, ‘Monihara;, and ‘samapti’ in his film Teen Kanya. The last section, ‘Premchand, Ray, and the Game of Chess,’ deals with Ray’s adaptation of two Premchand stories in his films, Shatranj Ke Khiladi and Sadgati.
With contribution from leading academics and emerging scholars, this book will appeal to anybody interested in the textual visual interface as well as students and teachers of literature and film, media, and cultural studies.
M. Asaduddin is professor, Department of English, Faculty of Humanities and Languages, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.
Anuradha Ghosh is Assistant Professor, Department of English Faculty of Humanities and Languages Jamia Milla Islamia, New Delhi.
Cinema as an art-form is barely a century old, but within this short span it has taken great strides and encroached upon realms and spaces formerly occupied by other art forms. Debates about the possibilities of this medium, its aesthetic nature, the synergies it shares with literature, painting, music, and allied art-forms continue to rage in the academia even as it began to face threats from the small screen by the turn of the small screen by the turn of the twentieth century. The special relationship that cinema shares with literature had been parasitical in the first phase. This had occasioned it a vulgar medium since it homogenized popular culture, and E.M. Forster, who refused permission for the filming of his novels for fear of falsification of the original intent, while Virginia Woolf Passionately affirmed the power of the figure of speech and the uniqueness of literary experience over what she considered the limited objective of cinema in the following way:
Even the simplest image: my love’s like a red rose, that’s newly sprung in June, presents us with impressions of moistures and warmth and the flow of crimson and the softness of petals inextricably mixed and strung upon the lift of a rhythm which is itself the voice of the passion and the hesitation of the love. All this, which is accessible to words,alone the cinema must avoid. (woolf 1926:309)
However, we must distinguish between different forms of fictional wiring. There were practitioners of the genre who were certainly aspiring towards the condition of film in their efforts to make experiences vivid and palpable to the reader, Joseph Conrad, one of the most sophisticated practioners of the genre of novel had asserted, ‘My task which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel-it is, before all, to make you see’ (Conrad 1942: 83). Writers and editors were aware of the power of the visual impact and tried to achieve it through illustrations of different kinds. Besides, Conrad, Dickens, Emile Bronte, Hardy and Flaubert have all been considered cinematic because of the strong visual elements in their works.
The struggle for winning legitimacy of cinema as art is a story that hardly re-telling. Every new art form encounters resistance in the beginning and requires time to consolidate itself and exploit all its posibilties. The cinema had its fair share of sceptics, but the overwhelming majority of people was fascinated by the spectacle of moving images, and the farsighted could see in it possibilities that were beyond the scope of literature. Predictably, once cinema estabilished itself as a valid medium for communication and became an instrument of mass culture and entertainment, critics and writers began to take it more harmonious and intertextual relationship between more dynamic and complex. The narrative forms in both the media, as well as characterization, became a serious subject for discussion among film directors who began to mine literary narratives as subjects for their films. One of the earliest discourses on the subject is, of course, Serdei Eisenstein’s reflections on the influence of Charles dickens on D.W. Griffith, the inventor of close-up and cross-cutting techniques (Eisenstein 1949:195-255), which sparked off serious discussion on the novelistic forms and film adaptations from them.
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