The reviewers have spoken. And they assert that Ram Gopal Varma’s Nishabd isn’t, in fact, based on Nabokov’s Lolita. Not having seen the film, I have no idea if this is indeed the case. But to re-read the book is to once again realise the impossibility of filming it successfully. It’s not the debated theme and characters; it’s not the hidden plots and meanings; it’s not the doublings and doppelgangers: it’s the shimmering sea of words on which they float that bewitches and beguiles. You can’t capture that on celluloid.
Recall Humbert’s rapturous opening address: “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.” Gorgeous. Open the book at any page and you’ll find prose that’s playful, allusive, sardonic, ironic – sometimes all in the same sentence.
Nabokov himself attempted a wordy screenplay for Stanley Kubrick in 1960, from which the director used only odds and ends. The author revised it for publication in 1973, calling it a “vivacious variant” of Lolita – an expression that fits Adrian Lyne’s bravura 1997 remake. The best way to savour the tragic, transgressive tryst between Humbert and his eponymous nymphet is to simply read the book.