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Bollywood?s literary musings

Niche viewership has urged the industry to take inspiration from literature. Diganta Guha and Kathakali Jana tell more.

india Updated: May 03, 2006 20:02 IST

As filmmakers Ram Gopal Varma and K Shashilal Nair tailor-make Vladimir Nabokov's 1955 novel, Lolita, to suit their individual sensitivities and budgets, they underscore Bollywood's current date with literature in English.

A spate of films - spearheaded by Mira Nair's much-hyped screen adaptation of The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri - based on popular literary works, is being produced in the movie capital while others await release.

An urban multiplex audience is expected to relate to these departures from time-tested potboilers. Says Onir, whose "modern" take on Hamlet is being scripted, "As a student of literature, Hamlet has always appealed to me. We've given the film a contemporary setting without forcefully Indianising it."

Shakespearean tragedy seems to be the flavour of the season even as Vishal Bharadwaj completes his Omkara based on Othello to send it to the Cannes Film Festival. Set in Uttar Pradesh, the grim love story takes the director's fascination with the bard - his Maqbool was based on Macbeth - one step forward.

Aishwarya Rai starrer Mistress of Spices is based on Chitra Divakaruni's acclaimed novel by the same name.

Contemporary literature, too, is grist to the Bollywood mill. Rohan Sippy, who is making a film based on Chetan Bhagat's book,

One night @ the call center

, chose to cash in on the book's success.



"The audience can relate to the milieu and would like to find out about the lives of young executives," feels the director. Abhigyan Jha, one of the directors of

Sacred Evil

based on Wiccan Ipsita Ray Chakraverti's book, however, feels that the film had little to do with the hype about the book. "When the offer came, I had not even read it," says Jha.



Does the song-and-dance routine fit into these films? "Song and dance is no part of

Hamlet

. The magic realism of Latin American literature is layered onto the Shakespearean idiom in it," reveals Onir. If

Omkara

boasts a title song, Jha's film, which is also to be made in Hindi, is a "purely commercial" project with four songs.



Lolita's

many screen adaptations - including the Stanley Kubrick film in 1962 - have been mired in controversy over its 44-year-old narrator and his 14-year-old obsession,

Lolita

. Varma and Nair are surely enthused by an increasingly modern audience. While Jha feels that his film is for mature miltiplex-goers, Sippy hopes to cut into a broader audience base.