First a book I really did find interesting: The Last Nizam: An Indian Prince In The Australian Outback by John Zubrzycki. You will find that Goodreads link of interest as there is quite furious disagreement, partly on national/ethnic lines, about the quality of the book. I knew next to nothing about His Imperial Highness Prince Asaf Jah VIII, Imperial Prince of the Ottoman Empire, also known as His Exalted Highness Prince Rustam-i-Dauran, Arustu-i-Zaman, Wal Mamaluk, Asaf Jah VIII, Muzaffar ul-Mamalik, Nizam ul-Mulk, Nizam ud-Daula, Nawab Mir Barakat ‘Ali Khan Bahadur, Sipah Salar, Fath Jang, Nizam of Hyderabad and Berar. Nor did I know that Alan Bond, Howard Sattler and Derryn Hinch figure in his story – but they do.
1933 – he is the baby
In Turkey, 2006
There is a review, rather unexpectedly, by Australian journalist Michelle Grattan.
WHEN MUKARRAM Jah, heir to a great and fabulously wealthy Indian dynasty, first visited Australia in 1972, he couldn’t believe the quietness of Perth’s streets. “It looked like there was a curfew,” Jah recounted later. “I saw two policemen approaching and waved them into the safety of the hotel lobby to find out what had happened. They asked, ‘Where are you from, mate?’ told me it was a typical Sunday morning in Perth and went on their way.”
Jah might as well have told them he was from another world. The Eighth (and last) Nizam of Hyderabad was born to a princely state, said at its height to “rival Mecca . . . as a centre for Islamic learning, and eclipse Constantinople as a repository of the Islamic world’s cultural and spiritual legacy”….
An astute businessman, however, he was not. He loved heavy machinery, purchased a 260-tonne former mine sweeper, drove like a maniac and was nicknamed locally “The Shah”. An intensely private man, he owned a mansion, Havelock House, in Perth, which Helen, the second of his five wives, stuffed with antiques brought from his palaces, so it “began to resemble Hyderabad in its gaudy and ostentatious heyday”.
Financially things went from bad to worse.The number of people suing him in Hyderabad passed 800. For a long time he could sell off jewels and other assets from his extraordinary treasure trove, but this led to problems with the Indian government and further claims from those wanting their cut. The sheep station was lost; the Perth mansion sold. The marriage to Helen had broken up years before; she later died of AIDS. Jah’s private misfortunes had become newspaper gossip in Perth. In 1996 he left the country, the Australian adventure over.
Zubrzycki, an Australian journalist, has an extensive first-hand knowledge of India. His account of the early history is dense reading at times but the reader is gripped, as the book goes on, by the strangeness of a world of fairytale and corruption, and by the tale of a man out of place and time, who lost an almost incalculable fortune but had a pride in his identity. “I know I am the Nizam of Hyderabad”, he once told The West Australian, “and that’s all that matters.”
I also borrowed some rather wonderful DVDs.
Wodehouse Playhouse starring John Alderton first aired forty year ago! P G Wodehouse himself introduced some of the early episodes. The set I borrowed had seven 30-minute episodes, including the one there on YouTube. John Alderton is quite brilliant. The stories are damned silly, but still as fresh as a daisy and hilarious.
Second I borrowed two episodes of probably the most faithful adaptation of Sherlock Holmes stories ever made: Jeremy Brett in A Scandal in Bohemia (24 Apr. 1984) and The Dancing Men (1 May 1984). Beautifully done. I subsequently reread both stories and can avouch for the authenticity of these versions.
Finally, a speculative borrowing that proved a winner: Joel Edgerton in Wish You Were Here 2012. Rotten Tomatoes, on that link, lists 59 reviews divided thus: Fresh (42) | Rotten (17).
Margaret and David were both very enthusiastic. I agree with them!
Review by Margaret Pomeranz
The Sydney-based collective known as Blue-Tongue Films comprises filmmakers Joel and Nash Edgerton, Kieran Darcy-Smith, Luke Doolan, David Michod and Spencer Susser. Their most outstanding success to date has been Michod’s ANIMAL KINGDOM. And now, after several short films, Kieran Darcy-Smith, working with his wife Felicity Price as co-screenwriter has made WISH YOU WERE HERE. It stars Price and Joel Edgerton as married couple Alice and Dave Flannery who go on a trip to Cambodia with Alice’s sister Steph, TERESA PALMER and Steph’s boyfriend Jeremy, ANTONY STARR. After a drug fuelled night partying, Jeremy goes missing. A troubled Alice and Dave return to their family in Australia leaving Steph behind to search for him. It’s obvious that Dave knows more than he’s letting on about Jeremy’s fate and there’s something else troubling him as well.
This is a fine-looking film, beautifully shot and edited with terrific performances from Felicity Price and Joel Edgerton and the children playing their kids, Isabelle Austin-Boyd and Otto Page, are sensational. The scenes in the family have an enviable naturalism to them. This domestic thriller has perhaps a touch too much structural manipulation, you’re very aware of information being withheld, so that when the final denouement comes, despite it being thrillingly handled, you wonder how the film would have played if that information had been shared with the audience from the start so that you are in a collusive relationship with Dave throughout the film. But this is an impressive debut from Darcy-Smith and for producer Angie Fielder.
DAVID: It’s funny, you see, what bothered you about the film didn’t bother me at all. It’s quite a well known tradition to keep that sort of information from the audience and I thought it added to the suspense of the film.
MARGARET: I was just curious about if you had handled it another way because you’re kept outside of this and you are with him but I wonder how much more you would have been with him if you had been in on it.
DAVID: Yes, but it’s a moot point because they didn’t do it that way. They chose to do it the other way.
MARGARET: No. I know. I know.
DAVID: So for me it worked perfectly well the way they’ve chosen to do it. Look, I think this is a terrific film. I think it really succeeds in capturing this feeling of sort of the first world clashing with the third world in this kind of holiday situation where Australians can behave not very well. I think it’s got – as you say all the performances are splendid. It’s really well done in every way and I love little scenes back in Sydney, where the suspense is carrying you through that that there’s something – you’re not sure what but something horrible is going on that’s followed them really from Cambodia back to Sydney. So I think this is a top rate Australia film and I’m giving it four and a half.
MARGARET: Wow, David, that’s great. I’m giving it four stars. I think it’s terrific too.
See also CinePhilia.
The DVD package is excellent, with some very informative interviews.