Film based on the novel by Anita Desai


Director: Ismail Merchant
Screenplay: Anita Desai and Shahrukh Husain
Photography: Larry Pizer
Costumes: Lovleen Baines
Music: Zahir Hussain, Ustad Sultan Khan
Cast: Shashi Kapoor, Om Puri, Shabana Azmi, Neena Gupta, Sushma Seth, Ajay Sahani, Tinnu Anand, Yusef Khurram, Riju Bajaj, Nayeem Hafizka, Veerendra Saxena, Munawwar Naqwi, Sanjay Mohan Sagar, Nafisa Sharma, Sagar Arya, Prayag Raj, Sameer Mitha, Shahid Masood, Maza Bi, Alakh Nandan, Prashant Khirwadkar, Manxoor Ahtesham, Razzak Siddiqui
Producer: Wahid Chowhan
Lenght: 126 minutes
Year: 1993/India
Language: Subtitles in Italian

One evening in 1961, a young Indian student at New York University and a young architecture graduate from California, both at the beginning of directorial careers, decided to create films with Indian themes for an international audience. That evening marked the founding of Merchant Ivory Productions, M.I.P., by Ismail Merchant and James Ivory.


The critical and commercial success of films based on famous literary works (Room with a ViewMauriceHeat and Dust, Howard’s End) contributed to M.I.P.’s growing reputation (twenty-nine Oscar nominations). In 1993 Merchant directed In Custody, based on the novel by Anita Desai. The film focuses on the relationship between the two principal characters: the great Urdu poet Nur, who is old and ill, and resigned to the loss of his poetic language, and the diffident, insecure Deven, professor of Hindi in a small college. Deven feels an obligation to help save the Urdu language from dying out, and thus agrees to make recordings of the great poet’s readings of his own works.


Although apparently faithful to the novel, the film actually differs in its location and in the characters. Nevertheless, Merchant’s “unfaithfulness” seems due to his respect for the best tradition of Hindustani cinema. The result is an elegiac tribute, not without a touch of irony and humour, to the Urdu culture.


In Custody won the President of India Gold Medal for Best Picture in 1994.


Ismail Merchant (1936-2005)
was both a film producer and a film director. His best-known film is In Custody. His last work was The Mystic Masseur, based on the novel by V.S. Naipaul, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2001. Merchant was also the author of numerous books, and an actor in several films.

Friday 10 March, 21:00

Foyer, Teatro Comunale Giuseppe Verdi

Pordenone - Via Roma, 2