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Travails with the Alien: The Film That Was Never Made and Other Adventures with Science Fiction Paperback – 25 Apr 2018
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About the Author
Satyajit Ray (1921-92) is one of the greatest film-makers of all times. His first film Pather Panchali (1955) won an award at the Cannes Film Festival. The only Indian to receive the Oscar for Lifetime Achievement, he was awarded the Bharat Ratna in 1992. He was also a prolific writer of fiction, non-fiction, and a designer, calligrapher, editor and music director.
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This book is a living proof how Steven Spielberg made Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, both the films are inspired rather copied (with "some changes" made by Spielberg) from the script of The Alien by Ray. Specially if you read the last 3 scenes in the script written by Ray and then if you see the ending of Close Encounters of Third Kind you will see that Spielberg just copied those last three scenes line by line with some visual changes on screen. Also there's similarities between Ray's sketches of the alien and the alien we see in the film. And in E.T he copied the beginning of the script line by line, in the script an alien lands in a small pond in a village where he befriends a young boy and in E.T the alien lands in a small town in California where he becomes friends with a young boy named Elliot. There are many more similarities between E.T and The Alien, Ray's alien had three-fingered hand, in E.T we see four-fimgered hand. Then the healing powers, making plants bloom and many more. Spielberg also copied the basic idea of E.T from an one-act play Lokey from Maid-man, and was fined a 750million lawsuit shortly after it's theatrical release by the writer Lisa Litchfield. Ray never filled any complaints against him seeing some changes in both films but he said it everywhere in those days that "both ET and Close Encounters of the Third Kind not have been possible without my script of The Alien being available throughout America in mimeographed copies." In reply Spielberg said that he was at high school when Ray wrote the script and was planning to do the film. But that doesn't mean you can't get a copy of the script from the studio and read it when you're a 3-4 films old filmmaker. To my opinion these two films probably might not be made in that structure without the original script of The Alien. After watching these two films he decides not to make The Alien because the world would say it came from Spielberg.
Few decades later Rakesh Roshan made Koi Mil Gaya which is also inspired from Rays' The Alien specially the structure of the film, also inspired from Spielberg's ET.
The book contains all the information about the film including the original script, the Bengali version of the script, first draft of it, the sketches he made, all the letters from Arthur C. Clarke, Peter Sellers, Marlon Brando, The producers who should interest, Columbia Pictures (US & UK) and many more things.
It's amust have book for you if you love Ray or if you're a movie buff. Probably the most talked about unmade film in history.
Travails With The Alien is an amazing book, in the sense that it is probably the only full-length book on a film that was never made. It is not a short journey that started with an idea/script and ended with a major studio backing out due to a shady wheeler-dealer who had slithered into the project in a somewhat unplanned manner. I mean, that’s probably the ‘tweet summary’ but the book covers a journey that was much longer, much deeper and much more magnificent.
The book – designed like an album – starts with Ray’s earliest writings on science fiction as a genre in both literature and cinema, traces his journey as a SF ‘addict’ (and goes into his correspondence with SF legends like Clarke and Bradbury) before reaching the short story and the script for the TV show episode.
The Alien – like the hero of a blockbuster film – makes an appearance about a third into the book in the form of a fairly detailed script that was pitched to and accepted by Columbia Pictures. The piece de resistance comes after this – Ray’s account of what happened, narrated with his brand of sardonic humour and amazing detail. For fans of classic Hollywood, the narrative would be delicious because it features some of the top stars of 1960s in bit parts and Ray exhibiting an almost copybook case of the ‘impostor syndrome’. Like any middle-class Bengali, he asks about hotel room rents and is not fully placated when he is told, “Maestro… you can’t afford anything but the best, you know, you made the Apu Trilogy!”
The book ends with two more tangential inspirations – two short stories by Ray’s father and Ray himself. The former could have been the starting point of Ray’s SF hero – Professor Shonku – and the latter a child-friendly tale of a helpful alien.
In between, there is this interesting theory about The Alien script being an inspiration to later-day films like Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra Terrestrial and Close Encounters of the Third Kind – told from the perspective of noted film journalist, Aseem Chhabra, who did an investigative story on the topic as a journalism student. This segment is very intriguing and – if not anything else – should inspire readers to watch Spielberg’s films once again and check out the similarities between his aliens and Ray’s!
In short, the book is a sumptuous treat for movie fans. It is a treasure trove of previously unpublished articles, letters, photographs, news clippings to boost the main content of the script of The Alien, Ray’s reminisces and the short stories (which have appeared in print earlier). The book's layout (by Pinaki De) needs a special mention because it is very rarely that you see such a diverse set of visuals accompanying an even wider range of text, fitting in with each other so beautifully.
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