Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress – A Made for Bollywood Tale

BalzacIt’s been a long time since we read a book as seductively beguiling as Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress.

Set amid the ferment of the ‘Cultural Revolution’ in China during the early 1970s, the book is a bewitching  story of the power of books and of life in the countryside for two teenage boys banished to a remote mountain village, 100km from the nearest small town.

The 60s and early 70s were indeed bad days for books and all intellectuals in China.

Barring the Great Leader Mao’s Little Red Book and a few basic books on industry and agriculture all other books were verboten and often burnt.

Possession or even discussion of prohibited books meant certain and severe punishment.

More powerful than even love or friendship, books and the stories they tell liberate the mind and evoke new desires that never existed previously.

Hard Life
The two boys Luo and the narrator are sent off by the powers that be to a hard life in a backward mountain village Phoenix in the Sky as part of Mao’s quixotic ‘reeducation’ campaign for intellectuals.

The village is so backward that even a clock is a novelty to the locals there.

Forced to work in the fields or engage in tasks like carrying pails of shit, the boys find nothing but misery in their new milieu.

Joy, solace and relief from their punishment come via a suitcase of western classics the boys steal from an acquaintance.

Balzac, Dumas, Dostoyevsky, Dickens, Gogol, Rousseau, Tolstoy, Stendahl, Kipling  and other writers evoke a frisson of joy amidst the boys’ dreary existence in the village in their house on stilts with a fat sow living below them.

The books also become the medium to endow ‘culture’ to the tailor’s daughter, the little Chinese seamstress from a neighboring village whom both boys love.

Declares Luo upon finding the stash of books:

With these books I shall transform the Little Seamstress. She’ll never be a simple mountain girl again.

Prophetic words. And how.

Like a lot of fine books, this one too has a poignant ending.

A Spellbinder
Author Dai Sijie has cast such a spell over us in this riveting story full of humor and vivid descriptions that tonight we intend to watch the film version of this book.

The Chinese movie is available at Netflix on DVD and via Instant Play.

Oh, the director of the film version of the book is none other than author Dai Sijie, who moved from China to France in 1984. By the way, the book was originally written in French and translated by Ina Rilke.

The book is likely autobiographical since author Dai Sijie was himself re-educated between 1971 and 1974, the same time frame as events in the book. strongly recommends Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (184-pages in paperback). If you live in the U.S., the book should definitely be available at your county library.

Wake Up, Bollywood
Week after week our remorseless Bollywood folks churn out one crappy movie after another based on asinine, juvenile, infantile plots.

How wonderful would it be to see a Bollywood adaptation of this fine book, set somewhere in the mountains of North India or the Niligiris hills in the south.

Here’s our recommendations for the cast and crew:

Director – Vishal Bharadwaj

Tailor – Pankaj Kapoor
Headman – Om ‘maid-f*cker’ Puri
Luo – Shahid Kapoor
Narrator – Chandan Roy Sanyal
Little Chinese Seamstress – [Find a new girl since the current crop of starlets are utterly talentless]
Old Miller – Naseeruddin Shah

But don’t hold your breath for Bollywood to embrace such fine stories.

Tis’ most unlikely those unimaginative bozos will ever see the light in such delights as Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress.

2 Responses to "Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress – A Made for Bollywood Tale"

  1. vjcool   January 8, 2010 at 8:25 am

    read “Who Killed the Rani” by Ruskin Bond, it felt like it can be translated to big screen quite well.. but what can we do.. our highly esteemed film makers doesnt seem to be reading books. they would rather watch foreign movies in pirated DVDs and collect a lot of illegal mp3s to select tunes.. its really bad to see these idiots work this way and still say, KILL PIRACY. fuck piracy.. anyone who loves the movies or the books does rent it or buy them..
    I know people who buys comics for 3000 Rs because its by the legend Osama Tezuka. He is the one who runs errands for these shitheads, getting pirated movies.. hmm well seems the comment can get out of hand.. anyway this is comment for the ulagamadayan dialog of the day.. first they should clean the film industry, then can concentrate on what people buy. Responds:

    Hard to get Ruskin Bond at the local libraries here. Liked the Blue Umbrella film based on Bond’s story.

    • vjcool   January 11, 2010 at 12:37 am

      you can get it as a collection of short stories ‘A season of ghosts’, not a must-read collection, and “Who Killed the Rani” is an old fashioned whodunit, but highly filmable. with S.P.B in the lead as the cop (like in Guna). the story set in N.E india or Munnar.. this can be a good movie..anyway who cares.

      I talked to someone who can make films, but was not ready to take the risk of creating a non-masala movie as his first so out went the seamstress, I was asked to write screenplay for ‘Who killed the Rani’, so it went out also (I’m good at recommending than writing).. When asked if a film can be made without love (as in boy meets girl) or violence (like in hero is a superman and all the flying kick crap) .. I got the answer, can’t sacrifice the money for the critical acclaim.. can we.. but will try to make a sensible action masala movie..

      I can’t contest that logic, when I know the hell they have gone through to even get a hold in the industry.. anyway a good masala is a good film.. I wish him good luck. Responds:

      Amazon has the book A Season of Ghosts. We might buy it.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login