Newsnight Gold: Lean's Passage to India - 1

Mark Tully speaks to David Lean and his cast during the production of 'A Passage to India' in 1984.

This year, 2008, is Sir David Lean's centenary year. To commemorate the great director - born 25 March 1908 - the British Film Institute is running a David Lean season. Meanwhile, the BBC's Newsnight programme has re-issued Mark Tully's 1984 report from the set of Lean's film 'A Passage to India'. You can watch this 11 minute film online at the BBC website here. For the interest of all 'A Passage to India' fans, I have included a transcript and some screen-shots of the documentary. On the second page, Mark Tully's Location Report - 2, you can see more screen-shots from the documentary, with an emphasis on the locations used in the film.

Copyright - Newsnight Gold: Lean's Passage to India - BBC
David Lean films in the Bangalore Club gardens
  
 [scene: In the gardens of the Club, Bangalore]
  
Clapper OperatorAnd turnover...
639 take one
and playback...
 (The brass band plays 'Tea For Two')
  
Mark TullyThe legend of the man who's risen from tea-boy to master movie-maker has raised 17 million dollars for this elaborate production. David Lean, back on location, 14 years after his last film, Ryan's Daughter. For 25 years he's wanted to make 'Passage To India'.
Copyright - Newsnight Gold: Lean's Passage to India - BBC
Peggy Ashcroft talks to Mark Tully
  
 [scene: In the gardens of the Club, Bangalore]
  
Peggy AshcroftLike everyone else, I suppose, one marvels at his incredible energy, at his precision, at his knowing exactly what he wants with every shot. And he's obviously.. he's a movie maker isn't he, of considerable cut.
Copyright - Newsnight Gold: Lean's Passage to India - BBC
David Lean filming on the Nilgiri Mountain Railway

Copyright - Newsnight Gold: Lean's Passage to India - BBC
Filming on the Adderley Viaduct
  
 [scene: At the Adderley Viaduct, on the Nilgiri Mountain Railway]
  
Mark TullyForster's train crawled across the dry, dreary plains of North India. Lean's climbs through the lush Nilgiri Hills 1000 miles to the south. Another of those spectacular locations he has a passion for. Forster's is the journey of a young English girl, who tries to defy the traditions of the British Raj, and see the 'real' India. Overwhelmed and confused by the splendour and squalor of this ancient land, Miss Quested scandalises the British and causes the Indians to riot.
Copyright - Newsnight Gold: Lean's Passage to India - BBC
Filming as the train climbs over the Adderley Viaduct

Copyright - Newsnight Gold: Lean's Passage to India - BBC
Judy Davis plays Adela Quested
  
 [scene: At the Adderley Viaduct, on the Nilgiri Mountain Railway]
  
(Judy Davis looks from carriage window)
  
Mark TullyJudy Davis, a budding young film star, plays the questing Miss Quested
  
David Lean, in backgroundLets start again. Keep it running. And dear, a little less...
  
Mark TullyAll the tricks of the film maker are used on her journey to the picnic at the caves, where perhaps, India itself tricks her.
Copyright - Newsnight Gold: Lean's Passage to India - BBC
Filming Victor Bannerjee as he hangs from the train
  
 [scene: Filming at the Adderley Viaduct]
  
Dr Aziz, to cameraMiss Quested
Miss Quested, to cameraOh no
Dr Aziz, to cameraIs Mrs Moore awake?
Miss Quested, to cameraYes
  
Mark TullyEqually confused is Dr Aziz, the Indian who gets too close to the British Raj. He's played by Victor Bannerjee, so far unknown outside India.
  
Dr Aziz, to cameraLook, I'm Douglas Fairbanks
Copyright - Newsnight Gold: Lean's Passage to India - BBC
Interviewing Victor Bannerjee
  
 [scene: Interview at Bangalore]
  
Mark TullyPlayed without subtlety, Aziz could easily degenerate into a mere buffoon.
Victor BannerjeeIn the book, Aziz is certainly a joker, but I think David's dispensed with more than 90 percent of the clown in Aziz, and left only that much that is necessary to make him a sympathetic human being.
Mark TullyAt one stage, David felt that you weren't really being Indian enough, didn't he? Was he trying to force you into a sort of artificial 'Indian-ness'?
Victor Absolutely, I think yes. I think, you see, Forster was one of the very few Englishmen that understood Indians, and it was this deep understanding of Indians that made him write a book that was able to delve into the psyche, the Indian psyche as it were, and I don't expect David, or any other director, or most Englishmen to be able to understand that.
Copyright - Newsnight Gold: Lean's Passage to India - BBC
Tully and Lean on the Bazaar set in Bangalore
  
 [scene: Interviewing David Lean on set at Bangalore]
  
Mark TullyLeans believes he'll be the first film maker to capture India. This is his own India - sets massive but at the same time immaculately detailed. Forster mistrusted movie makers. The film rights were only sold after his death. Lean then spent 18 months writing his script and had to be vetted by the guardians of Forster's masterpiece, the Fellows of Kings College, Cambridge.
Copyright - Newsnight Gold: Lean's Passage to India - BBC
David Lean talks about his movie 'A Passage To India'
  
 [scene: Interviewing David Lean on set at Bangalore]
  
David LeanI did the script, and they were very polite, and they asked me to come along, after having read it, for lunch. I was just about to start on the fish, and they started in on me, and I said I wish you'd waited until the sweet! They were very very nice indeed, and after about 2 hours they were very kind and just gave it their blessing.
Mark TullyHow much difference is there between Lean's 'Passage To India' and Forster's 'Passage To India'?
David LeanHe's a writer, I'm a film maker. I like movies, and I've tried to make a movie that I would like to see. The end is different, certainly, but I think I wouldn't be ashamed for Forster to read the script. I think I stuck with his characters, and on the whole, given the limitations of time, I mean what's one doing? One's doing something in 2 hours, a book that thick, its a sort of sketch of it, and I'm extracting a movie from it. Those who want to read Forster, read the book. Those who want to go to a movie, and don't read, come and see our film.
Copyright - Newsnight Gold: Lean's Passage to India - BBC
Filming in the grounds of the Bangalore Club
  
 [scene: Filming the band, at the Club, Bangalore]
  
Mark TullyBand-master Pereira was good enough for the Maharajah of Mysore, but not for Lean. A substitute was found. But in the end, even the perfectionist director couldn't resist Pereira's tearful pleas. So now he's back, conducting at the garden party the British throw for the Indians. The film's backers are worried that the current British Raj bonanza will go bust before 'Passage To India' is released. Forster's concern was more academic - he feared film-makers would portray the Indians as idiots, or the British as Blimps, that the balance of his story would be lost.
Copyright - Newsnight Gold: Lean's Passage to India - BBC
Interviewing Victor Bannerjee in Bangalore
  
 [scene: Interviewing Victor Bannerjee at Bangalore]
  
Victor BannerjeeI think the fear was well founded, I don't think any film maker would be able to achieve the kind of balance that Forster felt so deeply about. If Satyajit Ray had made the film, as he once wanted to, I think he'd have had unintentionally, a sub-conscious sort of Indian bias, just like David, in spite of the fact that he does love India, and has close Indian connections, can't really maintain a perfect balance, so there is a slight tilt, obviously.
Mark TullyIn the direction of ?
Victor BannerjeeIn the direction of the English!
  
 [scene: Interviewing David Lean at Bangalore]
  
David LeanPoor old English - they've had a rough time in the films lately, and its because, of course, colonialism has gone out of fashion so its quite easy to take pot shots of a lot of idiots, a lot of idiots, stuffy idiots you know.
Mark TullyYes
David LeanQuite honestly I think Forster did that too. I think he felt a bit guilty about it - I mean he certainly had a blast when the book came out, and I'm trying to keep a balance, I don't know. I'm trying to tell a good story, that's really what I'm trying to do.
Copyright - Newsnight Gold: Lean's Passage to India - BBC
Serving food to the cast and crew
  
 [scene: With the crew, on location]
  
Mark TullyHelping to tell the story is an army from England. They even imported much of their own food, including kippers for breakfast. But meals aren't the production's only administrative problem. Perhaps the worst is India's notorious red-tape.
  
 [scene: Interviewing David Lean at Bangalore]
  
David LeanI took my first baptism of fire, was going through the customs, you know it takes about two and a half hours to get through the customs. 'Have you got any apparatus?' as you no doubt know with that thing [Mark Tully's recorder]. They look at every lens. 'Are you going to sell this? How much film have you got? Are you going to sell it?'. No, I wouldn't have bought it to sell it, and so forth and so on, and after 2 hours one hates the country. And then, of course, its wonderful.
Mark TullyYou have certain problems still with the government for instance, don't you, that you still have to have someone here checking that you're shooting according to the script. Does that annoy you?
David LeanThey've been very good to me.
Copyright - Newsnight Gold: Lean's Passage to India - BBC
Closeup of the Marabar Express
  
 [scene: On location near Ooty]
  
Mark TullyIndians have been so kind they've even allowed the production to monopolise the branch line from Coonoor to Ooty. At 75, Lean is as demanding as ever, taking and re-taking scenes until he gets what he wants.
Copyright - Newsnight Gold: Lean's Passage to India - BBC
David Lean on set in Ooty
  
 [scene: On location at Ooty]
  
David Lean,in background That's good, that hat.
Mark TullyThat costs, but then producers can't argue with a man who's last four films grossed 120 million pounds, not to mention the Oscars. But not everyone appreciates the Lean style.
  
 [scene: Interviewing David Lean at Bangalore]
  
Mark TullyIts often said that as a director that you are, in a way, more concerned with the visual than with the performance of the actors.
David LeanBalls! I like spectacle. When I say spectacle I don't think you can just put on a load of spectacle and expect it to be successful with the public: of course you've got to have a foreground action, and its awfully easy for critics to say 'Oh the background swamped the foreground' but I don't think I've done that.
Mark TullyAnd you've found the public react; the people who come to see your films, react to this spectacular?
David LeanWell I haven't done badly, no.
Copyright - Newsnight Gold: Lean's Passage to India - BBC
The Marabar Caves at Ramanagaram

Copyright - Newsnight Gold: Lean's Passage to India - BBC
Here Lean created his own caves

Copyright - Newsnight Gold: Lean's Passage to India - BBC
Natural rock, before the camera-matte was added
  
 [scene: In the Ramanagaram hills]
  
Mark TullyThe Ramanagaram hills are the setting for the high point in the drama. Lean's blasted holes in these pre-historic rocks to make his own Marabar Caves. The great unanswered question of Forster's novel remains. Did Aziz assault Miss Quested here? One producer offered Lean a limitless budget to make it an explicit rape scene. He hasn't, but no one outside the production knows what he *has* done.
Mark TullyThe only other English woman on the picnic at the caves is Mrs Moore, played by Peggy Ashcroft.
Copyright - Newsnight Gold: Lean's Passage to India - BBC
Creating the false cave entrance
  
 [scene: Interviewing Peggy Ashcroft at Bangalore]
  
Mark TullyI have to ask you..
Peggy AshcroftYes
Mark TullyWhat happened in the cave?
Peggy AshcroftOh well, Forster himself didn't know, did he? He wouldn't make up his mind. He wrote several versions. My own view is that of Mrs Moore, that Aziz was totally innocent of any form of assault.
Copyright - Newsnight Gold: Lean's Passage to India - BBC
Extras waiting at Coonoor Station, on the NMR

Copyright - Newsnight Gold: Lean's Passage to India - BBC
Marabar Express returning to 'Chandrapore'
  
 [scene: Filming at Coonoor railway station]
  
Mark TullyWhen the train returns home, there's a crowd, waiting to watch the arrest of Aziz.
Copyright - Newsnight Gold: Lean's Passage to India - BBC
David Lean filming at Coonoor railway station
  
 [scene: Filming at Coonoor railway station]
  
David Lean, on locationDon't worry about the back - that bit - leave the back.
Mark TullyThe Raj backs Miss Quested, the Indian's Aziz, and Chandrapore is never the same again.

 

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