Rain was pouring down in Manhattan flooding the streets. President Ronald Reagan was in town to meet Mikhail Gorbachev, if you live in Manhattan then you know what this means, the city was impossible to navigate. Flights had been delayed or cancelled I was walking the streets with film producer Ismail Merchant from a meeting, principal photography was to commence the next day on ‘Slaves of New York’ based on a novel by Tama Janowitz. New York did not have one decent hotel room left and I was not about to settle with one with less then four stars. Ismail Merchant assured me in his very confident manner not to worry, the trio Ismail, Ruth, James, team of filmmakers 30 years and entered the Guinness Book of Records as the film world’s longest, each had an apartment in the same building in Manhattan. Ruth was not in town and I was to sleep in her apartment commanded Merchant.
As I walked into Ruth’s apartment, it was as if I had walked into those detox spas where you pay $1,000. a day and all that is in your room is a bed. Ruth’s apartment had the bed, a table, chair, her window had a view of Warren Beaty’s (the dude who had slept with every women in Hollywood), sister’s flat Shirley MacLean and her crystal collection.
The austere flat did have some glitter, you could not miss it, it was staring at me. It was gold. A statue. It was an Oscar. I picked it up, it was heavy, and read ‘Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’ Oscar for her script an adaptation ofEM Forster’s novel Room with a View (1986). Naturally I walked around the apartment holding the Oscar giving speeches in my head, or in front of the mirror, eventually taking it to bed. This was not just an Oscar, it was awarded to the only person to have won the Booker and at the Oscar. Ruth was responsible for the screenplays of such classics as Howards End, Room with a View and Remains of the Day. She won a second Oscar for her adaptation of Forster’s Howards End (1992), which was brought to the screen at her insistence. In 1990 she won the Best Screenplay Award from the New York Film Critics’ Circle for her adaptation of Evan Connell’s Mr and Mrs Bridge. To have Paul Newman in Mr. and Mrs Bridge a film that was partly filmed in Toronto required that I do a few laps around Queens Park with him prior to his Gala at The Toronto International Film Festival The Glass Menagerie.
Ruth died this year and her contribution to 100 Years of Indian Cinema can not go without notice. 100 Years of Indian Cinema this years TIFF Gala is not just about Bollywood.
This year my friend Warren Spitz, the high-rolling TIFF board member who put the festival into the big-money charity race with its initial gala last year, has recruited Deepa Mehta to ensure that this year’s event will be a memorable one. It’s set for Saturday, Sept. 7, at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. Spitz and a great lady Jennifer Tory, the co-chairs, act as executive producers and take charge of selling tables at $25,000 a shot. If you want tickets you can get those as well that will run you $2,500. a shot.
As for Mehta she has recruited Rashmi Varma to do the costumes and Tamara Deverell to be the production designer. At a pre-dinner reception, with entertainment designed by writer Devyani Saltzman (Mehta’s daughter), emcees Anita Majumdar and Zaib Shaikh (both cast members of Mehta’s movie Midnight’s Children) will guide guests through a few of India’s landmark films over the past century projected in the lobby of the Four Seasons Centre.
After the reception, guests will be ushered through the auditorium to the stage of the opera house, where tables will be set for dinner. That’s when the live entertainment will go on. As for the food, Mehta was determined not to serve guests anything less than great Indian cuisine by chef Vikram Vij.
Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, I will miss you at Toronto International Film Festival Gala, but you will be in my heart and you will be saluted for you enormous, brilliance and contribution to Indian Cinema.