Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Godfather chronicles

The Godfather, as is with so many others, remains one of my favourite movies. I have watched it many times, the first time on Doordarshan in my early 20s when I was in college, and later on on DVDs. This film always fascinates me: its setting, the actors, the tension, the colors, the could just go on.

But did the film have any impact on Indian cinema, and more so on the shaping of the Indian mafia? I didn't have much idea about it until I read this piece by Vir Sanghvi, whose columns I read regularly.

Here's Vir Sanghvi on the influence of Puzo/Coppola's Godfather on Indian cinema and the third world mafia but I like this part where he talks about the genesis of the novel and later on the film:

Contrary to what people believed at the time, despite being Italian, Puzo knew almost nothing about the mafia. He had heard the same gossip and stories as everybody else. So when he sat down to write, he invented an underworld based on honour and a sense of family. To make it seem authentic, he included a few apocryphal stories that were then current.

For instance, it was rumoured that Frank Sinatra had mafia connections, and that when his career was on the brink, the mob got him the co-starring role in From Here to Eternity that resurrected his fortunes. Puzo invented a Sinatra-like character and included the From Here to Eternity story, adding one dramatic flourish: When the studio boss refuses to cast the Sinatra character, the mafia guys behead his favourite horse and put its decapitated head in his bed.

Stories such as this one—which Puzo dreamt up from the top of his head—made the book seem even more authentic than it really was and it became a number one best-seller. By the time Paramount Pictures got around to filming it, the Italian- American community was filled with outrage and the studio agreed to delete the words “mafia” and “La Cosa Nostra" from the script.


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