Thursday, September 04, 2014


Fleming, Ian. Octopussy. 1966, London: Pan Books, 1967.

Octopussy is the first James Bond film I ever saw, way back when I was in fifth standard, when we were not allowed to watch English movies, for, they were obscene. There were obscenity quotients in this film as well, which was mighty exciting (when Maud Adams jumps from the balcony and her sari unwinds…), but the real excitement was the action sequences, the Indian locale and the authorickshaw chase near the end…

The film is very close to Indian audiences, for the representation of Udaipur and the appearances of Kabir Bedi and Vijay Amritraj. Nobody really cares about Roger Moore, do they?

I started reading the slim volume of Octopussy because of my love for the hazy memory about the film. Octopussy is not a typical bond novel, but a very short story, which I finished in half a day. But where is Octopussy as a woman, where is Udaipur, where are the jewels, where is James Bond to start with? There is, however, a reference to Faberge Egg, in another story in the collection, Property of a Lady, which is also a very quaint tale, full of pathos about cold war era politics, and it involves a auction scenes as exciting as the opening scenes of Fleming’s Casino Royale. (The slim volume contains three stories, Octopussy, Property of a Lady and The Living Daylights; the latter being the title of another 007 film).

The original story is a moving tale of WWII crime, guilt and redemption, not on the level of Dostoevsky, of course, but quite a little, interesting yarn, full of telling details, especially about scorpion fishes and octopuses and post-war Jamaica and post-war Germany. You can imagine how close Fleming was to his Jamaican landscape. And, Bond appears just for a faction in the tale, and he is not important at all.

This is a tale of Major Smythes, who may be dying of alcoholism, who loves his fishes and his octopus, whom he calls Octopussy, than the real people and he has a terrible past, about a cold blooded murder and Nazi gold, and when past catches up with him, there is an accident…


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