What books has director Mysskin read to create films that are rich in subtext like Psycho and Onaayum Aattukkuttiyum? He has christened himself after Prince Mysskin in ‘The Idiot’; we know that he’s influenced by Dostoevsky. What other books have shaped his worldview and his films? The following are a few, shared in an interview with Baradwaj Rangan. Excerpts…
Resurrection — Leo Tolstoy
I read it for the first time when I was sixteen. I still don’t know how I was able to understand it. The crime committed by Nekhlyudov and the consequences faced by Katerina Mikhailovna Maslova in the book still haunt me. For many of my stories, I take inspiration from it. It was one of Tolstoy’s last books.
Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance — Robert M Pirsig
When I was twenty, I met music director K’s father incidentally. He was a professor. I asked him to recommend a book and he suggested ‘Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance.’ It took me about six months to finish the book. When I met him again, I told him I wasn’t able to understand the book. He was happy that someone was honest about the fact that they weren’t able to get the context!
After many attempts, I was, slowly, able to follow the intent behind the writing. The book has gained a cult status of sorts over the years. I recommend giving it a read because it discusses the idea of Quality and values in life.
Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District — Nikolai Leskov
Though it picks up the character arc from Shakespeare’s play ‘Macbeth,’ the story emphasizes aspects such as virtue and chastity through the character Katerina. Leskov brilliantly showcases the inner flaws of his principal character through his writing. His stories have been a source of influence to the legendary Russian playwright Anton Chekhov.
Of Love and Other Demons — Gabriel García Márquez
I find Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s works very interesting among modern writers. I recommend this book as a starter for people who want to explore his books. It’s considered one of his best. It’s a well-written book in the magic realism genre. It’s also filled with humour—I must have tumbled off my chair laughing at least twenty times.
In Patagonia — Bruce Chatwin
This one is a nonfiction book. It taught me how to write dialogues. Werner Herzog made a documentary film called Nomad: In the Footsteps of Bruce Chatwin. Chatwin’s books are more of a travel diary exploring various cultures and people across the world.
The Metamorphosis — Franz Kafka
In my opinion, no writer has matched up to Kafka’s work. This book has had such an influence over me that it took me ten days to get over it. I didn’t want it to end—such was the writing! I consider it one of the greatest. I would strongly recommend reading it. It’s also been translated into Tamil.