It was the strong connect he had shared with the book since he first read it in 2005 that prompted Sujay Dahake to adapt Milind Bokils famous Marathi novel Shala for his debut film of the same name. At the same time,the director was aware that the popularity of the book will also help draw crowds to the theatres to watch his Marathi language film. The strategy worked,and Shala,named after the book,won critical acclaim and a slew of awards after its release in January.
But Dahake isnt the only one who has benefitted from the association. Bokil claims that the number of copies he has sold over the last 10 months alone equals half the sales made in four years. Regional language literature,though rich,is niche and largely inaccessible due to a lack of good translators. When it gets adapted as a film,more doors open for both the book and the author, says Bokil.
Adaptations of regional literature are not uncommon and several Marathi books and short stories have inspired films in the past,such as Sinhasan (1979) that was adapted from Arun Sadhus books and Umbartha based on Shanta Nisals autobiographical Beghar. However,the trend waned with the decline in quality of Marathi cinema from the 80s until five years ago. And since Marathi cinemas revival two years ago,rights to several Marathi books have been purchased by filmmakers. Blockbuster Natarang (2010) is based on Anand Yadavs novel by the same name and Jogwa is adapted from three different books. Sadanand Deshmukhs Baromas will release as a Hindi film and Suhas Shirvalkars Duniyadari is being made into a movie by cinematographer Sanjay Jadhav.
As is the case with Shala,these writers have benefitted too. Deshmukh admits that Baromas,the film,is yet to release and he has already received proposals for Hindi and English translations of the book.
Shirvalkar believes that films,apart from expanding on the books reach,also help the authors other works. Once the viewer has read the original book,he or she is likely to also be curious about that authors other works in an attempt to understand the authors world view, he explains. Bokil,also a sociologist,adds that even his non-fiction works,especially Samudraparche,have met with interest since Shalas release.
Asmita Mohite of Popular Prakashan,a publishing house that prints several Marathi titles,however,feels that a screen adaptation mostly helps if the films name is the same as the book. The association is stronger in that case. Else,the audience easily forgets the films connection with a book unless it becomes a blockbuster,which is rare for regional films, she says.
Paro Naik,the author of Mi Ka Nahi,which has been made as Amhi Ka Tisre recently screened at the Kashish queer festival,believes that screen adaptations serve a larger purpose,which extends beyond one authors advantage. Regional literature has been steadily losing ground in India,but adaptations can become windows to literature for the youth and at the same time help address social issues,such as sexuality,on mass scale, says Naik.