22 October, 2020

Masseur Sahib

Merchant-Ivory is back. This time, it's an adaptation of Sir Vidia's The Mystic Masseur, preceded by a little dinner diplomacy.

Masseur Sahib
Ismail, I bet you had something to do with this." The man from Paris theatre is only half-kidding. We have assembled here on a crispy New York morning for a preview of Ismail Merchant's film The Mystic Masseur—an adaptation of one of V.S. Naipaul's best-known novels, set among the Indian immigrant community in Trinidad. A beaming Merchant gives us a rather enigmatic half-smile: he has just told us that Sir Vidia has been awarded the Nobel prize for literature.

Merchant's legendary powers of persuasion are highly unlikely to have been exercised on the wise men in Oslo. The producer-director is infamous for his backstage activities: he had started off an avalanche of letters to get the Oscars to bestow a lifetime achievement award on Satyajit Ray. And along with director James Ivory, he was responsible for getting some of Ray's earlier films like Pather Panchali restored. Merchant's ability to charm milk out of a stone is legendary. Hence, the half-joke and the half-smile.

Luck and Merchant, however, are no strangers. The timing of the Nobel prize for Sir Vidia...


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