Posts Tagged ‘outlook’

Nehru and EdwinaJust a few days back we wrote about the film here , when the news came out that Irrfan Khan is going to play Jawaharlal Nehru in the Cate Blanchett starrer Indian Summer to be directed by Joe Wright (The Soloist, Atonement). The film is an adaptation of the book Indian Summer : The Secret Historty Of The End by London based writer and historian Alex Von Tunzelmann.

We also wrote how the I & B Ministry wants the love/sex scenes to be toned down. Outlook magazine has got exclusive details on the same.  The five specific objections raised are as follows…

  • The film is not based on recorded facts, say the officials. So, from the outset, it should be declared as a work of fiction.
  • No scenes showing physical intimacy should be filmed between Nehru and Edwina Mountbatten.
  • No gestures or actions, or words of love or affection, should be filmed.
  • No kissing scenes should be included.
  • The word “love” has to be struck off from six dialogues in the submitted script.

To read the full article click here or it follows here.

“I have often been asked whether I think Nehru and my mother were in love. The answer undoubtedly is, yes, they were.”

—Pamela Mountbatten Hicks, daughter of Lord Louis Mountbatten, the last viceroy of India

Jawaharlal Nehru, the statesman/visionary. Chacha Nehru, the man who doted on children. A loving father, who wrote letters to his daughter while in prison. Pandit Nehru, committed socialist, architect of modern India, dashing and intelligent public figure. India’s first prime minister was all this and more. But Nehru, the handsome lover, lonesome widower, the man who penned eloquent letters to the woman he loved—wife of India’s last viceroy, Edwina….That is one side of Nehru the Congress would rather keep under wraps. Which is why when British filmmaker Joe Wright—who also directed Ian McEwan’s Atonement and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice—wanted to capture the last gasp of the British empire in India in the backdrop of a romantic relationship between the first prime minister of India and the last viceroy’s wife, he ran into trouble. It was pretty predictable. The Union information and broadcasting ministry in India told his producers—Working Title—not to cross the line and serve up Nehru’s private life for public consumption on the big screen.

Ironically, the relationship between Edwina and Nehru was never really a secret. The film is, in fact, based on a book by historian Alex von Tunzelmann. Titled Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire, the tome did not scorch the Indian bookshelves when it was launched here two years ago, despite its compelling and often controversial narrative. Its proposed celluloid version, however, has the government scurrying to put a freeze on any filmic Indian Summer.

Sources in the I&B ministry revealed to Outlook the exact nature of the five objections the ministry detailed in its July 27, 2009, letter to the film’s producers. The film’s script had been submitted to the ministry four months earlier and it had been sent to a panel of experts (read serving and retired I&B ministry officials) for vetting. It was they who passed the verdict that the script had ‘objectionable’ amorous references which could well hurt the sentiments of the Indian public. The five objections run something like this:

Objection 1. The film’s not based on fact, so call it a work of fiction. 

“Where has the love affair been chronicled in history?” asks a ministry official. “Has any Indian historian said it impacted events?” The panel is of the view that the “romance” between the two principal characters—Edwina and Nehru—is not borne out by historical facts. Nor was the relationship, by their reckoning, in any way central to Partition. In all fairness, therefore, they say, the filmmakers should primarily declare beforehand that the storyline is fictional.

The official discomfiture stems from the fact that Tunzelmann’s book is quite upfront and forthcoming about the Nehru-Edwina romance, and the film’s script has followed it pretty closely. An excerpt that a panel member has flagged from the book reads thus: “Meanwhile the relationship became more close. In public, Jawahar and Edwina were formal; in private, they were inseparable. Letters became fervent: ‘The more one talks, the more there is to say and there is so much that it is difficult to put into words’.”

Objection 2. This is a straight injunction: thou shalt not show any intimacy between Edwina and Nehru.

The I&B panel says that when it comes to Nehru, only recorded history can be shown. Beyond that, “everything is conjecture. And in this realm of conjecture…falls the love affair between Countess Edwina Mountbatten and the first prime minister of Independent India, Jawaharlal Nehru.” Asks a ministry official: “Where has the love affair been chronicled in history as we know it? More specifically, have Indian historians ever written about the so-called romance and have they said it impacted the course of events in history?”

Indian historians might have desisted but not Tunzelmann. Her book details, for example, the famous trip to Mashobra in Himachal Pradesh, which is also included in the script and for which the producers had sought permission to shoot in Mashobra. “Edwina and Jawahar met early every morning in the garden. They drove together along the Tibet Road stopping for picnics in the woods. They stayed up late and alone after Dickie (Lord Mountbatten) and Pamela (their daughter) had retired to bed. When Jawahar came to see Edwina in her room, he somehow upset an inkstand. ‘They were both too busy mopping it up to be abashed,’ wrote Edwina’s official biographer.” Scenes like this, say officials, when adapted on screen, could be embarrassing.

Objection 3. No ‘love’ in the script, we are Indian.

The L word figures six times in the script, but I&B ministry officials would not hear of it even once. Why, they don’t want even a hint of love by word or gesture. They object to love scenes cropping up regularly in the script, saying the film focuses more on the romance than on Partition. They would be happier if Indian Summer emerged as a sanitised docu-drama of Partition and not the great romance of the 20th century that they suspect the filmmakers will sell the movie as. But while the ministry mandarins may choose to turn a blind eye to any sign of weakness in Nehru, Tunzelmann is vivid in her description of a pining Nehru. To quote from her book: “After her return to England, Jawahar wrote to Edwina that he could still sense her ‘fragrance on the air’ and that he read and re-read her letters. ‘I lose myself in dreamland which is very unbecoming in a Prime Minister’.”

Objection 4. No gestures or words of love or affection either, please.

There is no question of the Edwina-Nehru characters holding hands or being in any romantic or intimate pose on screen. The I&B ministry officials cite Edwina’s daughter Pamela as saying that her mother’s relationship with Nehru was “more platonic” than anything else. It would be scandalous, they say, for instance, to film this from Tunzelmann’s account: “Their relationship had worked because it allowed both Jawahar and Edwina their own private space; but suddenly being together around the clock did not seem so undesirable after all. The intensity of their feelings both exhilarated and frightened them….”

Objection 5. Kissing scenes? No way

It would be sacrilege to have the screen Nehru enacting any sensual scenes. He might come across as only human but for the I&B wallahs, it would be showing him in a poor light.

The official discomfiture stems from the fact that the book on which the film script’s based is explicit about ‘romance’.

Will this mean the end of Indian Summer? Perhaps not, but not quite the start the producers might have wanted either. They had sought permission to shoot in Rashtrapati Bhavan and Teenmurti House in Delhi, and in Amritsar and Mashobra, as it is mandatory for foreign filmmakers to seek clearance from the I&B ministry before filming in India. With the I&B ministry throwing this spanner in the works, it is clear that they will be allowed to shoot in India only if they agree to the suggested cuts. They could, of course, consider filming on locations abroad. But then that won’t quite be an Indian Summer.

Meanwhile, the I&B ministry’s squeamishness has put paid to the filmmakers’ original plan to start filming in winter. Take One, the Indian first-line production company, put up a brave front when its officials said the delay in production was due to the global financial crisis. Director Joe Wright has been quoted in the British media as admitting that the script has run into problems. So even as the script is in hand and actors Cate Blanchett, Hugh Grant and Irrfan Khan shortlisted for the leads, the I&B ministry is playing spoiler. Perhaps it is reading too much into one observation Tunzelmann makes in her book. “The security of three nations—Britain, India and Pakistan—rested on this one love affair being kept quiet.” This may be the only thing they agree with Tunzelmann on.

Among the new breed, Dibakar Banerjee is one of our favourite filmmakers. Two films, Khosla Ka Ghosla & Oye Lucky Lucky Oye, and you know he belongs to a different tribe. Outlook magazine has done a cover story on the lovelogy of  indian cinema. There are essays by Sudhir Mishra, Paromita Vohra, Santosh Desai and others. To read Dibakar’s piece, click here or scroll down.

I Love You. Now Make Tea.

What film romances don’t talk about when they talk about love

dibakarMost of love is but a memory of it. How it used to be. How it used to feel. I was reminded of this while watching two of the most haloed Bollywood romances ever, late one night while researching for my next film—which is about love.

I choked, saw most of the films through a teary film over my eyes and my minus five glasses, then got up and spooned with my wife and partner of fifteen years and pretended I was seventeen again.

Now I’m told love conquers all. I have proof otherwise. Making tea in the morning conquers all. Coming back home early from work conquers all. Cleaning out the study conquers all.

But try making a film out of these things. Or even a memory. I dare you.

Hence, the memories of love long gone. Memories of when you were seventeen. When she walked into class, hesitant, shy. You looked at her face once and looked away. Memories of a knee-length skirt, perfectly waxed calves ending in a pair of Nikes you could never afford.

You never thought of touching her. She walked in a light of her own, glowing, carrying her own backlight and diffusion filter that made stars shine out of her earrings.

Some days you noticed her body, as she played in the basketball court. But you turned away, hot and confused. Most days you thought of dying of cancer in a luxurious hospital single room, while she wept quietly at your bedside, holding your hand and a thermometer. She could be loved, all your life, safe in your memory, tucked away, close at hand, and you could make a film on her anytime.

Bitch is, they had made them already.

How on earth could they know what you were thinking at night, nuzzling your pillow, alone, nursing a heart aching to be broken?

Which came first? These memories? Or the films that stole them?

More importantly, whose memories do I steal?

Could someone love someone like the following?

Nearing forty love As against Forever Seventeen love. You can see the wrinkles around her eyes. She works, earns more than you, cuts through your macho nonsense, is bullshit-repellant, has a potbelly, has married once and doesn’t want kids. Can she be loved? I mean superhit, six-weeks-running loved?

Dishwasher love She does the dishes. You do the home alone writing while your wife travels. It started with guilty, slum it sex. It’s become love now. She’s ready to leave her wife-beater husband for you. If only you gave her the guilty respect you give your wife. Can she, in all her rough-fingered, detergent-corroded glory, be loved?

She gave head once love At seventeen, she was caught on tape performing fellatio on her boyfriend in a bmw 7 series. She denied it, made a fool of herself, went away and is now back in Bombay with a hideous I-don’t-care grin on her face while trying to make it big in B movies. She’s not even that pretty now. Can she be loved?

Unfair, unlovely love She’s dark and pimply. She stands all day at a shop counter wearing an ill-fitting T, cheerfully trying to find you just the right shade of pink lipstick. She smells of sweat, cheap perfume and stale coconut oil. But she finds you your pink. Can she be loved?

Bitch left me love You picked her out of the gutter when she was ready to kill herself. You got her her revenge. You gave her the strength to go out and win. Then she leaves you because you’re a loser. Can she be loved?

Making tea for her in the morning after fifteen years love She loved you when you were boyish, funny, unknown and followed her like a pooch. Now she loves you when you’re overweight, stressed and daily late from corporate dinners because, once a month, you make morning tea. Can she be loved?

One day, they’ll spoon to these loves, you’ll see.

For most of love is but a film someone else made.

For Sudhir Mishra’s take on Devdas, click here. Also, Santosh Desai on the love story without baggage, Paromita Vohra on the love games, Prasoon Joshi on lovelogy songs and Naman Ramchandran on taboo love. Interesting!