Would you have anything by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala?” The bookseller at the Midland bookshop looks up from his cash register, smiles and says, “I haven’t heard that name in a long time. Where did you hear about her?”
At a recently-held exhibition and retrospective of the author-screenplay writer’s works in Delhi, I tell him. He enthusiastically leads me to the books. Hours later, lost in the world of Olivia and her Nawab (from the Booker Prize-winning Heat and Dust) I understand his nostalgic affection for the author.
Initially, Jhabvala was reluctant to enter the sphere of writing screenplays, says Renana. “She never wanted to get into movies because of the limelight and repeatedly refused a persistent James Ivory when he came to her with the idea of turning The Householder into a film. Finally my father convinced her to give it a try.”
And so began one of the longest partnerships in the history of filmmaking: Jhabvala, James Ivory, Ismail Merchant. They worked on over 20 screenplays for four decades.
Filmmaker Meera Dewan, who curated the film retrospective, says, “They won two Oscars, one for A Room with a View in 1986 and the other for Howard’s End in 1992, both of which were adaptations of EM Forster novels.”
It was a friendship that lasted till the very end; they moved into the same apartment building in New York in her final years.
What makes Jhabvala stand out is the honesty with which she wrote about being a wanderer.
From HT Brunch, January 18, 2015
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