Seen the trailers of What’s your Rashee? on TV? Ashutosh Gowariker’s rom com has been adapted from Madhu Rye’s Kimball Ravenswood that earlier was made into a popular Gujarati play. And Gowariker’s next, Chittagong Express, is inspired by Manini Chatterjee’s book, Do and Die, on the Chittagong uprising.
Books turned to movies is not a new trend. It can be traced back to the silent era. In 1913, Dadasaheb Phalke’s Raja Harishchandra recounted incidents from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. In 1928, Sarat Chandra Chatterjee’s Devdas was adapted on screen for the first time. Since then, 13 versions of the classic have released.
Classics to bestsellers
Shakespearean plays for their ‘complex content’ is another favourite with filmmakers. Vishal Bharadwaj’s Maqbool s a desi Macbeth while Omkara was the Indianised Othello.
Classics are now making way for bestsellers. While Hollywood has found its box office muse in Devil Wears Prada and Confessions of a Shopaholic, Bollywood has latched on to Chetan Bhagat’s One Night at a Call Centre (Hello) and Five Point Someone (3 Idiots).
R Sriram, founder of the Crossword bookstore, believes that the choice of books depends entirely on the filmmakers and whether they want to send out a meaningful message or simply entertain. He points out, “Regional literature— Bengali, Tamil, Gujarati or Marathi— offers good content.. and our poetry can inspire beautiful lyrics.”
Author Anita Jain points out that books and films are two completely different media, which makes it so difficult to translate books to screen. “But a book that is visual and can evoke a sense of space and dramatic tension lends itself better to a screen interpretation than one that’s high on language. Of course, you need a director who is adept enough to pull off a movie version of a Rebecca.”
Sriram adds that an adaptation creates a new audience for the book and helps sell more copies. “Also, we have something called ‘movie tie-ins’, wherein we re-release a book that has been adapted in a new avatar — a cover with faces from the poster,” he informs.
Amongst recent novels, Gregory David Roberts’ Shantaram was supposed to be made into a movie by Mira Nair but the project has since been shelved. Buzz is that the rights for Suketu Mehta’s Maximum City have been bought by Danny Boyle. The director is teaming up with writer Simon Beaufoy for his next movie.
The trend is here to stay, as Sriram concludes, “Books would be the natural place to look for a story.”