|HOME | US EDITION | BOOKS|
June 21, 1999
Holy Smoke (The Book) Gets Mixed Reviews
A P Kamath
To see Jane Campion's Holy Smoke, starring Kate Winslett, you will have to wait several months. Meanwhile, Hyperion, a publishing arm of Walt Disney, has issued the hardcover novel based on the film's screenplay and written by Jane and her sister Anna. The movie, shot partly in India, will be distributed by Miramax Films, a division of Walt Disney.
Hollywood usually hires little-known writers to pen novels based on the screenplay of interesting films. Most of these books are issued in paperback. The market is flooded with such novels, including the novelization of Shekhar Kapur's Elizabeth.
But in the case of Holy Smoke, Jane Campion decided she herself would turn her script into a novel, with her sister (who is also a movie director) pitching in.
Jane Campion, best known for The Piano, the $ 4 million movie that made over $ 60 million worldwide in 1993, had wanted to make a film based on Christopher Isherwood's memoir, My Guru and His Disciple. But when there was not much interest in the project, she decided on Holy Smoke.
One of the most openly gay writers in America, Isherwood, a flamboyant writer, 1904-1986, also wrote Ramakrishna and His Disciples. An unabashed hedonist, he would cut off from his Hollywood world from time to time to join meditation with Swami Prabhavananada and other followers of Sri Ramakrishna. In My Guru..., the reader is taken on a spiritual quest for the truth behind god and the trail of the pacifists dilemma during a crippling World War II.
"Given Hollywood's fascination with gurus and Eastern mysticism, a project of this nature would never have had problems finding a producer," says Ric Ornellas, film critic and former cinema editor of The Washington Square News.
The movie unfolds the misadventures of Ruth, a young and feisty Australian who came under the influence of a manipulating guru Chidaatma Baba while traveling in India. Her panicked family hires a cult specialist from New York, P J Waters, to bring her to her senses. Ruth and PJ are sequestered in a small hut in Australia in a safe house for several weeks. Ever confident of his abilities, PJ seems to succeed, but he and Ruth develop an erotic obsession with each other. The deprogrammer is a married man in his 40s, Ruth is barely in her 20s. Could this affair trap her much more than the manipulation of the guru?
The initial reactions to the book were mixed.
"Because this entertaining if facile tale is the basis for a screenplay, its style is overtly camera-ready," wrote Booklist.
"The dialogue is amusing and the setting dramatic, but the writing is uneven, and the story, concocted purely for its potential cinematic eroticism, is kitschy."
The influential Kirkus Review wrote: "The premise and plot are very old-hat, but the Campion sisters narration is fresh and deft enough to breathe life into them. Worth a look."
The $ 20 million movie also stars Harvey Keitel who was utterly mesmerizing in The Piano. Miramax Films have planned to open Holy Smoke in a handful of theaters in the last quarter of the film, expanding the film slowly to reach about 300 theaters before the year is out. It is being positioned as one of the hot contenders for Oscar nominations. In the past five years, Miramax has been bagging big number of nominations; this year it had more than 15.
For Jane Campion, Oscar nominations and the box-office success are crucial. Her last film, The Portrait of a Lady, a $ 20 million film starring Nicole Kidman, made about $ 10 million worldwide.
If Holy Smoke clicks (it should earn at least $ 50 million in theaters and video stores to break even), Campion might go back to her Isherwood project.
BOOK SHOP | MUSIC SHOP | GIFT SHOP | HOTEL RESERVATIONS | WORLD CUP 99
EDUCATION | PERSONAL HOMEPAGES | FREE EMAIL | FEEDBACK