June 13, 2006

Bollywood makes its own Lolita

By Krittivas Mukherjee

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan has
finished shooting for a film about the obsessive love of an old
man for a teenage girl, a story the director says was not
inspired by the controversial 1955 novel "Lolita."

Director Ram Gopal Varma, known for unconventional films
that break away from Bollywood's song-and-dance staple, says
"Nishabd" (Silence) is about an old man's emotional tumult
juxtaposed with awareness of his age.

"People say it is similar because it is about the love of
an elderly man for a younger girl. My film is not an adaptation
of Lolita," Varma said.

Indeed, Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita is a pubescent 12 while
Varma's heroine -- played by newcomer Jiah Khan -- is 18, an
age perhaps chosen to skirt trouble from censors and avoid
hurting conservative Indian sensibilities.

"Wait for the surprise," Varma said, when asked if his
heroine meets the same fate as Lolita, who dies in childbirth.

Nabokov's "Lolita" dealt with the love of a middle-aged man
for a 12-year-old girl, for whom he coined the word "nymphet"
to describe the intense attraction.

The story, considered scandalous in the 1950s, was rejected
by several prominent American publishers before being finally
published. The book generated controversy in Italy and was
banned in France, Belgium, Australia, New Zealand and South
Africa. Elsewhere in the world, parts of it were censored.

Hollywood made two attempts to adapt "Lolita," including
one by Stanley Kubrick, but neither was a big success. Both
films were banned in India but the book is available.

Varma's "Nishabd" does not have any explicit sex scenes
involving Bachchan, now 63, and the young actress.

It was shot for 20 days in southern India and is currently
in post-production ahead of its release, scheduled for

"Bodies age, but feelings don't. So why should an older
man's love age?" Varma said. "Older men fall in love with
younger girls but because of their position and maturity they
cannot do anything.

"Nishabd is the story of such a man caught between his
rationality and his feelings for a young girl."