Under Her Spell
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Under Her Spell

Sub title: Roberto Rossellini in India

He had come to see a world at the end of one period of history and at the beginning of another more dramatic one.' When he came to India in December 1956 Roberto Rossellini was an internationally renowned figure. Highly acclaimed as a director of Italian neo-realist films and married to Hollywood legend Ingrid Bergman, his was an ebullient yet intense personality that combined a fondness for flashy cars and lovely women with a passionately serious commitment to exploring the human condition and portraying it with unflinching and unvarnished honesty. Rossellini had come to India at the invitation of the prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. His aim was to make a series of films which would capture the newly independent country as it came to grips with progress and development after centuries of colonialism. He deliberately eschewed the exotica which had beguiled all too many Western travellers. He refused to be distracted by the monuments, the spirituality and cultural bric-a-brac, preferring instead to fix his gaze on the actual moment, on the grand endeavours of industrialization, land reform and the then still fledging democratic spirit-- the India of Nehru's vision. India changed Rossellini irrevocably. It was here that he encountered the dusky, doe-eyed Sonali Dasgupta, then 27 years-old, the wife of a documentary film-maker and the mother of two small children. Their connection scandalized Indian society and became the object of a sustained campaign by elements in the Indian press, instigated by the Bombay film industry which resented Nehru's patronage of a foreign film-maker and Rossellini's unconcealed contempt for their overblown, fantastical extravaganzas. Eminent journalist Dileep Padgaonkar enters the world of India in the 1950s--the great political expectations, the curious, interconnected lives of the Bombay elite, the still isolated universe of Indian villages--and traces Rossellini's passage through all of them. Using contemporary reports, interviews and the published and unpublished reminiscences of those involved in the drama, he looks at the films that Rossellini made and at events as they unfolded to create a portrait of a remarkable man who fell under the spell of a woman, a country and its people. Under Her Spell is spell-binding...The personality (of Rossellini) that emerges from Dileep Padgaonkar's painstakingly researched work— is that of a complex, creatively restless, controversial and often contradictory human being, who also happened to be a classic alpha male.— Shyam Benegal, Film director Rossellini transgressed every conceivable boundary he was confronted with - personal or professional. Some of the transgressions were path-breaking in his life and in his work. Some others brought on meaningless misery and disappointment. He remained a teacher in failures, even. Under her Spell is an engrossing account of magnificent compulsions.— Mani Kaul, Film director A well-researched and original inquiry into a key period of Rossellini's evolution towards a new kind of cinema. Dileep Padgaonkar's account of his passage to India reads like a passionate novel.— Adriano Aprà, Italian film historian The joy of discovery in Rossellini's (film), India, is echoed in this magnificent chronicle of the Italian director's incredible adventures— Dileep Padgaonkar has found a wealth of new sources for this amazing story.— Tag Gallagher, Author of The Adventures of Roberto Rossellini)

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Penguin Books India


1 Apr 2008





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