Five of the nine nominees in the best film category at Oscars 2017 are book adaptations. The Amy Adams-starrer Arrival is based on a short story by sci-fi writer Ted Chiang, the biographical drama Hidden Figures is inspired by Margot Lee Shetterly’s non-fiction book, Lion is the adaptation of Saroo Brierley’s A Long Way Home, Moonlight is based on a play co-written by director Barry Jenkins and playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, and Fences — starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis — takes its story and name from the Pulitzer-Prize winning play by August Wilson.
While Monday will reveal which of these bags the best film award, here’s a list of award-winning Indian films that were also born from books. How many of these have you seen, or read?
This one’s no big secret. Vijay Anand’s film starring Dev Anand in the titular role as Raju guide and Waheeda Rehman as his love interest Rosie is now considered a cinematic masterpiece. The film is based on novelist RK Narayan’s The Guide (1958), which received the Sahitya Akademi award. Though Narayan hated the big screen adaptation and even wrote a scathing critique of it for a magazine, the film went on to win numerous awards and claim its place among the classics of Indian cinema for its stellar performances and SD Burman’s memorable music.
Shatranj Ke Khilari (1977)
In this adaptation of Munshi Premchand’s short story, Satyajit Ray depicts the rot in the state of Awadh as it is annexed by the East India Company in 1856. Two wealthy landlords (played by Sanjeev Kumar and Saeed Jaffry) are addicted to the game of chess and oblivious to the damage their obsession does to their personal and political lives. Meanwhile a larger political game is being played out as the British checkmate the equally ineffective ruler Nawab Wajid Ali (Amjad Khan) and takeover the state.
Shyam Benegal’s film about obsessive love is set during the mutiny of 1857 and loosely based on Ruskin Bond’s novella A Flight of Pigeons. Javed Khan (Shashi Kapoor) becomes enamoured of a British girl Ruth (Nafisa Ali) and — much to the despair of his wife (Shabana Azmi) — takes her captive after her father is killed in a massacre. However, Ruth’s mother (Kapoor’s wife Jennifer Kendel) sets down the condition that Khan can only marry Ruth if the British are defeated. If you haven’t already, watch it for the performances. Also, for writer Ismat Chugtai who plays Ruth’s grandmother.
A happily married man discovers that he has a son from an old affair. His former lover is dead and the child, now an orphan, has no one but him. He must come clean to the wife he cheated on and his days of domestic bliss are clearly over. Shekhar Kapur’s directorial debut starring Naseerudin Shah and Shabana Azmi was adapted for the screen by Gulzar and is inspired by Erich Segal’s novel Man, Woman and Child (1980). It also stars Urmila Matondkar and Jugal Hansraj as child actors.
1947 Earth (1998)
The first film in Deepa Mehta’s Elements trilogy (it was followed by Fire (1996) and Water (2005)) is based on Bapsi Sidwa’s novel on the Partition of India – Ice Candy Man (1988). The story is narrated by eight-year-old Lenny, a polio-afflicted Parsi girl who lives in Lahore with her family. She is looked after by an attractive ayah (Nandita Das) who has many admirers in the neighbourhood, including an ice-candy man (Aamir Khan) and a masseur (Rahul Khanna). As riots break out in the city, the group discovers – at great personal costs – that such madness is infectious.
Choker Bali (2003)
Widowed soon after her marriage, the young and attractive Binodini comes to live with her aunt and ends up having an affair with her cousin Mahendra, who is married to Ashalata. Rabindranath Tagore’s novel Choker Bali (a grain of sand) about an illicit affair was also a comment on the life of widows in the early 20th century (there are three in this novel and all very different). Rituparno Ghosh’s film adaptation cast Aishwarya Rai as the titular troublemaker and actor Prasenjit Chatterjee and Raima Sen as Mahendra and Ashalata. Like with most directors whose films are on this list, Ghosh, too, took certain creative liberties with the text.
This historical drama is based on Punjabi writer Amrita Pritam’s novel Pinjar (1950). It shows how women bore the brunt of the violence (physical and psychological) during the Partition. Puro is betrothed to Ramchand but her life is upended after she is abducted by Rashid as revenge for an old family enmity. After she escapes from captivity, her parents send her back to Rashid fearing a backlash from his clan. When Ramchand’s sister is abducted by rioters during the Partition, Puro gets a chance to rescue her and a choice to return to her old life.
Vishal Bhardwaj’s Shakespeare trilogy: Maqbool (2003), Omkara (2006) and Haider (2014)
Filmmaker and music composer Vishal Bhardwaj has maintained that the works of English playwright William Shakespeare are universal and the Bard of Avon “belongs to humanity as a whole”. Nowhere is this truth more evident than in Bhardwaj’s films based on Shakespeare’s plays — Macbeth, Othello and Hamlet. Bhardwaj deftly adapts the storylines across centuries and geographies – be it the Mumbai underworld in Maqbool, criminal gangs of Uttar Pradesh in Omkara, or the conflict-riven Kashmir in Haider. In all films, the script is the hero with great music and performances being an added bonus.
The screenplay of Parineeta, which is based on Bengali novelist Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s 1914 novel of the same name, was written by Vidhu Vinod Chopra who adapted it to Kolkata of the 1960s. But the story remains the same. Childhood friends and neighbours Lalitha and Shekhar, played by Vidya Balan and Saif Ali Khan, grow up to realise their love for one another and consider themselves secretly married after exchanging a gold chain during a particularly auspicious alignment of planets. While Shekhar is away for work, his wily father, who considers Lalitha’s family to be much beneath them, picks a fight with her kin and misunderstandings ensure. (Chattopadhyay also wrote Devdas but book and its many film adaptations are excluded from the list. Too much has been said about them already.)
Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
A chai-wallah in a call centre, Jamal Malik gets selected as a contestant on the Indian version of the quiz show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? When he is able to answer every question correctly, Jamal is accused of cheating and arrested. At the police station, as Jamal explains how he knew all the right answers, he begins to narrate his life story and his obsessive search for a girl called Latika. The film was nominated for 10 Oscar Awards and won eight, including Best Original Score (AR Rahman and Gulzar for Jai Ho).
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