Her directorial debut, Peepli [Live] (2010), was India’s official entry for the Oscar in the Best Foreign Language category, yet Anusha Rizvi has been out of thenews since, following her fallout with star-producer Aamir Khan. After a year-and-a-half she is all set to start another film, Opium, based on Amitav Ghosh’s 2009 novel, Sea Of Poppies, short-listed for the Man Booker Prize.
Anusha met the internationally acclaimed novelist in Goa to narrate the first draft of the script and was delighted that he loved it. When her husband, Mahmood Farooqui, and she were shooting the last of Peepli [Live] in Badwai village, someone gifted them the book.
“It read like a prequel to Peepli [Live] which is why I felt the need to tell it on celluloid,” she explains.
Why not an original story like her debut film? “Writing an original story isn’t easy. Filmmakers all over the world, including Bimal Roy, Martin Scorsese and Satyajit Ray have adapted short stories and novels for their films,” says Anusha who was happy to get pointers from scriptwriter Howard Rodman whose Saving Grace (2007) was based on a novel too.
“Since Sea Of Poppies is written in Indian-English, Rodman marked out certain words and looked them up in the dictionary so he would be able to interpret the novel correctly.”
Her film is an adventure thriller set against the backdrop of the opium trade and the migration of coolies to islands on the Indian Ocean and a life of backbreaking poverty. “It’s a love story, a revenge saga, an adventure romance and an action drama all rolled into one, and set against the backdrop of the sea. Right now, we are trying to raise funds for the film,” says Anusha.
Ask her if her film could help Ghosh sell more copies of his books and she retorts, “He doesn’t need a film to sell his books.”