Bibliophiles and film enthusiasts have been accumulating lists of movies adapted from books for years. To name a few, fans of Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Twilight, Divergent, and Bridget Jones’s Diary have waited with bated breath to see how their favourite characters translate on the screen. But the launch of Anand Neelakantan’s book, The Rise of Sivagami, this year proved that a reverse trend of adapting films is also on the rise. The book comes one year after the release of the hit film, Bahubali: The Beginning (2015), and takes off from the same story.
A NOVEL IDEA
Turning a movie into a book is known as novelisation. After a movie has released, a writer is hired to turn the screenplay into prose, flesh out the script, narrate the characters, and transcribe dialogues. “This could be a wonderful way to keep the culture of reading alive. However, the timing and success of the film or franchise will play an important role in determining the book’s success. Some novelisations have not worked out in terms of sales,” says literary agent Kanishka Gupta. Gupta has represented author Bhaskar Chattopadhyay for the novelisation of Satyajit Ray’s film Nayak (1966).
Besides Hollywood’s novelisations such as Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Baby (published after the movie by the same name in 2016), Bollywood is also filled with similar cases. Some examples include Dhanak by Anushka Ravishankar (based on Nagesh Kukunoor’s 2016 film by the same name), Special 26 by Gabriel Khan (adapted from Neeraj Pandey’s 2013 film by the same name), All That Could Have Been by Suhrita Sengupta (based on Mahesh Bhatt’s Hamari Adhuri Kahani; 2015), a graphic novel on Sholay (1975), and The Village of Pointless Conversation by Kersi Khambatta (adapted from Homi Adajania’s Finding Fanny; 2014).
But these books are not just poorly written texts or assembled adaptions of popular films. Sengupta says these are carefully written novels with vivid descriptions of circumstances and places. The events flow in a different pattern, keeping to the plot structure of a novel. “When one reads the book, they will see that the characters in the film have a different dimension in the book.”
When movies are made from books, loyalists often point out how their events change to suit the cinematic experience. Similarly, cramming a film into a book has its own sets of challenges. Speaking about turning the movie Dhanak into a book, Ravishankar says, “I felt a responsibility to be as true to the movie as possible. I spoke to him [Kukunoor] a couple of times to ensure I had understood the characters and had not misread certain plot points. I did not add any characters or change the plot in any way, but since the form of the novel allows and even demands it, I did add interior monologue to explain the characters’ motivations. This had to be done because the reader didn’t have the visual and aural clues that a viewer of the film would get.”
Interestingly, Bhatt’s Hamari Adhuri Kahani, wasn’t just turned into a book. The film was further adapted into a play from the book as well. “The film’s script had a complex time jump as well as plot development. It took me time to establish the structure of the story, and from there on I took parts that could be represented in the book. The story didn’t change,” says Sengupta.
While some may argue that Bollywood is foraying into publishing with this trend, there is no doubt that such books provide people added incentive to read. “Reading is the most essential part of modern life. Adaptation of film scripts into novels could be a step towards challenging one’s imagination. It must certainly be encouraged. It is also an avenue for young writers seeking an outlet for their talent,” adds Sengupta.