BOOKS IN MOVIES

What are movie characters reading these days? A Twitter account has some answers and insights

Abhisek Suman’s Books in Movies account is dedicated to naming the books that are featured in Indian and international productions.

Among the books that Sapna reads in K Balachander’s Ek Duuje Ke Liye are The Complete Works of William Shakespeare and Learn Tamil in 30 Days. Stacked on a shelf in Saba Taliyar Khan’s house in Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil are Bonnard, Corot and Vanity Fair Portraits. Harry Burns in Rob Reiner’s When Harry Met Sally pores over The Icarus Agenda by Robert Ludlum and What Jung Really Said by EA Bennet.

The Twitter account Books in Movies is full of such literary trivia about the kind of printed matter that gets featured in films. Created by accounting professional Abhisek Suman, @books_in_movies consists of screen grabs of characters either reading books or being surrounded by them. The account covers both Indian and international films.

Suman, who lives in Delhi, says the account combines his love for books and cinema. “I remember reading an article Books People Read in Hindi Films by Diptakirti Chaudhury in Outlook that was published a few years ago,” he said. “It really got me thinking at that time and I started doing more research on it. Later, I got in touch with Pankaj Sachdeva, who is one of my favourite bloggers, over Twitter. He is also interested in such trivia. I initially started tweeting from my personal account, and in April, I created a separate Twitter and an Instagram page dedicated to Books in Movies. To be honest, I never began with any vision of where I wanted to go with this. It was more of something I was doing for myself. I had absolutely no idea that I’d get a good response.”

The world of fiction – be it books or the movies – offers the perfect refuge, Suman said. “I’m an introvert and the fictional world is where I’ve found a whole new comfortable world,” he said. “In Delhi, I’m currently juggling studies and my accounting career. Being a corporate slave would have been less bearable if not for the charismatic world of movies.”

Suman spent his childhood in a small town in Bihar, where, in the absence of uninterrupted power supply, he gravitated towards books and magazines. “I remember my maternal grandfather, who was a college lecturer, always encouraged me to read,” Suman recalled. “Before moving to Delhi, I only saw a handful of movies. My first movie experience in a theatre was in the year 2011 and the movie was No One Killed Jessica.”

There was no looking back. Suman attempts to watch a film a day to generate the tweets. “I’ve also got a pretty good memory, so I remembered quite a few books I’d seen in movies long ago, to give me a headstart,” he said. His choice of movies depends on his mood – and he doesn’t just watch solely for the purpose of finding books. He also gets suggestions and contributions from his readers.

Suman’s account is content for the moment with pointing out the titles of publications in films. He doesn’t plan on analysing the connection between a character’s personality and reading habits – yet. “I have observed that books are only used as props in films,” Suman said. “They are rarely related to the plot. There have only been a few movies that have shown books to mean something to the character. For example, the movie Apocalypse Now where Colonel Kurtz is shown reading parts of The Hollow Men by TS Eliot towards the end of the film.” Francis Coppola’s Apocalypse Now is loosely inspired by Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness. The lead character of the novel, Colonel Kurtz, is referenced at the beginning of Eliot’s poem The Hollow Men: “Mistah Kurtz – he dead”.

“Other examples include Tamasha, Jagga Jasoos, Wake Up Sid, The Reader, 20th Century Women and more,” Suman added. “For now, I am happy with just pointing out the books in movies.” Suman also plans to create a website based on his collection of grabs, which will also feature a section on books that are featured in films but are untraceable.

Abhisek Suman.
Abhisek Suman.
We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

Play

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.