Amitav -Sea of Poppies gets Bhojpuri touch in film

New Delhi: The magic of Booker Prize shortlisted Amitav Ghosh`s novel, "The Sea of Poppies," a gripping tale of the sea journey of indentured labourers during the 1830s, just before the Opium War, is set to be translated on celluloid.

Tentatively titled "Afeem Ka Sagar," some of the most compelling parts of the film have been planned to be shot in Bhojpuri, a dialect spoken in Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh, according Anusha Rizvi who has teamed up with husband Mahmood Farooqui to direct the film.

The same husband-wife duo had directed the critical and commercially acclaimed film "Peepli Live" in 2010. "Most of the drama happens on the high seas, so we need a very controlled environment for shooting. It`ll need lots of work to recreate the era and a lot of `modern interferences` such as electric poles on streets and telephone lines would have to be edited out of the scenes," Anusha told PTI.

Amitav Ghosh, who was shortlisted for the 2008 Booker for the book, the first of his Ibis trilogy, endorses the couple`s decision to use Bhojpuri instead of Hindi in the film to retain the historicity and the period of the story.

"Bhojpuri is a beautiful language and I think there should be a lot of Bhojpuri in the film. Historically, too, that was the language spoken by characters in that period," Ghosh told PTI over email.

"In fact, one thing that impressed me very much about Mahmood was that he speaks fluent Bhojpuri. He (Mahmood) grew up in Bhojpuri-speaking Gorakhpur and has a visceral connect with the book`s themes and characters," adds the author who chose Anusha and Mahmood over others filmmakers, including some from Hollywood who had approached him for rights to his book.

Ghosh too has a personal connect with the language. "My family is originally from East Bengal, but settled in Chhapra district in north Bihar in 1856. My aunts and uncles spoke Bhojpuri amongst themselves and my father studied in Patna University. However, now the family is dispersed and our house in Chhapra has been sold," says the author.

"Bojpuri today is not just an Indian language. It is spoken in many countries like Mauritius and Fiji. And, I very much hope that this is reflected in the film," he adds.

The author hopes the film can retain the period element of his fiction. "Patna and Ghazipur today do not look anything like their 19th century counterparts. That era was completely different from the present day and so, it will take a lot of work. I think most of the shooting will have to be done in studios," says Ghosh.

Set on the banks of Ganges in Kolkata, the fiction published in 2008 weaves tales of a cross section of people such as a peasant from India, a free mulatto American, a disgraced king, and the orphaned daughter of a French botanist working in India.

"The journey of the Girmitiyas or indentured labourers journey from India to Mauritius and other countries is quite a heady history and it is very important that this experience be shown on the screen," says the 55-year-old author.

During British rule, manual labourers were forcibly taken away from their homeland to work on plantations in countries like Mauritius and Fiji and Suriname. Though physically uprooted from their homelands they took their culture and languages like Bhojpuri to these foreign lands, where it is till date spoken, mixed with languages like French and Creole.

The author who currently lives in New York is expected to soon come out with his third and final book in the Ibis trilogy after "River of Smoke", the second novel was published in 2011.