I think six people were the luckiest people in Calcutta yesterday evening. We were the only ones seeing the filmed version of Tim Rice's Broadway hit From Here to Eternity in a 200 seater cinema hall. It was sheer luck that I saw the announcement in the morning, for the one show of this fabulous play.
The original film, with Burt Lancaster as the talented moody protagonist, is itself a masterpiece (5 Oscars) , and one of my favorite adaptations of a fabulous book. But Tim Rice (of The Lion King fame) has elevated this already strong story to another level with his stunning lyrics and music.
The story is of a army unit in Hawaii, in the days before Pearl Harbor happened in 1941. The catalyst for the internal cataclysm is a young soldier who joins the unit, with a huge reputation as a boxer and a bugler - but who refuses to indulge in both pursuits because of 'personal reasons'. He just wants to be within himself, keep his nose clean, and eke out his army life in peace. But fortune ordains something else. He falls in love with a prostitute, befriends a loser but brave soldier, and sees every resolution of his blown to smithereens. On the other side is the lonely wife of an overbearing officer, and her dangerous affair with another officer. And weaved into this story is the camaraderie, the pettiness, the charm and the disillusionment of army life. And the impending doom of the Japanese attack.
This is a film of live theatre. And it's been shot stunningly and sensitively. Not for a second does one get distracted to the fact that it is theatre one is watching. And for Tanu and me, it was beautiful deja vu, after seeing the best of plays in New York, London, Las Vegas and Chicago.
I believe Nandita Das is also doing exactly this by preserving on film some of the best plays of India. This is certainly the template to follow.