Ruth Prawer Jhabvala | Critical Essay by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

This literature criticism consists of approximately 3 pages of analysis & critique of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala.
This section contains 625 words
(approx. 3 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Essay by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

Critical Essay by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

SOURCE: "Writers and the Cinema—A Symposium," in The Times Literary Supplement, No. 4267, November 18, 1983, p. 1287.

In the following essay, Jhabvala comments on the reciprocal relationship between writing novels and screenplays.

I suppose my experience with films has been different from that of most other writers because I've always worked with the same team, the director James Ivory and the producer Ismail Merchant. This has protected me in so far as they have stood between me and what I would have found terribly unpleasant: a collaborative effort at what is called the script level; the dreaded story conference. The only sort of story conference we ever seem to have is when Jim says "Oh that's terrible, awful, can't you do better than that", thereby usually echoing my own thoughts.

Ramlal G. Agarwal on Jhabvala's India:

In a broader perspective, Jhabvala belongs to the tradition of the nineteenth-century comic English novelists like Dickens, Thackeray and Trollope. The post-Independence India resembles, in some ways, the nineteenth-century England. When Jhabvala came over to India, the country was passing through a period of unusual buoyancy. The longings of the people, which had been suppressed by centuries of subjection, had suddenly taken wings and started soaring high. The democratic faith that Indians had adopted had enkindled a sense of release and freedom among all sections of society. In the sudden momentum the country had gathered, the old and the new, the rich and the poor, the good and the bad made common cause and marched hand in hand.

Ramlal G. Agarwal, in his Ruth Prawer Jhabvala: A Story of Her Fiction, Sterling Publishers, 1990.

But besides protecting me from the real world of films, they have also brought it close, in the sense of home, to me. I know what they go through every time they have to raise money for a film—that is, I know about the financiers who draw up solemn contracts and then disappear when cast and crew are already on location and the producer is desperate for money. Once Ismail found a shipping magnate who wanted to be involved in films but one of whose ships sank every time Ismail needed money; another time a rich widow (actually, this happened several times with several rich widows) was already planning her outfit for the première and the village she was going to rent for the festival at Cannes when her accountant advised her against the investment. Then there are the actor's agents who always seem to be more important (or do I mean self-important?) than their clients; and everybody's lawyers whose fees take such a major bite out of a film's budget; and the actors—stars—surely the most comprehensive amalgam of human qualities any writer could hope to meet. All these people have enlarged my world and my landscape; and so have the locations we have used, admitting me into houses, palaces, whole strange cities—what an opportunity for a shy writer who would otherwise be restricted to peering through people's windows at night when the lights are on.

Another kind of advantage that I have gained through films has been in the editing room, where I have learned a whole new method of narration by watching scenes being moved to and fro in various juxtapositions, and time-schemes manipulated through flashbacks and flash-forwards. It has been a two-way traffic for me—what I have learned in films I have put back into my books, and what I have learned about characterization, relationships, happenings, and everything else that goes into writing fiction I've put to use in writing films. I can't think what it would have been like for me to have had one and not the other. I've needed both to keep going—I mean imaginatively as well as financially.

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This section contains 625 words
(approx. 3 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Essay by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
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