Adapting a 500-page novel is no easy task as some scenes or instances which work so well in the books, just don’t translate to the screen sometimes.(Unsplash)
Adapting a 500-page novel is no easy task as some scenes or instances which work so well in the books, just don’t translate to the screen sometimes.(Unsplash)

Books to screen: 2020’s films and TV shows inspired by popular books

Screen adaptations of some books have become so popular that it might be forgotten that these stories were originally books. Adapting a 500-page novel, however, is no easy task as some scenes or instances which work so well in the books, just don’t translate to the screen.
Hindustan Times, Delhi | By Jahnavi Gupta
UPDATED ON JUL 24, 2020 07:40 PM IST

Adapting books into TV shows and movies may seem like a daunting task where the fans of the books always seem to be disappointed by the screen adaptation, thus sparking the age-old debate of how the book is better than the movie or show. But as visual media has gained popularity over the years, people hardly wait on books anymore, choosing rather to just watch it when the visual version of the literature releases. Some adaptations of books have even taken their film and TV show adaptations a step further.

Screen adaptations of books like The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter series, Sherlock Holmes, The Godfather, Forrest Gump, Clockwork Orange and The Witcher amongst others become so popular that people often forget that they were originally books. Adapting a 500-page novel, however, is no easy task as some scenes or instances which work so well in the books, just don’t translate to the screen.

This year, with the coronavirus-led lockdown, many of us have reconsidered our priorities which began with staying home and getting used to the new normal. Theatres have begun reopening but it might be a while for the new normal to switch back to the normal way of life as we’ve known it. However, entertainment and recreation both have alternatives like OTT platforms. 2020, that became a year of various questions has and will continue to see various book-to-screen adaptations. Here are our top picks:

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

A series of eight fantasy novels written by the Irish author, Eoin Colfer, features a 12-year-old criminal mastermind and his battles with underground fairies. The adaptation of this series into a movie has been in the works by Disney since 2016 and in June 2020, we finally got to see the movie by the same name. The movie is directed by Kenneth Branagh and stars Ferdia Shaw and Dame Judi Dench in titular roles. The story for the first film is based on the first two novels in the series. The movie has a surprisingly dark theme -- for one, that it’s about a 12-year-old boy, but you get to witness tons of action and magic throughout.

Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

This much-anticipated television series is an adaptation of the revolutionary novel by Vikram Seth. The series is being directed by Mira Nair, who has some of the most ground-breaking films in Indian cinema under her belt. The series is set to release later this month. The six-part series was commissioned by BBC, in May 2019. The cast will include Tanya Maniktala as the iconic character of Lata, Tabu, Ram Kapoor, Ishaan Khatter, Vijay Varma, Namit Das and more. The book is considered one of the longest novels ever published in a single volume in the English language. Its sequel, titled A Suitable Girl, is due for publication too.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

With its title inspired by William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, where the lines go: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, / But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” John Green’s widely-popular YA novel tells the story of Hazel Grace Lancaster, a 16-year-old girl with thyroid cancer and how she meets and falls in love with 17-year-old Augustus Waters. The book’s screen adaptation in 2014 became a blockbuster too.

Bollywood is all set with its release of the Hindi adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars, which is also actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s posthumous release. The movie has been named Dil Bechara and the casting also includes Saif Ali Khan and Sanjana Sanghi. The movie has been in production since July 2018 and was delayed a few times due to post-production and then due to the pandemic. This adaptation of the novel keeps most of its essence, but the names and locations have been changed to fit the Indian scenario.

A still from Dil Bechara’s title song. (YouTube screengrab)
A still from Dil Bechara’s title song. (YouTube screengrab)

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

The drama mini-series of the same name premiered on Hulu on March 18, 2020, and quickly gained traction. The narrative follows the closely intertwined lives of the Richardson Family and an enigmatic mother and daughter who take over their lives. The series has a powerful cast which includes Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington. The author of the novel, Celeste Ng has even given the show her approval.

Emma by Jane Austen

The cinema world is no stranger to adaptations of Jane Austen’s classic novel, the most notable being the movie Clueless (1995). The comic genius of Jane Austen’s writing coupled with a screenplay written by Eleanor Catton makes for a delightful movie about Regency-era England. The latest movie adaptation was released on February 14, 2020, starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Johnny Flynn, Mia Goth and Callum Turner. This 2020 version of the book gained favourable reviews from the critics and grossed 25 million dollars worldwide.

The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

Directed by Leigh Whannell, this adaptation of H.G. Wells’ popular novel takes a turn towards horror and science-fiction as a young woman is trying to escape her abusive ex-boyfriend after his apparent suicide. She learns along the way he can become invisible, making for a spine-chilling movie that will surely leave you petrified. The movie has been in development since 2006 and was revived in 2016. Released late in February, the movie stars Elisabeth Moss, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, and James Lanier.

The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting

Originally published in 1920, Hugh Lofting’s series about a doctor who can converse with animals was initially written as short stories written to his children from the trenches of World War I, in place of the horrible news about the war. Through the course of the years, many film adaptations have graced the silver screen, with the most recent one starring Robert Downey Jr. as Doctor John Dolittle. The narrative has him travelling to a magical island to cure Queen Victoria, with the help of his talking animal friends.

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

This film adaptation of yet another classic novel, best categorised as a bildungsroman, deviates from the original dark tale of Copperfield by quite a margin. The narrative of The Personal History of David Copperfield revolves around the life of a young Copperfield after his mother’s demise. Directed by Armando Iannucci, this adaptation has received glowing recommendations from critics, especially since we see the titular performance of Dev Patel as Copperfield. The film released on May 8, 2020, also stars Tilda Swinton and Hugh Laurie.

Dune by Frank Herbert

The film adaptation of Dune, Frank Herbert’s iconic novel from 1965, is all set for release in December 2020. The novel features the story of nomadic tribes at arms, fighting for the control of the desert planet of Arrakis. The epic science-fiction film is being directed by Denis Villeneuve and will be starring remarkable actors like Jason Momoa, Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac and Stellan Skarsgård. There is also talk of a sequel to be released soon.

Normal People by Sally Rooney

The streaming service Hulu is now playing host to a TV show based on the heart-wrenching novel by the same name written by Sally Rooney. It focuses on the lives of two young people in Ireland as they navigate through the complications of a relationship and adulthood. The series itself has been primarily written by Sally Rooney and Alice Birch. The show stars Daisy Edgar-Jones as Marianne Sheridan and Paul Mescal as Connell Waldron. It was originally released on BBC Three on April 26, 2020.

-- with additional inputs by Saumya Sharma

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