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British-Indian filmmaker Sam Bhattacharjee’s Barun Rai and the House on the Cliff gets turned into a novel

The 2021 film that stars Priyanshu Chatterjee and Nyra Banerjee has been turned into a novel by Joe Hetherington

British-Indian filmmaker Sam Bhattacharjee’s Barun Rai and the House on the Cliff gets turned into a novel
Priyanshu Chatterjee in a still from Barun Rai and the House on the Cliff

Last Updated: 03.30 PM, Mar 01, 2023


There have been many instances of novels being made into films, but it isn’t often that a movie inspires a novel. But this is the case with the 2021 Indo-British crossover film Barun Rai and the House on the Cliff, starring Priyanshu Chatterjee and Nyra Banerjee. Directed by British Indian filmmaker Sam Bhattacharjee, the film has been novelised by Joe Hetherington, and the novel was recently launched globally.

Soon after the launch of the novel, Sam spoke with OTTplay and spoke about his film, inspirations for it, how his film became a novel, and what further plans he and Joe have for the lead character, Barun Rai – an Asian detective and his many adventures. Excerpts from a chat:

Sam Bhattacharjee and a poster of Barun Rai and the House on the Cliff
Sam Bhattacharjee and a poster of Barun Rai and the House on the Cliff

What was the inspiration behind Barun Rai and the House on the Cliff?
The inspiration primarily came off films like The Conjuring. Horror is incredibly mainstream at the moment, but relies on the same few tropes and faces. With Barun Rai, we wanted to create an Asian detective to stand out from the saturated market and tell a different kind of story.

Is there any connection with The Hardy Boys Mystery Stories, The House On The Cliff?
I don't believe that Sara Bodinar (the screenwriter) or Joe (the novelist) took any particular inspiration from The Hardy Boys, although the serialised aspect of the Adventures of and Casebook of Sherlock Holmes played a role in the novelisation's inclusion of short stories. A shared love of Hergé's globetrotting stories played a role as well.

It is rare for a film to be turned into a novel, since it's usually the other way around…
The aftershock of the pandemic did affect the timeline of release somewhat, but the idea of retroactive novelisation came from the fact that the character of Barun Rai leaves many possibilities to explore South Asian paranormal entities and mythology. Adapting the film allowed the opportunity to expand Barun's adventures beyond House on the Cliff into other countries and time periods, while building the mythos of Barun's world and exploring his backstory.

How did the entire project come together?
The film's inception came from me, as did the desire to novelise the first story.

Joe Hetherington and the novel
Joe Hetherington and the novel

Did Joe Hethrington approach you or was it the other way around?
Joe's brother was in the middle of writing a draft for the sequel to House on the Cliff when the idea was floated. Joe had self-published a collection of short horror stories – The Haunting of Cole Peters – which showed off his credentials as someone with a warped eye for unsettling description and an idiosyncratic worldview. He pitched a few short stories for the book, with Barun encountering hauntings of different natures. Some were lighter in tone than others, and one took the form of a series of Barun's personal correspondences with sceptics, but all of it added to the characterisation, since we read about how he deals with different scenarios, creatures, and people.

How different is the book from the film?
The book goes into more depth on Barun's investigation and methods, allowing more time to ruminate on the island community and the effect the haunting has had on it. The film only follows the perspectives of two characters, and only allows so much screen time for side characters. The novelisation gives us an insight into the internal monologue of suspects, victims, and the people of interest.

Is there anything extra that one can look forward to with the book?
Joe could only include a certain number of short stories, so he has plenty in the bank for the future. We'll just have to wait and see where we want to take Barun next.

Barun Rai and the House on the Cliff is about newly-weds Soumili and Harmesh Banerjee, whose love gets tested by unexplained events after they move into their dream home. Barun Rai, an expert in solving paranormal activities, enters their lives and tries to make sense of everything that has been going on. The film is available to stream on the Eros Now app.

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