The Director’s Cut

I am a director. My vision has given wings to stories, flesh to characters and panache to words. I do not have a cinematographer, a costume designer, an art director, a make-up artist, a special effects supervisor. I do that myself. Alone.

Heir of RedclyffeI have the power to dissolved away my surroundings. I have the power to be deaf to tyres scraping on roads, to honks hammering my ear drums, to mouths producing conversations, to songs blaring out of machines. There are times when the car dismantle around me – strips of metal fly away, the seat dissolve beneath me, the humans vanish in fumes – and then I am sitting alone, ready to direct my movie. Ready to be devoured by what I love the most. My private universe.

I open the book and my fingers melt into the pages and then I am somewhere else. I am a time traveler.

The idea was breathing with me. It was not planted but surfaced at the right time. It took time to evolve but soon I was directing books instead of reading them. It started in the 90s. Like the rest of India, I was awestruck by DDLJ and my directorial debut was a Shahrukh-Kajol starrer named The Heir of Redclyffe by  Charlotte M. Yonge. Tears trickled down my cheeks when Guy Morville (played by SRK) dies of a fever leaving a widowed Kajol behind. Yes, such was the magic of my directorial debut. SRK and Kajol played numerous important roles in the classics like The Wuthering Heights (although I replaced them with Hrithik and Kareena in a remake later), Rebecca, Gone with the wind, Anna Karenina, The Scarlet Letter etc. The list is endless. While SRK and Kajol reached the heights of stardom by featuring in my movies, Aamir was as usual sulking. So, I threw an occasional Barnaby Rudge and Jude the Obscure towards him. You might throw a spear of a question towards me asking why were Bollywood actors playing Caucasian roles? It was, dear readers, an alternate reality. It was supposed to be insane.

barnaby rudgeIt wasn’t just the classics where the Bollywood actors were shining. SRK (!), Kajol (!) and Saif came together for The Fountainhead. Who played Ellsworth M. Toohey, you may ask. Nasseruddin Shah. Movies like The English Patient, Sphere, Birdsong, The Bind Assassin, 1984, Life of Pi etc kept coming out with Bollywood actors till the director in me outgrew the SRK-Kajol pair and wanted something more. I wanted to work with Foreign actors. And thus started an era of movies where I worked with Jack Nicholson, Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in A Finkler Question, Japanese actors in Memoirs of a Geisha, Black actors in The Colour Purple and countless other movies.

The_Immortals_Of_MeluhaSoon afterwards, my nation started calling me back and I did The Immortals of Meluha with Hrithik as Shiva. A new idea was germinating. I wanted to go for collaborations. Sometimes blind ones. I picked up The Wheel of Time. It was an epic 14 books fantasy series and a huge star cast was required. I had no idea what the story was and hence I randomly assigned actors. It was a gamble but it created results seen never before on the screen. Katrina was paired opposite Brad Pitt. She almost fainted at the proposition. Kareena became the Amyrlin Seat (after uprooting the wicked Angelina Jolie) with a lost puppy of a Matt Damon trailing her. Yes, who would have thought? Priyanka Chopra ended up as Bradley Cooper’s sister. There were minor hiccups like Aishwarya Rai falling in love with Amitabh’s character, but then we were playing blind, weren’t we?

I had tasted blood.

I read A Song of Ice and Fire Series next and had an equally enchanting star cast lined up. And then The Malazan Book of the Fallen happened. It was strange to see Amitabh and Hrithik playing Gods. It was strange to see Rani Mukherjee and Tobey Maguire together in a scene with A.K. Hangal in the background. It was strange to see Aishwarya playing Empress Laseen talking to Sergeant Whiskeyjack played by Arnold. It was strange to see Ashmit Patel (a slave and a mistake) trying to calm down a weeping emperor played by Johnny Depp. It was strange to see Kareena commanding an army with George Clooney standing next to her as a sergeant and then she goes ahead and kills Kristen Stewart of Twilight fame (they played sisters).

Malazan book of the fallenIn the end it is not just about the actors but about the visualization – the costumes, the makeup, the backdrop, the special effects, the music and the acting. It is about watching a book and enjoying the experience. I assume it is an art we all possess but the limits vary.

This is another reason the movies in the real world never live up to the books. I have already created them in vivid details in my mind. I have already seen them. I have already directed them.

Nothing comes close to the joy of carrying a world at my disposal in my brain. There are moments while turning pages when I forget that I am turning them, when I forget that I am physically outside the book, when nothing exists except the screen.

[images from 1,2,3,4]

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49 comments on “The Director’s Cut

  1. This is true,rarely I have seen a movie better than the respective novel/book.Until now there have been only two movies which I felt as equal to or better than the book – Agnisakhshi directed by Shyamaprasad and Parineeta by Pradeep Sarkar

  2. Ahh…the flight of imagination. SRK nd Saif in Fountainhead sounds interesting. And there’s Ashmit too…..I thought he was exclusive to a certain Ms. Maliks imagination.

    • Yes, I took them 10 years ago but may not take them at present if I decide to make a remake.
      And Ashmit was a mistake. A terrible one. I gave him the role because I thought it was an insignificant one. The lucky dog had almost every other scene with Depp.

  3. A bit of a diversion.I want to thank you to this treasure trove where i can refresh my memory of books read long back.I read Rebecca just now & loved the recap.Never knew wikipedia does this too!

  4. Sir, I am flabbergasted by the fecundity and fertility of your imagination! But true, cinema can never dare to replicate the perfectness of characters, scenes and images worked up by the brain. You have capture the feeling of being engrossed in a few deft strokes of your pen.

    It was also a superb way of expressing your love for books. Wuthering Heights is an eternal favourite of mine too.

    • It took me some time to develop it completely. It is at a very advanced stage right now and I am completely enjoying it.
      I don’t think I would have loved books this much had I not created this mechanism. Somehow it shows I love movies as much as books and a combination is what gives me an ultimate high.

  5. What a fertile imagination! well I have also watched the books transforming but never with the mainstream actors… But SRK and Kajol in Wuthering Heights… interesting though I think remake ones are better :)

  6. I think I always prefer reading a book to watching a movie of the book..I havent seen any of the Harry Potter movies just because I dont want to spoil my imagination :)

    But I loved your imagination :)

    • That is one reason I haven’t read Harry Potter yet. Somehow I lose interest in a book if I have seen the movie but not the other way round. :|
      Thanks R’s Mom. :)

  7. Contrary to popular opinion, I like to watch more than read!!! I’m unable to justify this given that I myself like to write. Maybe if I read the book before the movie, I would know. Sometime I read after the movie has impressed me.
    This is for the first time I’m reading someone doing direction in his imagination. Usually, people just go on Oprah after winning an Oscar in their heads ;)

    • If I have watched a movie, I cannot go back and read the book. But I can do the other way round.
      Haha! I have never imagined myself winning the Oscars but you have planted an idea in my mind. :)

  8. My imagination is free of Bollywood actors, instead I try to plant people in my life in the plot. The one thing that is loudest is the background score to go with each scene & twist in the book :)

  9. Fairly sinister – to B(H)ollywoodize in your head every book you read! After watching Joker, Tees Maar Khan and Rowdy Rathore, I can only visualize Akshay Kumar playing every single character ever written in every single book out there.
    I think I may be broken beyond repair.

    • I think all of us imagine things when we read a book and some of us develop that ability more than the others.
      Akshay Kumar is fine but you cannot give him major roles. I gave him the role of a queen’s escort in my latest movie. He turned out to be a God in disguise. :|

  10. This is how I too read books. Only difference that my actors do not limit to hollywood/bollywood but also to miniscreen actors, ad models, my friends, neighbours, relatives, random persons I have seen in the bus stops….. I need to visualize every words I read. A movie screen is always running in my head.
    Happy to find that I share a trait with you :)

  11. >>Who played Ellsworth M. Toohey, you may ask. Nasseruddin Shah

    200 out of 100 to you for this… :) when I was reading The Fountainhead, I too had thought of a movie and had thought of Nasseruddin Shah only for that character… but for female lead (I forgot the her name in book) I had Sushmita Sen and Boman Irani as her father. for male leads though I wanted one new face for Horward Roark and Shahid Kapoor as Peter … :-)

    • I guess he has that look required to play Toohey. I have read Fountainhead twice and the second time, I too Priety Zinta as Dominique Francon. She has that maverick attitude required for that role.

  12. Hahah…at one point, I was thinking, OMG!! so many movies were made and I don’t know even one of them… :P…seriously!! I have seen a couple of Nicholos Sparks’ romantic flicks and they looked like a documentary to me..not like a movie..I felt his books are better than a movie.

  13. lol! George Clooney as Kareena’s seargent was too funny! And just imagining SRK stuttering through all his Victorian roles …Hrithik as Shiva is just the perfect cas, I can only drool thinking of a dark Hrithk :)
    One movie that I likes far better than the book is ‘Chocolat’. Read the book first and loved it, saw the movie and loved it even more, then tried re reading the book and failed miserbaly. The movie images were so storngly ingrained in the mind. The movie was so good, you couls almost lick those chocolates :)

    • She is heading an army. :)
      Now that I think of SRK, that does sound funny. I hardly use him nowadays.
      I haven’t read Chocolat but the movie is my all time favourite. I have seen it three times. :)

  14. Have I told you that I love your imagination? :)

    I think all book lovers do this – direct a movie in their heads while reading a book. I’m guilty of it too, but I haven’t ever really imagined the way you have. I can see places, scenes, people in my head, but I have never tried to fit in Bollywood/Hollywood actors into the characters of my books.

    • Yes, I agree. Most of us do this but the degree varies. Personally, I have to attach a face to a character. Otherwise, I imagine people with white oval faces and that is not very pleasant. :)
      Thanks TGND! :)

  15. what a fertile imagination – i suppose i should stop casting myself in every role in a movie adaptation of books! a bit like the scene in “being john malkovich” when he enters his own “portal”!!

    • Haha! I cannot understand how people cast themselves in novels. I will fall off the chair laughing if I do so. I guess it is an art. :)
      Thanks for your comment ms.

  16. I always like to say, writing/ reading is an exercise in solitude. It’s when the voices in your head come to life.

    Now all you have to imagine is Hugh Jackman dedicating his Oscar to you.

    • And there is this whole world sitting in my head quietly all day and comes to life when I open the book, so much like the jungles of Pandora in Avatar.
      He already has and so have so many other actors. I myself have a shelf full of Oscars. :P

  17. wow! My first time here and I am smiling to myself–what a lucky discovery! Great piece. I remember at TSBC recently this question was asked. Your piece answers it so well. Yeah, it is that engagement piece –the way we receive and interpret a good book that makes another director’s cut so unsatisfying.

    • Thanks Bhavana and welcome here! :)
      It is very rare when I have liked a director’s vision more than mine because I imagine it in so much detail. A book is very hard to match when you create an actual movie out of it. In real world, the director limits the director’s imagination because of time and money constraints.

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