What's In a Name?
Sooni Taraporevala knows more than a little about the world encompassed in Fox Searchlight's new film The Namesake. Based on Pulitzer prize-winning author Jhumpa Lahiri's novel, The Namesake tells an archetypal story of a generational culture clash, centering on a Calcuttan family that transplants to New York and struggles to maintain their son's sense of Indian heritage amid an alluring and erosive American culture. In her own young adulthood, the Bombay-born Taraporevala also came to New York, where she earned an undergraduate degree from Harvard. The Ivy League was also where she went deep into the study and appreciation of film and was motivated to earn an M.A. in Cinema Studies from NYU. Upon graduation, Taraporevala felt a strong pull to return to Bombay to pursue still photography. I didn't want to pursue the two options open to a Cinema Studies graduate -- to teach or become a film critic, she explains.
Not too long after returning home she teamed up with Mira Nair, a close friend and fellow Indian she'd met while at Harvard. She penned the script for Nair's directorial debut, Salaam Bombay!, and the writer-director duo have since worked on nearly half a dozen films together including 1991's Mississippi Masala. Taraporevala, who still resides in Bombay, corresponded from India about her new project, her writing process, and why she happily embraces a position in the industry she describes as marginal.
What made this particular
story special to you?
Like Gogol (the Russian author perhaps most famous for his novel Dead Souls ), I've had an incident in my life where, because of the follies of youth, I did not fully appreciate the love of an older relative until it was too late. Then, like Gogol, I was filled with regrets. The familial bonds Jhumpa writes about so well, with so much nuance and truth, is what made this story extra special.
What were some of the
most significant changes from novel to screenplay necessitated by the
The most significant change is the large time leaps the film makes. The novel also has many more characters and events. We had to choose what to use. But that is the case with most adaptations. I think the film is true to the spirit of the novel.
Are adaptation or original
screenplays, like yours for Mississippi Masala, more difficult?
Is your writing routine
Do you feel your screenwriting
has benefited from living and working in India away from the Hollywood
scene and amid the strong Indian film industry?
Except for one film, I've not really worked in the Indian film industry, so I am marginal everywhere -- in America as well as here in Bombay. I kind of like my marginal status. The only downside is that I don't have a community of writers I interact with, which is why I read Written By so avidly when it reaches me by snail mail.
Visit the site to view the article with pictures at http://www.wga.org/subpage.aspx?id=2328
Writers Guild of America, West
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