Author: Tabish Khair
Publisher: Picador India
ISBN/UPC (if available): 9780330419222
A deal is struck: Harihar and Durga sign away their son to the landowner's family. In return, he sets up a studio near Bombay, where Harihar directs his own films. A host of new characters enter, including Saleem, a Muslim actor who tastes some success in Harihar's talkies and (perhaps) dies during an attack on the studio by Hindu fundamentalist thugs.
The film industry was one of the few places in India where Hindus and Muslims worked in perfect amity. But as independence approached, relations soured. Khair entwines Harihar's story with the tragedy of Partition and the resulting mayhem. The events are presented through the recollections of Rizwan Hussein Batin, an elderly scriptwriter who had worked with Harihar, then left for Pakistan, and who now lives with his wife in Copenhagen.
The film historian who interviews Batin soon begins to feel that the scriptwriter's memory is suspiciously precise. He knows far more about Harihar and others than he ought. Suspense is built with enormous skill, the reader being enlightened and then befuddled until, at the very end, the mystery is resolved with teasing subtlety.
Most readers will cherish Filming for its magical evocation of the cinema's beginnings. Indian movie aficionados will delight in decoding the sly allusions to famous films (Amar Akbar Anthony, 36 Chowringhee Lane, perhaps even Pather Panchali) in the names of characters and places. But this is not just a novel about movies. It shows how the dream-world of cinema, for all its distance from everyday reality, is perpetually vulnerable to the nightmares of history. Elegantly structured and taut with understated passion, Filming is a brilliant recreation of the lost world of early cinema and the continuing tragedy of religious hatred. Although set in an India that has now vanished, its delights as well as its message should find admiring readers everywhere.
'Elegantly structured and taut with understated passion, "Filming" is a brilliant recreation of the lost world of early cinema and the continuing tragedy of religious hatred. Although set in an India that has now vanished, its delights as well as its message should find admiring readers everywhere'
'Khair warns us of the perils of self-justification borne of partial self-knowledge. Given our capacity for self-delusion, can we cope, this novel asks, when our dreams come true?'
- "New Statesman"
'The picture that emerges may sear your soul much like your all-time favourite film'
- "India Today"
'An absorbing novel which is distinguished by its ambition, its structural inventiveness and its highly evocative prose'