Over the decades, Bollywood has, on several occasions, looked to books for inspiration for stories. Currently, more than a dozen novels are in various stages of production, with the latest being Ravi Subramanian’s The Bestseller She Wrote. It has been picked up by Siddharth P Malhotra’s production house. “Alia Bhatt and Deepika Padukone are reading the book,” the author told HT, hinting at the possibility of one of them starring in the film.
Also in the pipeline are big screen adaptations of Vikas Swarup’s The Accidental Apprentice, Anuja Chauhan’s The Zoya Factor and Battle For Bittora, Chetan Bhagat’s Half Girlfriend and Revolution 2020, Aashu Patel’s Madam X, Hussain Zaidi’s Dongri To Dubai, Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations, Saba Imtiaz’s Karachi, You’re Killing Me! and Vinod Mehta’s Meena Kumari, among many others.
“It’s a great sign for the industry. Besides the ready-made story, a book also gives you a ready insight into the world that the story is set in. So, things become easier. But, as a director, you have to make sure that full justice is done to the written word,” says director Tigmanshu Dhulia, who is set to adapt two titles — Madam X and Meena Kumari.
Even Anuja finds this trend “very exciting” because she says that films give her “access to a much-wider audience”. “But it’s also a bit nerve-wracking because, as a writer, one worries about the adaptation being true to the book,” says the author. However, Subramanian feels that it’s important to let go. “If you have sold the film rights to somebody, take your money and leave. If the producers need you, they will call you. But you have to be careful about who you are selling your book to, and ensure that it is not tampered with,” he adds.
Watch: Trailer of 2 States which was based on Chetan Bhagat’s book of the same name
Film-makers feel that books save them a lot of legwork. “The detailed research is all there. So, you don’t have to work on it from scratch. Plus, if the book is famous, you have an extra advantage,” says director Sanjay Gupta, who will adapt Dongri To Dubai into a film.
Till now, most movie adaptations have resulted in success stories, barring a few. The list includes 2 States (based on Bhagat’s book by the same name), 3 Idiots (based on Bhagat’s Five Point Someone) and Phantom (based on Zaidi’s Mumbai Avengers). “Earlier, Bollywood didn’t see Indian literature as a source for good stories. They often got away with copying stories. With people waking up to copyright issues, Bollywood has now starting buying rights to adapt books. Also, these days, it is more of a marketing tool. Floodgates may not have opened, but at least the gates have opened,” says Subramanian.