Here is the alternative
Get ready to have “Omkara” between the covers, courtesy writer Stephen Alter
Soul matters Stephen Alter
Vishal Bhardwaj’s Omkara continues to make news. Now there is a book in the offing on the making of one of the most critically-acclaimed movies of recent times. To be published by Harper Collins, the book has been written by
Stephen Alter, the author known for his nostalgia-filled writing. Steve has written novels such as “Renuka” and “Neglected Lives” and travelogues including “Elephas Maximus — A Portrait of the Indian Elephant” and “Amritsar to Lahore.”
The first cousin of popular film and theatre actor Tom Alter, Steve says Tom introduced him to the world of Hindi cinema. “We grew up together in Landour, watching films like Anand, Heer Ranjha and Bobby in
Mussoorie. That was the era of romance. Repeat runs of Dev Anand’s films were also our favourites. Later, Tom moved to theatre and films and thinking that one actor is enough in the family, I took up creative writing,” smiles Steve. Can he speak Urdu like Tom? “No, I can speak only tooti-phooti Urdu.”
The Tamas connection
It was during this period that Tom introduced him to Vishal.
“He used to come to Mussoorie with Tom to play cricket. We are in touch since then. When he came to Mussoorie to write the script of Omkara, he asked me to join him during the shooting.” Steve says this was not his first
brush with Hindi cinema though.
“Earlier Govind Nihalani gave me the opportunity to write the English dialogues of Tamas. This was different. Here I got to see how an idea is mounted on celluloid. I really liked Vishal’s pursuit of perfection. Look at
the way he managed to mould the Bollywood stars to give once-in-a-lifetime kind of performances. I never saw Kareena Kapoor living a character before except to some extent in Dev.”
The love for cinema made him collect posters of classics and get them pasted in the lobby of his Landour house. Steve says the book also has 16 pictures from Omkara printed in black and white.
“To make the book more interesting, I have included interviews of some of my favourites in the industry — Mahesh Bhatt, Shekhar Kapur, Javed Akhtar, M.F. Hussain and Prahlad Kakkar. They talk about how Bollywood has shaped up over the years. I wanted to include many more but I had to be satisfied with those who answered my calls. I wanted to include Karan Johar as well, but could not catch hold of him.” Steve has no issues with escapist cinema as long as it’s entertaining.
“I loved Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge but I could not stand experiments like Shabd in the name of parallel cinema.”
Steve, who has also been the writer-in residence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says he cries easily so it was a little easy for students to move him.
“But I don’t like the young writers’ attempt to create artificial situations to make the reader emote. There has to be a soul in the story.”
Send this article to Friends by