Among the books that Sapna reads in K Balachander’s Ek Duuje Ke Liye are The Complete Works of William Shakespeare and Learn Tamil in 30 Days. Stacked on a shelf in Saba Taliyar Khan’s house in Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil are Bonnard, Corot and Vanity Fair Portraits. Harry Burns in Rob Reiner’s When Harry Met Sally pores over The Icarus Agenda by Robert Ludlum and What Jung Really Said by EA Bennet.
The Twitter account Books in Movies is full of such literary trivia about the kind of printed matter that gets featured in films. Created by accounting professional Abhisek Suman, @books_in_movies consists of screen grabs of characters either reading books or being surrounded by them. The account covers both Indian and international films.
Suman, who lives in Delhi, says the account combines his love for books and cinema. “I remember reading an article Books People Read in Hindi Films by Diptakirti Chaudhury in Outlook that was published a few years ago,” he said. “It really got me thinking at that time and I started doing more research on it. Later, I got in touch with Pankaj Sachdeva, who is one of my favourite bloggers, over Twitter. He is also interested in such trivia. I initially started tweeting from my personal account, and in April, I created a separate Twitter and an Instagram page dedicated to Books in Movies. To be honest, I never began with any vision of where I wanted to go with this. It was more of something I was doing for myself. I had absolutely no idea that I’d get a good response.”
The world of fiction – be it books or the movies – offers the perfect refuge, Suman said. “I’m an introvert and the fictional world is where I’ve found a whole new comfortable world,” he said. “In Delhi, I’m currently juggling studies and my accounting career. Being a corporate slave would have been less bearable if not for the charismatic world of movies.”
Suman spent his childhood in a small town in Bihar, where, in the absence of uninterrupted power supply, he gravitated towards books and magazines. “I remember my maternal grandfather, who was a college lecturer, always encouraged me to read,” Suman recalled. “Before moving to Delhi, I only saw a handful of movies. My first movie experience in a theatre was in the year 2011 and the movie was No One Killed Jessica.”
There was no looking back. Suman attempts to watch a film a day to generate the tweets. “I’ve also got a pretty good memory, so I remembered quite a few books I’d seen in movies long ago, to give me a headstart,” he said. His choice of movies depends on his mood – and he doesn’t just watch solely for the purpose of finding books. He also gets suggestions and contributions from his readers.
Suman’s account is content for the moment with pointing out the titles of publications in films. He doesn’t plan on analysing the connection between a character’s personality and reading habits – yet. “I have observed that books are only used as props in films,” Suman said. “They are rarely related to the plot. There have only been a few movies that have shown books to mean something to the character. For example, the movie Apocalypse Now where Colonel Kurtz is shown reading parts of The Hollow Men by TS Eliot towards the end of the film.” Francis Coppola’s Apocalypse Now is loosely inspired by Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness. The lead character of the novel, Colonel Kurtz, is referenced at the beginning of Eliot’s poem The Hollow Men: “Mistah Kurtz – he dead”.
“Other examples include Tamasha, Jagga Jasoos, Wake Up Sid, The Reader, 20th Century Women and more,” Suman added. “For now, I am happy with just pointing out the books in movies.” Suman also plans to create a website based on his collection of grabs, which will also feature a section on books that are featured in films but are untraceable.