What happens when you gather a line-up of established authors who don't write professionally about cinema and ask them for personal essays about a cherished film or film-related experience?
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The anthology will be out in a month or so, but here's a quick summary of what the pieces are about:
- How do you "read" a film, how do actors recapture the immediacy of their feelings when they dub for a scene months after the original shoot ...and other questions that movie buffs ask themselves ("Jellyfish" - Manjula Padmanabhan)
- A tongue-in-cheek analysis of a cult Punjabi film as a Bible for foot-fetishists ("The Foot-Worshipper's Guide to Watching Maula Jatt" - Musharraf Ali Farooqi)
- On dreamlike vistas, from Buster Keaton's Steamboat Bill Jr to a surreal chase scene featuring Kader Khan and Vinod Mehra ("Perchance to Dream" - Rajorshi Chakraborti)
- How the Bihari actor Manoj Bajpai passed himself off as a native in an archetypal Mumbai movie ("Writing my own Satya" - Amitava Kumar)
- From watching Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire to reading Michael Cunningham’s ‘White Angel’ - how does the language of film differ from the language of prose? ("Two Languages in Conversation" - Kamila Shamsie)
- On the tumultuous romance between a man and his car in Ritwik Ghatak's Ajantrik ("Gaadi Bula Rahi Hai" - Sumana Roy)
- Why a middle-aged male author performed a Helen dance in drag after a public reading in Brooklyn (Manil Suri's "My Life as a Cabaret Dancer", which you can read here)
- Secret agents, suave detectives, fake ghosts ... on Hindi film noir and thrillers from the 1950s and 60s ("Villains and Vamps and All Things Camp" - Madhulika Liddle)
- What the silences in the Kaurismaki brothers' movies reveal about Finland and its people, and why an Indian writer should be so interested ("Going Kaurismaki" - Anjum Hasan)
- When you're starved for moviegoing experience, a Charlie Sheen thriller can be "the greatest movie ever made by man" ("Terminal Case" - Sidin Vadukut)
- On why being scared is a good thing ("Monsters I Have Known", by yours truly)
- A novelist recalls her time publishing a gossip-driven film magazine in the 1970s, steeped in "a Film Lok parallel to Indra Lok" ("Super Days" - Namita Gokhale)
- A writer who worked for the British Board of Film Classification on the occasional need for - and her ambivalence about - censorship ("The Final Cut" - Jaishree Misra)
And here's the video of the Popcorn Essays session at the Jaipur lit-fest, where four of these writers read from their pieces.
Updates to follow as the release date draws near.