Books·My Life in Books

My life in books: Deepa Mehta

The filmmaker shares 7 books that shaped her life and work.
Deepa Mehta is an Indo-Canadian film director and screenwriter. (Getty Images)

Director Deepa Mehta has earned international acclaim with films like Midnight's Children, Beeba Boys and Water, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award. On CBC Arts' series The Filmmakers, Mehta discusses the making of Water and gives advice to aspiring Canadian filmmakers.

Below, the filmmaker shares some of the books that have shaped her life and art. 

The Famous Five series by Enid Blyton

Enid Blyton is the author of all 21 instalments of the The Famous Five series. (Hachette Children's Group)

"Growing up in a rather staid middle class family in the rather staid, sleepy town of Amritsar, I longed for Adventures (with a capital A). These being few and far between, devouring the Famous Five series by the British novelist Enid Blyton became the only feasible alternative. I spent a lot of time with the Famous Five, who solved the most uncanny of mysteries with the most uncanny of smarts. Four kids and a dog called Timmy took on the world and I lived viscerally through them. I still remember the plot of Five on a Treasure Island."

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

(Jeremiah Gurney/Heritage Auction Gallery/Simon & Schuster)

"A love of the classics was deeply instilled in me by my mother, who — at the height of the 'Quit India Movement' when everything associated with the British was being relegated into a bonfire - refused to burn her Dickens collection. Sydney Carton in A Tale of Two Cities was my first literary hero: the washed-out anti-hero who made the ultimate sacrifice for love. I think there is a bit of Carton, the ultimate bad/good guy, in every male lead I have written for a screenplay."

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Bram Stoker is the author Dracula. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images/HarperCollins)

"After finishing Beeba Boys, I really had a hankering to adapt Dracula as a Bollywood film. I first read it with the aid of a flashlight in my boarding school in northern India, under the quilt, after lights out. When the Count bit Mina, my adolescent self thought it was most erotic. Well, come to think of it, my adult self thinks so too."

The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann

Thomas Mann is the author of The magic Mountain. (Carl Van Vechten/Van Vechten Collection at Library of Congress/Vintage)

"I only wish I knew German. I joined the Goethe Institute in Pune to give Deutsche a shot, but was politely asked to leave after a term. Rotten grades and no ear for language were the cited reasons. To see the real in the spiritual and the spiritual in the real was what appealed to me about The Magic Mountain. The constant quest for humanity in ourselves [is] elusive, according to Mann, but essential."

Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie is the author of Haroun and the Sea of Stories. (Syrie Moskowitz/Penguin Books)

"A phantasmagorical story, Salman Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories is both a children's book and an allegory of the problems that plague the subcontinent, specifically India. I love Haroun's adventures with Iff, Butt and Mali, [and] of course, the Walrus promising Haroun a 'happy ending' for his own story. Rashid (Haroun's father) and Rushdie are both consummate storytellers. The flights of imagination are awe-inspiring."

Shooting Water by Devyani Saltzman

Devyani Saltzman is the author of Shooting Water. (Newmarket)

"A memoir, Shooting Water came about after Devyani Saltzman's stint working on Water, the film that was derailed by Hindu fundamentalists in 2001 in Varanasi. Devyani not only captures the turmoil of those harrowing days but also the central theme of the book: an estranged mother-daughter relationship that healed in the process. The book is a poetic eulogy to that most enduring of all relationships. To read about myself was not easy (and I had read galley proofs) but it was truly liberating. Truth always is."

Runaway by Alice Munro

Alice Munro is a Nobel Prize winner and the author Runaway. (Derek Shapton/MCCLELLAND & STEWART/Penguin Canada)

"One of the greatest writers in the world. No contest about that one. I think I have probably read each one of her stories but the one that is dearest to me is 'Silence.' Awaiting word from her estranged daughter Penelope, Juliet tries to fathom what caused the rift. The uncertainty of relationships, of life, is what the story is about. At once heartbreaking and yet philosophical. A miracle of a story, by a miracle of a writer."


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