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It's much more than just words

Some of Hindi cinema's greater achievements began as novels and stage plays. Read on.

india Updated: Jul 24, 2006 18:44 IST

With this week's release of director Vishal Bhardwaj's Omkara, inspired by William Shakespeare's Othello, we take a look at some memorable Hindi films inspired by books and plays.


RK Narayan's masterpiece of a novel by the same name.

Sticking to the original story, director Vijay Anand brilliantly translated the written word to beautiful frames on screen. Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehmaan gave one of the finest performances of their careers in this film that won innumerable awards. SD Burman composed some immortal tunes, the most memorable being Kanto se kheenchke aanchal, rendered by Lata Mangeshkar.


In the opening credits, Gulzar admitted to paying a tribute to Shakespeare's Comedy Of Errors.

Starring Sanjeev Kumar and Deven Verma in double roles, they form two sets of master and servant, who confuse Moushmi Chatterjee, Deepti Naval, Aroona Irani from start to finish. The eternity of its humour lies in the fact that one can still watch its umpteenth re-run on cable television.


Sarat Chandra Chatterjee's classic about Devdas Mukherjee's doomed love story spawned numerous cinematic versions.

The most notable of these were Bimal Roy's adaptation and Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Rs 50 crore magnum opus. While Dilip Kumar immortalized the tragic hero to Suchitra Sen's Paro and Vyajayanthimala's Chandramukhi in Roy's classic, Shah Rukh Khan stepped into his shoes in Bhansali's extravaganza that brought Aishwarya Rai's Paro and Madhuri Dixit's Chandramukhi together to talk about their love for Devdas.

Kumar's portrayal set him on the tragic hero path while Bhansali's interpretation boasted of breathtaking sets, spellbinding cinematography by Binod Pradhan and great music by Ismail Darbar.

Sahib, Bibi Aur Ghulam

Bimal Mitra's literary classic served as the perfect inspiration for writer-director Abrar Alvi's cinematic classic.

A servant, Bhootnath (Guru Dutt), gets close to Chhoti Bahu (Meena Kumari), the wife of his zamindar employer, Chhote Sarkar (Rehman) who frequents brothels and dancing women every night. Her tale of loneliness and her platonic relationship with Bhootnath is narrated from his perspective. While Dutt was as effective as ever, Meena Kumari stole the show with the scene where she charges back at her husband when he calls her 'mad' and scoffs at her desire to have children.


Sarat Chandra Chatterjee's classic by the same name inspired two films generations apart.

Chatterjee seemed to be a favourite with Bimal Roy, who made Parineeta with Meena Kumari as the protagonist opposite Ashok Kumar's Shekhar Rai. Circa 2005, first time director Pradeep Sarkar's modern adaptation starred debutant Vidya Balan as Lolita, while Saif Ali Khan and Sanjay Dutt vied for her affections as Shekhar Roy and Girish Sharma respectively.

The highlight in Sarkar's film was the Kaisi paheli zindagani featuring the gorgeous Rekha at the Moulin Rouge. Besides striking gold at the box-office, it also went on to win a fair number of awards last year.

Ankhiyon Ke Jharokhon Se

Eric Segal's poignant Love Story inspired this Rajshri Productions venture.

Hiren Nag's emotional drama revolves around the love story of Hindu boy Arun Mathur and Catholic girl Lily Fernandes (Ranjeeta). While the family is making preparations for their marriage, the doctor announces that Lily is suffering from blood cancer and may not live long.

While this film best captured the sensitivity of the original book, another film based on it, Mallika Sherawat-starrer Khwaish was hyped on her claim of 17 kisses, the worst insult possible to any bestseller.


Eric Segal's timeless classic Man, Woman And Child inspired the directorial debut of Shekhar Kapur.

It is still considered to be one of the best films on man, woman and infidelity. Naseeruddin Shah and Shabana Azmi gave fabulous performances as the lead couple whose smooth marital life is rocked when his illegitimate son enters the scene. This unexpected box office hit also starred Urmila Matondkar and Jugal Hansraj as child actors and their chartbuster Lakdi ki kaathi, kaathi ka ghoda remains everyone's favourite children's song.

Earth 1947

Deepa Mehta based the second of her trilogy on the elements on Bapsi Sidhwa's novel The Ice-Candy Man.

As the title suggests, Mehta's cinematic version of Sidhwa's fiction is set in 1947 at the time of India-Pakistan partition. Aamir Khan effectively portrayed Dil Navaz, the ice-candy man madly in love with Shanta, a Parsi girl's nanny, who in turn loves Hassan, the masseur. AR Rahman composed the soundtrack, which included the unforgettable Rut aa gayi ve.

Choker Bali

Rabindranath Tagore's Bengali work served as inspiration for Rituparno Ghosh's screen interpretation of the same name.

Set in the early 1900s, the film draws an analogy between the British colonisation of India and the subjugation of women. Aishwarya Rai ventured into the unexplored territory of experimental cinema by essaying Binodini, but found stiff competition in Raima Sen's, who won more accolades for her performance.

Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa

Mahashweta Devi's novel of the same name inspired this Govind Nihalani film.

In one of the most acclaimed performances of her career, Jaya Bachchan played the mother who embarks on a journey of self-examination and discovery after her radical and forward thinking son is murdered; questioning the circumstances that led to her son's untimely death, what made her overlook and take for granted her son's secret activities and seeing in her own family the very things her son rebelled against.


Shakespeare's Macbeth in a way never explored before.

Vishal Bhardwaj's last release was a dark tribute to the Bard's Macbeth. Brilliantly set in the Mumbai underworld with very intriguing characters, it also had a haunting background score. What also make the film memorable were fantastic performances by Pankaj Kapur as Godfather-like don, Abbaji, Irrfan Khan (Maqbool), Tabu (Nimmi) and the ever-reliable Om Puri and Naseerudin Shah.