Archive for October 15th, 2011

‘The Shadow Lines’ optioned by Anupam Barvé

October 15, 2011 in Uncategorized | Comments (4)



Anupam Barvé wrote to me through my website on May 19th this year.


Hello Amitav,

My name is Anupam Barve. I am a film director originally from Pune, India, currently teaching Film Direction at the University of Westminster in London. I have been an avid fan of your work ever since I (almost accidentally) laid my hands on The Shadow Lines at a JNU bookshop in 2005, and have since read every book you have written, most of them even twice or thrice. (Penguin India had an online competition on its website when Sea of Poppies released in 2008: Whoever answered 20 questions related to your previous work correctly would get a signed copy of the book. The signed copy was delivered to me 6 months later and it still stands up front on my desk here in London!)
I have been trying very hard to get hold of your email address for quite a while now. I tried to source it from friends, writers, publishers, teachers of English literature, no luck. I only found this contact address after your website was recently revamped, so I hope this email reaches you.
Amongst all your work, I find The Shadow Lines to be the one closest to my heart. It has been a great literary influence on me and I myself having travelled to London recently for education and work, can identify with the protagonist on so many different levels. The way the book talks about memories, travelling – physical as well as imaginary, the way it blends family history with that of a nation’s, and most importantly the ease with which it weaves across the decades, is mesmerising. Being a filmmaker, I have always dreamt of one day getting to adapt this for screen. There was no way to find out who had the rights to the book or whether they were already acquired by someone else. I had almost started working on it nevertheless with the help of a screenwriter. Every now and then, when I visit my editor friend who lives on Mill Lane, I leave my place a little early, just to be able stroll about in the streets around W. Hampstead station. I recently even wrote (with Vaibhav Abnave) a pitch and treatment for a short film which is based on my own experience with The Shadow Lines, called ’44 Lymington Road’. There is so much I want to say about the book, my love for it and how I imagine it coming out on film. I have always been curious as to why none of your novels have yet been adapted into films. I remember an acquaintance from Delhi mentioning a feature on The Hungry Tide, but never heard anything more about it since.
I have booked tickets to attend two of your events, one at The Royal Society of Literature and the other at The Asia House in London in June.
It will be the biggest honour for me if I can get to meet you very briefly to talk about this. Anytime, on any of those two-three days of your stay in the UK. I need one opportunity to pitch to you what I have in mind.
Looking forward to hearing back from you and possibly meeting you next month. Cannot wait for The River of Smoke much longer now!

Warm Regards

Anupam Barvé


This was my response:

Dear Anupam

Thank you for this wonderful letter! I am really glad to hear of your long-standing interest in the Shadow Lines: it is evident that the book means a lot to you (which is very heartwarming for me).

‘The Hungry Tide’ has been optioned by two Delhi based producers, Shernaz Italia and Freny Khodaiji. They now have an excellent screenplay for it too. ”The Calcutta Chromosome’ has also been optioned – by the Italian production company that made ‘Gomorrah’.

‘The Shadow Lines’ however is not under option, and I would be glad to talk to you about it. But I should warn you straight away that my film rights are dealt with by my literary agent in New York (I feel I should tell you this, because I’ve noticed that some Indian film-makers are averse to dealing with agents and the like).

If you would like to take this further I would be glad to meet with you in London. They are going to keep me quite busy while I am there, but I could see you on Sunday, June 5 in the late afternoon. Or else before the Asia Soc event on June 8 – they have asked me to be there for an early soundcheck so I’ll have a little time before the start.

With my best wishes



Shortly after this exchange, I went to London for the release of River of Smoke. I met with Anupam during my stay and was enormously impressed by his enthusiasm his encyclopaedic knowledge of film-making. I am glad to announce that we recently signed a contract giving him an option on The Shadow Lines.

Last week Anupam sent me a short bio and a synopsis of 44, Lymington Road, the script he wrote with Vaibhav Abnave. They are posted below.


Anupam Barve is a film maker from Pune, India currently based in London. After a brief detour to science college, he opted to complete a graduation in Performing Arts(Dramatics). Before moving to London to pursue a career in Film Direction, he also spent a few years doing drama, making documentaries and running an environmental organisation. He is currently teaching on the University of Westminster’s MA in Directing: Film and TV course in London. His most recent Short Film- ‘Fresh Suicide’ has been very successful at various festivals and competitions all over, including a nomination for the ‘Golden Palm Tree Award’ at the 42nd International Film Festival of India and a special screening at the 13th London Asian Film Festival 2011, amongst others. Anupam is currently in development of future film projects.



Film Synopsis

44, Lymington Road

“….a place doesn’t merely exist… it has to be invented in one’s imagination…”

Ghosh, A. The Shadow Lines (p.21).


Migration implies one’s encounter with the alien, the unknown, the unseen.

Yet when one migrates from a past colony to a current metropolis, a land that promises

opportunities, one is already filled with the anticipation and intense desire of what one

is going to encounter. A lot of the so-called unseen and unknown has already been

constructed essentially within one’s imagination. The actual physical encounter with

the unseen merely completes the act of seeing/knowing something or some place,

thus, becoming an encounter with one’s inner self. Migration, ironically thus, instead

of uprooting the postcolonial subject from the homeland, fulfills its desire of actually

encountering one’s invented and intensely desired inner landscapes. It is this inventive

imagination of us humans which makes even the alien an integral, indivisible past of

one’s self.

44, Lymington Road, a short film, tells the story of how one invents any place in

his imagination without ever visiting it. The protagonist, a young filmmaker from Pune

(India) is an avid fan of Amitav Ghosh’s writing and has passionately read The Shadow

Lines over and over again. 44, Lymington Road in West Hampstead, London is not just a

place that merely exists, it’s a mystery, a myth and an invented reality which also exists

in the imagination of the anonymous protagonist in the novel, who has already ‘seen’

this place through his uncle, Tridib’s, eyes, who has stayed in this place as a child and

has absorbed the minutest of its details. Through Tridib’s passionate recounting of 44,

Lymington Road and the other places around it- Mill Lane, Sumatra Road, West End

Lane etc., the protagonist in the novel as well as the readers, have invented each and

every corner of these places in their imagination

Our protagonist has now gotten an opportunity to come to London and pursue further

education in film making. He is haunted by the idea of searching for the actual place

in present day London. In his imagination he has already visited the place twice before

through the book, firstly through Tridib and secondly when the protagonist of the novel

visits it as a young man coming to London for education himself. One day he sets out to

actually look for the place, carrying a small digital film camera with him. As he steps out

of West Hampstead station, he notices a stranger, an English woman in her mid thirties

sitting in a roadside café by herself. The woman strongly reminds our protagonist of

May, Tridib’s love and one of the enigmatic female leads from The Shadow Lines. He

goes and tries to start a conversation with her. As their dialogue unfolds, she is intrigued

by the myth of 44, Lymington Road and they decide to step out of the café. As she starts

guiding him through all the places in the neighborhood that he refers from the novel, she

is astonished by how much the young man already knows without ever having been there.

The film juxtaposes their walk through the West Hampstead neighborhood of

today with the images of the same locality in two different visual textures from two

different time periods from the book, as imagined by our protagonist. The present,

the memory, the imagination and the intense anticipation of the actual encounter

all seamlessly gets interwoven in to each other in the narrative of the film. As the

narrative progresses we experience our protagonist’s excitement about shooting his

actual encounter with the place of his imagination but when they actually hit the place

the protagonist goes quiet. He decides to switch off his camera before entering 44,

Lymington Road. He wants to preserve the mystery of the place, which he believes each

reader of The Shadow Lines has to invent for himself. To each his own 44, Lymington


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