Saturday, 30 May 2020

India Not To ‘Bond’

Updated: September 17, 2011 3:42 pm

Trust Indians to do it. One more Hollywood flick has landed in troubled waters at the last minute. Ostensibly for safety reasons because the film involved high speed railway stunts. An insider involved with the thus far unnamed 007 thriller, tentatively called ‘Bond 23’ has been quoted as saying: “It has been one thing after another. The scenes are very ambitious and we’re all just desperate to get started but there have been obstacles at every stage.” James Bond’s favourite Aston Martin has already landed on the Indian soil together with other sophisticated film shooting equipment. British film maker Sam Mendes (Kate Winslet’s ex), who won an Oscar for direction in American Beauty, already hassled by delays because of financial problems at MGM, is negotiating for the shot in South Africa should Indian permission be not forthcoming. The shooting was due to begin in October with Daniel Craig (43) leading the cast together with Dame Judi Dench (76), as MI6 chief M; Ralph Fiennes (48); and the Oscar winner Spaniard Javier Bardem (42) as the main villain. It has been datelined November 9, 2012 release worldwide. Bond’s 50th anniversary.

Daniel Craig in his last two outings with the 2006 Casino Royale (367 million pounds) and Quantum of Solace, 2008 (353 million) has already proved to be the most worthy of all Sean Connery successor (others being George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan). The British secret service spy with ‘a license to kill’ longevity has surprised film as well as literary historians. The Ian Fleming hero has outlasted other fictional characters like Wodehouse’s Bertie Wooster and Jeeves; Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Miss Marple; and Sherlock Homes. One reason could be, unlike others, Bond live and vibrant, constantly modern. A plausible explanation could be: According to Robert McCrum: “The world of Aston Martins and dry martinis (shaken, not stirred) is just as remote as the world of Mayfair drones, spats and monocles. The daring British spy with “a licence to kill” is now as much a historical figure as the gentleman’s gentleman or amateur detective. Yet Bond unfailingly lives to fight another day while Wooster and Poirot are heading for retirement.”

A clever thing that the estate of Ian Fleming did was to forever look for writers who could carry the writer’s mettle without changing the basic character and having successfully experimented with Sebastian Faulks, Raymond Benson, Kingsley Amis (pseudonym Robert Markham and John Gardner they zeroed in Jeffery Deaver, the ‘gruesome’ American author to give Bond a newer makeover. For it is not easy to continue a tale of bravado with the same set of sex and shoot ingredients, without experimenting too much with the formula: modern technology, a ruthless, ambitious villain, newer locations, interesting situations, and so on. James Bond was conceived by Ian Fleming in 1953 (altogether 12 novels and 9 stories) in Casino Royale (it was originally filmed for television) though the first big screen avatar came in the form of Dr No (1962), produced by Harry Saltzman and Albert A Brocolli (he died in 1996) though the former had acquired the film rights for the total Bond franchise.

David Niven had been the original choice for Dr No (also famous for Ursula Andress mermaid like appearance from the sea in a bikini complete with a gun attached to her left thigh) but he turned it down, as also, paradoxically, Roger Moore—though he did later feature in subsequent movies. From Russia with Love (1963) was the last movie that the Bond inventor saw before his death in 1964. This big grosser was closely followed by Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965), You Only Live Twice (1967), On her Majesty’s Secret Service 1969 (George Lazenby), Diamonds for Forever (1971 again with Connery), Live and Let Die (1973), The Man with a Golden Gun (1974), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), Moonraker (1979), For Your Eyes Only (1981), Octopussy (1983 was partially shot in India with Kabir Bedi and Vijay Amritraj playing stellar roles), A View to Kill (1985 Roger Moore), The Living Daylights (1987), Licence to Kill (1989) Timothy Dalton), The Golden Eye (1995), Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), The World is Not Enough (1999), Die Another Day (2002 Pierce Brosnan). Though much older than other Bonds, Roger Moore enacted the role in seven films. No actress has ever been repeated.

Another important feature of the Bond longevity could be the varied spellbinding, exotic locations used to heighten the dramatic impact, as also the gags, gadgets, watches, cars and other accompaniments. Reflecting on his discoveries of the Bond triva, Graham Rye—scriptwriter, film archivist who established 007 Magazine Archive Files (a single window for enquiries related to Bond franchise, said in an interview, while reflecting on Ian Fleming’s methodology: “Suddenly I could picture Ian Fleming running an eyeglass over the maps of the area with a wry smile while looking for another input for his James Bond novels. Coincidentally, there’s even a small village near Staple called Flemings!” There is also some trivia, worth examining, about how the author named the ‘heroines’ in various novels. But that’s as far as Fleming is concerned.

It would also be interesting to enlist how and why the various directors zeroed in on locations as varied as Chantilly, France and San Francisco (A View to Kill), Berlin, India (Octopussy), Istanbul, Turkey (From Russia With Love), Luxor, Egypt (The Spy Who Love Me), Jamaica (Dr No), Cadiz, Spain (Die Another Day), Vienna, Austria (The Living Daylights) Monte Carlo, Monaco (Golden Eye) and far flung places that Fleming, a British Naval Intelligence Officer (apart from being a journalist and author listed at no. 14 in the list of 50 Great British Writers since 1945), often seen mapping the world couldn’t have perceived. One could go ad nauseam with the list. But then there would, probably, be another day, another time.

By Suresh Kohli

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