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The Mystic Masseur
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The Mystic Masseur (2001) More at IMDbPro »

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The Mystic Masseur -- In 1950s Trinidad, a frustrated writer supports himself as a masseur--and soon becomes a revered mystic and politico.
The Mystic Masseur -- In 1950s Trinidad, a frustrated writer supports himself as a masseur--and soon becomes a revered mystic and politico.


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Up 19% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
V.S. Naipaul (novel)
Caryl Phillips (screenplay)
View company contact information for The Mystic Masseur on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
29 March 2002 (UK) See more »
In 1950s Trinidad, a frustrated writer supports himself as a masseur--and soon becomes a revered mystic and politico. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
Plot Keywords:
1 win See more »
User Reviews:
Film versus novel See more (17 total) »


  (in credits order)

Om Puri ... Ramlogan

Aasif Mandvi ... Ganesh Ramseyor

Ayesha Dharker ... Leela G. Ramseyor

Jimi Mistry ... Pratap Cooper

Sanjeev Bhaskar ... Beharry
Zohra Segal ... Auntie

Sakina Jaffrey ... Suruj Mooma

Rez Kempton ... Basdeo

Pip Torrens ... Governor
Albert Laveau ... Headmaster
Grace Maharaj ... Mrs. Cooper

James Fox ... Mr. Stewart
Michael Cherrie ... Man in yellow suit
Maureen Thompson ... Woman in rainbow dress
Dinesh Maharaj ... Taxi driver
David Sammy ... Bissoon
Eddie Yearwood ... Postman
Danesh Khan ... Young Pratap Cooper
Lisa Bissoon ... Wedding Singer
Ria Soodeen ... Wedding Dancer (as Rhea Suedeen)
Michael Jogee ... Kedgeree crowd
Sunil Maharaj ... Kedgeree crowd
Shiraz Mohammed ... Kedgeree crowd
Anthony Harry Paulsingh ... Kedgeree crowd
Rajendra Rastogi ... Kedgeree crowd
Hanskumar Seecharan ... Kedgeree crowd
Sanjeev Boodhu ... Suruj
Lystra Francis ... Mother
Sara-Anne Chow-Quan ... Girl

Patti-Anne Ali ... Soomintra (as Patti-Anne Ali-Clarke)
Royce Francis-Lau ... Birdman
Glenda Constantine Jobity ... Woman who can't eat
Nirad Tewarie ... Lover boy
Risa A. Williams ... Lover boy's girl
Keith Hazare Imambaksh ... Pandit Narayan Chandrashekhar / Cyrus T.
Alfred McClatchie ... Defendant
Mitra Maharaj ... Plaintiff
Shastri Maharaj ... Husband
Deborah Maillard ... Wife
Wayne Shockness ... Chief treasurer
Marie Kavangh ... Governor's wife
Edisson Baptiste ... String quartet member
Francis Pau ... String quartet member
Andre Comeau ... String quartet member
Liana Jaye Williams ... String quartet member
George 'Umbala' Joseph ... Man with Monocle
Jonathon Ali ... Servant
Avery Seaton ... Man with monocle
Ryan Ragoonath ... Striking heckler
Ravin Ramkissoon ... Striking heckler
Kelly Neese ... BBC Cameraman
Ben Spencer ... BBC Reporter
Kieron Quirke ... Oxford Pub Pianist
Unni Karunakara ... Oxford Student at Magdalen College Library / Catte Street Cyclist

Directed by
Ismail Merchant 
Writing credits
V.S. Naipaul (novel)

Caryl Phillips (screenplay)

Produced by
Paul Bradley .... executive producer
George Darley-Doran .... associate producer
Lawrence Duprey .... executive producer
Nayeem Hafizka .... producer
R.D. Hawley Richard .... producer (as Richard Hawley)
Anthony Maharaj .... associate producer
Pritish Nandy .... producer
Rangita Pritish Nandy .... executive producer (as Pritish Nandy)
Original Music by
Zakir Hussain 
Richard Robbins 
Cinematography by
Ernest Vincze  (as Ernie Vincze)
Film Editing by
Roberto Silvi 
Production Design by
Lucy Richardson 
Set Decoration by
Marina Morris 
Costume Design by
Michael O'Connor 
Makeup Department
Penny Smith .... hair styles supervisor
Penny Smith .... makeup supervisor
Production Management
John P. Adams .... production manager: Trinidad unit
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Matthew Blackbourne .... assistant director
Vincent G. Gonzales .... assistant director: Trinidad (as Vincent Gonzales)
Gary Granger .... assistant director
Asha Lovelace .... assistant director: New York
Parthiban Shanmugam .... trainee assistant director
Ben Spencer .... second assistant director: Trinidad
Suraj Varma .... second assistant director: Trinidad
Art Department
David O'Williams .... props transport
Lee Sandales .... production buyer
Nick Turnbull .... property master
Sound Department
Ryan Collison .... foley engineer
Robert Hein .... supervising sound editor: New York (as Bob Hein)
Anthony McLetchie .... sound utility: Trinidad
Sylvia Menno .... adr editor
Sylvia Menno .... dialogue editor
Kelly Neese .... boom operator: Trinidad
Glenfield Payne .... sound effects editor
Peter Schneider .... sound mixer: Trinidad
Brian Vancho .... foley artist
David Wahnon .... assistant sound editor
Akil Wilson .... sound intern
Visual Effects by
Keith Yurevitz .... visual effects
Camera and Electrical Department
Aaron Anawalt .... grip
Kelly Mason .... camera operator
G. Monic Kumar .... first assistant camera
Micky Reeves .... gaffer
Zalfa Shammas .... assistant camera
Costume and Wardrobe Department
Shahnaz Vahanvaty .... associate costume designer
Editorial Department
Laurie Butler .... associate editor: New York
Pierre Proner .... assistant editor: New York
Tim Sternberg .... assistant editor (uncredited)
Music Department
Geoff Alexander .... orchestrator
George Brooks .... music coordinator
George Brooks .... musician: saxophones
Karl Eckhardt .... musician: bass guitar
Zakir Hussain .... musician: percussion
Ashish Khan .... musician: sarod (as Aashish Khan)
Karl Perazzo .... musician: percussion
Philip Scher .... music researcher
Benjamin Simon .... conductor
Liam Teague .... musician: steel drum
Other crew
Bianca Bezdek-Goodloe .... legal services
Rahila Bootwala .... production controller
Nasheed Qamar Faruqi .... assistant production coordinator (as Nasheed Faruqi)
Katie Harlow .... script supervisor
Abel Monem .... assistant to the director
Mary P. Murphy .... production coordinator
Ben Rimmer .... location manager
Ayca Sadikoglu .... office coordinator: New York
Ben Spencer .... location manager: Trinidad
François Vila .... press agent
Kai Wong .... assistant to producer

Production CompaniesDistributorsOther Companies

Additional Details

Also Known As:
Rated PG for mild language
117 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.85 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Argentina:Atp | Australia:PG | Canada:PG (Alberta/British Columbia/Manitoba/Nova Scotia) | Canada:F (Ontario) | Canada:PG (Ontario) | Portugal:M/12 | UK:PG | USA:PG

Did You Know?

Pan for BeethovenSee more »


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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful.
Film versus novel, 7 May 2003
Author: ( from Delaware Ohio

A half century ago, Trinidad was an outpost of the waning British Empire and, like most British holdings, attracted immigrants from the jewel in the crown, India, who established villages on the island. Novelist V.S. Naipaul, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature last year, grew up there. His first few novels wryly explored the comic clash between his fellow Indians and their exotic setting.

Now The Mystic Masseur, his first novel (1957) , comes to the screen directed by Ismail Merchant, best known as the producer half of the Merchant Ivory filmmaking team. Naipaul published it a few years after leaving Trinidad to study at Oxford, hoping for a career as a writer. The novel, narrated by a young Trinidad Indian at Oxford, refracts elements from Naipaul's early life into a story about another islander with similar but misplaced ambitions.

Ganesh Ransumair burns to make his mark in the world of letters. The trouble is, Trinidad doesn't offer much scope for a man with little learning and less talent. In his poor village on the outskirts of the colonial capital, books are so rare that a conniving shopkeeper with a marriageable daughter tries to score points with Ganesh by showing off his library, a collection of tattered paperback mysteries he's obviously never read. The daughter wins a few points, though, with her beauty and odd enthusiasm for English punctuation, of all things. A marriage is arranged and the new wife waits impatiently for her husband to finish the book that will make them rich. It turns out to be a pamphlet on Hinduism that fails to sell. Ganesh is then persuaded to try his hand as a masseur – actually, a faith healer – and once he gets the patter right and performs a few miraculous cures, he's on his way. Now the books he writes sell like hotcakes, not because Ganesh is a great author, but because he is a famous mystic. He parlays his fame among island Indians into an election victory, winning a seat on the colonial council.

Caryl Phillips' screenplay starts where Naipaul's novel ends, with a young Oxford student, an Indian from Trinidad, sent to meet an island statesman named G. Ramsay Muir at the railway station. Muir turns out to be Ganesh, thoroughly Anglicized and eager to visit the dreaming spires of the university town. Phillips invents scenes of Ganesh gushing at the riches of the Bodleian Library, marveling at all the learning he was never able to acquire. In the novel, learning that Muir is the ex-masseur is a comic punch line that caps the story of a man eager to reinvent himself. Phillips' decision to start there and then backtrack to Ganesh's rise leaves the movie without an ending and skews its themes.

But the movie works best where the novel also succeeds, in characters who wait impatiently while young Ganesh works out his mission in life. Chief among these is Ramlogan, the shopkeeper played by Om Puri, a veteran of Indian cinema. Wily, crass, but always polite, Ramlogan seems to smell the money this poor scholar might make. His daughter Leela (Ayesha Dharker) steals a few scenes when she wonders aloud why Ganesh isn't making any. As for Ganesh, Aasif Mandvi's performance seems driven by the plot, not the character. James Fox shows up twice in a weird cameo role as an Englishman gone native.

The Mystic Masseur is wildly comic when Merchant can get Ramlogan, Leela, and Ganesh into his lens. Then the interplay between Ganesh's ambition and the more practical concerns of his wife and father-in-law get laughs. Their dialect, Indian English with a Caribbean flavor, is also fun to listen to, although hard to follow at times. But Merchant is not much of a director, with too many flat shots of characters talking in the middle distance and cutaways to show their reaction. The languid editing also deadens the pace.

Coming so soon after Monsoon Wedding, a much more lively film, Mystic Masseur seems slow and unconvincing once it gets past village scenes. It aims at themes its characters never quite hit. Comedy comes from situations Ganesh finds himself in, not from the wobbly arc of his upward career. What's missing in this adaptation is the affectionate wonder of Naipaul's narrator who can laugh with but also at Ganesh but who also, in the novel, offers an implicit contrast to his ambitions. As Ganesh strives to become something more than the mystic masseur, he crashes into a theme Naipaul would develop in his later novels: the troubled identity of the exile caught between different worlds. In 1957, when Naipaul was just starting out, he could look back on Ganesh with wry affection, confident that his path would follow that of his narrator instead. A half century later, with laurels, a knighthood, and long residence in England, Naipaul himself seems to have hardened into a smarter, more successful G, Ramsay Muir.

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