Bollywood’s relation to the literary world is as old as the industry itself. Filmmakers turning to books dates back to India’s first feature film, Raja Harishchandra (1913). Dhundiraj Govind Phalke was not the only one to have found a cinematic plot in the historical legend. Novels, legends and folklore have fascinated many. But while 3 Idiots set a box-office record, What’s Your Rashee? remained a question no one was interested in.
However, directors continue to be inspired. Ashutosh Gowariker’s upcoming film, Khele Hum Jee Jaan Se, is based on Manini Chatterjee’s Do Or Die. A period film about the nationalist movement in India, Abhishek Bachchan is reportedly playing freedom fighter Surya Sen. Two upcoming films — Mani Ratnam’s Raavan and Prakash Jha’s Rajneeti— are modern interpretations of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata respectively.
Karan Vir Arora, founder of Vimanika Comics, is in talks with producers both at home and abroad for his graphic titles — Sixth-The Legend Of Karna and Dashaavatar. “We have been approached for a television cartoon series on The Legend Of Karna too. Whether or not the movie will be an animation, depends on who’s producing it,” Arora informs. He wants to be part of the creative team once the adaptation takes off.
Taking up classics or recent bestsellers and conceiving their screen adaptations works well, says Rock On!! director Abhishek Kapoor. Kapoor is currently working on the screenplay of Chetan Bhagat’s 3 Mistakes Of My Life. “I thought it had the potential to be a visual adaptation. I signed him up a year and two months ago,” Kapoor reveals. Ask him whether it’s an inspiration only, and he replies, “Look, we sealed the deal much before the 3 Idiots controversy. It’s an adaptation. Writing the screenplay entails an evolutionary process. But it will retain the essence of the book.” he says.But Kapoor also makes the point that the writers deserve their share of the pie: “It takes years to conjure up a story and put it on paper. So, there’s no harm in giving a writer his due.” Shashanka Ghosh, director of Quick Gun Murugan, could not agree more: “Crafting a story is the hardest part and when you have the beginning, middle and the end, the job is already done.”
Ghosh is adapting Manisha Lakhe’s Betelnut Killers, a pulp, culture-crime comedy about a meek Indian in the US. “What I and Manisha concocted had started as a joke. There is a market for such films because they are basically Indian films, even if they are in English,” Ghosh explains, adding that his film will use a mixed language and the cast is yet to be finalised.
After the adaptation of Q & A into Slumdog Millionaire, Vikas Swarup’s Six Suspects has now been picked up. But Swarup recently told HT Café that “there are zero chances of Danny Boyle working on Six Suspects”. The novel is being adapted by screenwriter John Hodge, who has worked on Boyle’s earlier films like Trainspotting and The Beach.
Based on Jane Austen’s novel, Emma, Aisha is the latest to join the list of adaptations. The film is being directed by Rajshree Ojha and produced by Anil Kapoor and his younger daughter Rhea Kapoor.