July 31, 2020
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Bapsi Sidhwa

The Parsi author on Earth, the film adaptation of her book Ice-Candy Man

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Bapsi Sidhwa
How do you feel about the new edition of Ice-Candy-Man with a picture of Earth on the cover?
Absolutely delighted. I was there on the sets. It was very interesting. Film's a completely different medium.

How is it different from the novel?
In a book, it's how you write that matters, in a film the plot's important.

Did you collaborate at all with Deepa Mehta on the film?
Yes, we worked on the script together for a while, but she had her own vision, different from my own more nebulous one. I felt I shouldn't interfere. So I trusted her fully.

Were you a little disappointed with the outcome?
I never thought anyone would take up the daunting task of making it a film. But Deepa did, so she was ready for the challenge. It needed an act of courage. I'm very pleased.

Has the film lost some of the book's emotional complexity?
A film stands on its own merit, integrity and rhythm. It can't be the book. And this one in particular was not easy to translate. It's very complex and layered.

Would you have done it differently yourself?
The book's written from a child's perspective and so I felt a voiceover was needed, but Deepa wanted the child's presence throughout with low camera angles for perspective. And the little girl, Lenny, did splendidly.

Do you think film adaptations of books in general work well?
Literature's notoriously difficult to adapt. But genre types, spy novels work well.

What do you think of English writing in the subcontinent?
It's very encouraging. I'm just reading Pankaj Mishra's The Romantics, Pestonji's Mixed Marriages and Khushwant's The Company of Women. But there's no great writing yet, except for A House for Mr Biswas. There's a solid body, but nothing earth-shaking yet.

Our societies are in churn, so why is there no great writing yet?
It's not an act of will, it's an accident of birth. It depends on what a writer can manage.

Are you working on a new book?
Well, I'm working on a collection of short stories and I'm turning my books The Crow-eaters and American Brat into plays. I can never do a film script, but a play is easier.

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