As the long-time producer of the Merchant Ivory partnership, Ismail Merchant should have understood the problems of adapting literary texts to the cinema. All credit to him, then, for having the sang froid to choose for his first feature as director, Anita Desai's spare, uneventful novel about a once-revered elderly Urdu poet. The film follows the efforts of a pedantic college tutor, Deven (Puri), to record his hero, the poet Nur (Kapoor), reciting his own work. On a visit to the city of Bhopal, Deven finds Nur living in seclusion, drinking and over-eating, or bickering with his two wives, tired of casting pearls before swine. Deven is no master of technology: the tape-recorder is a mystery to him, and much low comedy is extracted from his incompetence; and the arch, awkward quality of these scenes typify the film. Shashi Kapoor as the embittered, decayed poet is, regrettably, made to carry more weight than any man can bear - to symbolise a whole tradition: the neglect of the Urdu language and the oral tradition with its attendant philosophies of authority and respect.