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Inspired by the written word

Book loyalists are rarely impressed with onscreen adaptations. Even the popular Harry Potter films got grief from die-hard fans of the JK Rowling tomes. But Bollywood seems to be enjoying working with books.

bollywood Updated: Mar 23, 2012 14:04 IST
Priyanka Jain

Book loyalists are rarely impressed with onscreen adaptations. Even the popular Harry Potter films got grief from die-hard fans of the JK Rowling tomes. But Bollywood seems to be enjoying working with books.

Recently, director-writer Anusha Rizvi announced an adaptation of Amitav Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies. Producer Sajid Nadiadwala has bought the rights to Chetan Bhagat’s bestseller 2 States. Author Mainak Dhar’s Herogiri is being adapted by producer Rhea Kapoor, whose first production Aisha was a tribute to Jane Austen’s Emma. And filmmakers Vishal Bhardwaj and Ekta Kapoor are adapting one story each from writer S Hussain Zaidi’s Mafia Queens Of Mumbai.

Says Bhagat, most of whose books have been picked up by Bollywood, “Without a story, you can’t make a film. You can replace actors, music can be skipped and there may be no huge sets. But you must have a story.”

Turning to tomes
The trend is not new to the Hindi films. In the ’50s and ’60s, filmmakers like Bimal Roy and Guru Dutt made movies based on Sarat Chandra’s novels (Devdas, Parineeta) and Bimal Mitra’s book (Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam).

Oscar nominated screenwriter Jose Rivera, who adapted revolutionary Che Guevara’s The Motorcycle Diaries for director Walter Sallas’ film by the same name, says, “Adapting a famous book comes with the baggage of some amount of intimidation and responsibility. Comparisons to the book can’t be avoided.”

Sooni Taraporewala, who adapted Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake for director Mira Nair’s 2006 film echoes the sentiment.

“A book is always in a win-win situation for an author,” she says. “If a film adaptation succeeds, people praise the book and the author. If it doesn’t, they say they did not do justice to the book.”

Author Amish Tripathi whose The Immortals of Meluha is being adapted by Karan Johar, says: “One page of a book roughly translates to a minute in a movie if made ‘exactly’ as it was in the book. A 400 page book would make a film 400 minutes long, which is a violation of human rights!”

Asked if news of books turning into screenplays adds to the book’s sales, Gautam Padmanabhan, CEO of publishing house Westland Ltd, says, “After Karan Johar announced his decision to adapt Amish’s book, sales went up by about 25 to 30 per cent.”

Other adaptations
Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s Devdas and Parineeta
Chetan Bhagat’s 2 States, The Three Mistakes Of My Life, One Night @ A Call Centre, Five Point Someone
Che Guevara’s The Motorcycle Diaries
Lauren Weisberger’s The Devil Wears Prada
Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games
nhumpa Lahiri’s Namesake