• Anjum Hasan (C) Madhu Kapparath
Eye of the beholder

A quick Q and A with writer and poet Anjum Hasan.


Your first film-related obsession?

Dead Poets Society. A whole film about poetry, wow!


One thing you miss about the way in which you saw movies as a child?

The complete immersion. Not being able to tell the difference, and not caring for the difference, between a classic and a tearjerker, a bad film and a good one.


The worst book to film adaptation?

Lolita. Both the versions. I don’t think it’s possible for film to really capture Humbert Humbert’s poet’s eye or, indeed, his dirty mind!


If you were to adapt a film to a book, it would be…

Lars Von Trier’s Breaking the Waves. The spiritual trauma of the characters would lend itself excellently to reams of anguished Dostoevskian prose.


A sequence/ character/ plot in any of your books that might be inspired by cinema (by the medium itself or a particular film)?

I love the way Guillermo Arriaga writes films (Amores Perros, Babel, 21 Grams)— how unrelated events slowly and ineluctably collide, and how the fates always have the upper hand. I tried his technique in my story ‘Saturday Night’ in my recent short fiction collection Difficult Pleasures.


Do you read film reviews? What good are they?

I think Baradwaj Rangan, Pradeep Sebastian and Jai Arjun Singh are excellent film critics whose reviews are always a pleasure to read as of themselves and not just as pointers to which films to watch or avoid.


In a movie version of your life who would play you? Who would you have liked to play you?

I would have liked to play myself but I don’t act and, for better or for worse, my life is not a movie!


What book of yours could be made into a film?

I think all the fiction. The poems might be harder though there have been attempts to make those into films too.


Who would you like it to be directed by?

The documentary filmmaker Nishtha Jain. She’s one of the few film artists around.


Who would you cast as who (you could name any or all characters)?

I would leave that to Nishtha. I don’t know anything about casting!


One male actor you’ve always loved?

Matti Pellonpää, the deadpan, underdog hero of so many Aki Kaurismäki films.


One actress you absolutely adore?



What fictional characters would you like to see both of the above play?

Pellonpää as Hamlet. And Kajol as Madame Bovary.


One writer whose biopic would definitely be A-Rated?

Hunter S. Thompson.


A writer whose biopic you want to see?

Qurratulain Hyder. To see her life on screen would be to rediscover a whole lost aristocratic North Indian world.


One non-fiction title that could make for a good film?

William Dalrymple’s The Last Mughal. I would love to see how the Delhi looked through Mughal eyes.


One thing that the novel can do which a film can’t?

A novel can tell you what a person is thinking and how different that sometimes is from what she is saying.


One thing the film can do that a novel can’t?

A film can make you jump out your skin.


A film that made you very happy?

Juno. I love talky American films.


A film that made you cry?

Lukas Moodysson’s Lilya 4-ever. And whenever Shah Rukh Khan cries, I cry, no matter how much I’m laughing at myself with the other half of my head.


A film you keep re-watching?

David Lynch’s Mullholland Drive.


A film you would recommend for its dialogues?

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?


A film every writer must see?

The Shining— however bad your writer’s block is, it can’t be as bad as this!


Your favourite film on writing/ a writer?

An Angel at my Table— about the New Zealander writer Janet Frame.


If you ever made a film it would it be…

…a complete flop because I think in words not images.


A film script you would like to read?

The Big Lebowski. Another talky American film, perhaps one of the best.


A film you wish you had written?

Take Care of Your Scarf, Tatiana.


One underrated film?

Mahesh Bhatt’s Saaransh.


One highly rated film that did not work for you?

Love, Sex aur Dhokha.


Name one male and one female character from the movies who you could imagine having an interesting conversation with?

The Wizard of Oz, maybe. And Alice in Wonderland!


Anjum Hasan is the author of the short fiction collection Difficult Pleasures, the novels Neti, Neti and Lunatic In My Head, as well as the book of poems Street On The Hill. Hasan has published poems, short fiction, essays and reviews in various anthologies and journals. She is also Books Editor at The Caravan, a journal of politics and culture.

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Eye of the Beholder: Anjum Hasan

July 2013