Ruskin Bond, the grand old ’sahib’ from Landour in Mussourie, has been bitten by the tinsel bug. The novelist will make his maiden foray on the big screen with a cameo in Vishal Bhardwaj’s forthcoming ‘Saat Khoon Maaf’, based on his short story ‘Susannah’s Seven Husbands’.
‘I am in the movie. I have told Vishal that I have got a movie part. Don’t you dare cut me out,’ Bond told IANS at the ongoing DSC Jaipur Literature Festival.
This is not Bond’s first movie with filmmaker Bhardwaj. ‘I had earlier collaborated with him in the ‘Blue Umbrella’ which was also based on my story. The story was recommended to Vishal by his wife. I could not work with Bhardwaj on that movie,’ the 76-year-old author said.
Bond has been actively involved in scripting ‘Saat Khoon Maaf’, which stars Priyanka Chopra, unlike a previous screen adaptation of his short story ‘The Flight of Pigeons’ in ‘Junoon’, where he ‘did not even meet the director’.
‘Susannah… was originally a short story comprising a few odd pages. When Vishal decided to turn it into a movie, I expanded the story into an 80-page novella and then began to think in terms of scenes. It became an actual script – a 200-page full-length Hindi script,’ Bond said.
Bond appears in the movie with Priyanka Chopra, who kills ‘each of her seven husbands’.
‘I had to devise regional (Indian) ways of killing the husbands,’ Bond said.
The author believes that movies do justice to literature.
‘I was a great movie-goer as a boy. I had watched some great movies adapted from Charles Dickens’ classics like ‘David Copperfield’, ‘Great Expectations’, ‘Oliver Twist’ and ‘Christmas Carol’. His classics lend themselves to brilliant visual adaptations on screen. Stories by writers like Somerset Maugham and Daphne du Maurier were also made into movies,’ Bond said.
‘My own writing has been influenced by the fact that I went to see the movies and I always thought in terms of visuals,’ he said.
Bond said his ‘fondness for short story as a preferred writing format dates back to his early youth’. ‘One of the reasons why I like writing stories is because when I started writing I had to make a living out of it. Novels could take up to a year,’ he said.
Bond said the sense of perpetual wonder that marked his stories was because he didn’t grow up.
The novelist, who believes in the importance of the oral tradition of story-telling feels that laptops have changed the way children look at stories. ‘They read great stories on the internet. Fantasy has a great appeal today and technology has made inroads into stories,’ he said.
According to Bond, whose books are also steeped in fantasy, ‘the Harry Potter novels had been brilliantly executed and highly successful’.
‘Potter has proved children’s books can outsell adult books and become bestsellers,’ he said.
Born in 1934, the iconic writer of British origin was honoured with the Padma Shri in 1999 for his contribution to children’s literature. He is famous for novellas and short stories like the ‘Room on the Roof’, ‘Night Train at Deoli’, ‘Time Stops at Shamli’, ‘Our Trees Still Grow in Dehra’, and ‘Flight of the Pigeons’.
But what is the master storyteller’s favourite story? Pat comes his reply: ‘Often at night, I am restless and my blanket slips off. An unseen benign hand puts the blanket back on me. It is a very motherly ghost.’
This is a ghost story that Ruskin Bond has never got around to writing. It is his friendly guardian spirit.