Is Bollywood Finally Waking up to Indian Literature?

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Some of my best and most memorable cinematic experiences in life involve movies based on novels/books. Be it the Lord of the Rings series, the Harry Potter series, Life of Pi, Pursuit of Happyness, Hunger Games, A beautiful Mind, and above all The Godfather – the list of such awesome movies is endless. There are few things in life which can match the joy one gets by seeing one’s favorite novel adapted into a good movie.  It is always exciting to compare the way you visually imagined the book with the way the director of the movie has done, put faces to the characters, see which portions of the book were dropped and what new elements (sub-plots, characters) were added. Watching Ang Lee’s Life of Pi was one of the happiest things I did last year.

The Movie and the Book

The Movie and the Book

Unfortunately  Bollywood, the Hindi film industry, has shown great reluctance in adapting literature, especially Indian literature. This has always surprised me, given the richness of India literature. There are so many great Indian novels which can be made into awesome movies. However, I can count good Hindi movies based on Indian novels on my fingers tips. Notable few are: Dev Anand’s Guide based on the novel of the same name by R. K. Narayan; Dev Benegal’s English August based on the novel English August: An Indian Story by Upamanyu Chatterjee; Devdas, Parinita, Swami and Choti Bahu based on various novels by Sarat Chandra ChattopadhyayShatranj ke khiladai based on a novel of the same name by Munshi Premchandra; and Train to Pakistan based on the novel by Khuswant Singh. (As per Wikipedia there are seventy such movies, including regional language movies – see complete list here)

Well, seems that the trend is changing. These days there is a lot of buzz in Bollywood around adapting Indian fiction to movies. We have Karan Johar planning to make a movie (probably a series) on Amish’s Shiva Trilogy. Another upcoming movie: “Banaras 1918 A love story” is based on Munshi Premchand’s “Baazar-e-Husn/Seva Sadan”. BA Pass (see trailer here) is based on the short story The Railway Aunty by Mohan Sikka (part of the Delhi Noir collection). A couple of Chetan Bhagat’s books have been/are being made into movies (Kai Po Che, Chennai Express, Hello). There were strong talk about Anurag Kashyap making a movie based on the “Doga” the title character from the Doga series of comics by Raj Comics.

The result may be good, bad or even ugly, but it’s really heartening to see that Bollywood is finally waking up to Indian Literature and hopefully in the coming years, we will see many more of our favorite Indian novels on-screen. Looking forward.

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