Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
Of Amitav Ghosh, Bollywood and opium
I wish someone would make a movie on the “Sea of Poppies.”
Amitav Ghosh’s latest novel has all the right ingredients for a film set in 19th century India — runaway lovers, a bankrupt Raja, anti-British sentiment, a white woman masquerading as an Indian peasant and a huge ship sailing down the Ganges.
“It’ll be very difficult. Will need a lot of special effects,” says the 52-year-old writer.
Ghosh just smiles. The silver-haired author, one of India’s best known novelists writing in English, is more affable than I had imagined.
There had been offers from Bollywood for two of his books — “The Hungry Tide” (2004) and “The Calcutta Chromosome” (1995) — but the projects fizzled out.
That doesn’t bother Ghosh.
“It’s not on my mind when I write a book. If somebody is interested, it’s something I’m open to,” he says.
“Sea of Poppies,” released this month, is set against the backdrop of the opium trade in eastern India and is the story of sailors, convicts and indentured labourers on board a ship headed to Mauritius in 1838.
The sea is a recurring theme in Ghosh’s novels. In fact, the writer spent some time on a sail boat to acquaint himself with sailing terms.
And how did he describe so well the effect of opium on addicts in “Sea of Poppies.” Did he taste some himself?
Ghosh smiles again.
“No, I didn’t.”
Then has an afterthought.
“In fact, we all taste opium. When I was a kid, we used to be given gripe water which is basically opium.”
(Click here for Reuters interview)