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Reel translation

The euphoria over Slumdog Millionaire is at its peak. And one of the first names on Danny Boyle’s thank-you list is ‘Vikas Swarup’.

Written by Alaka Sahani |
February 3, 2009 1:29:30 am

The search for an original story often takes filmmakers to bookstands

The euphoria over Slumdog Millionaire is at its peak. And one of the first names on Danny Boyle’s thank-you list is ‘Vikas Swarup’. For,the rags-to-millionaire saga had first appeared in the form of a novel—Q&A by Swarup—basing on which Boyle created his latest visual treat.

Slumdog Millionaire has company in the Oscar race as far as films based on books are concerned. The Brad Pitt-starrer The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,which has picked up 13 nominations,is based on the 1921 novella by F Scott Fitzgerald. More films belonging to this category and eying the golden statuette are Revolutionary Road,based on Richard Yates’s novel,The Reader,an adaptation of the 1996 German novel by Bernhard Schlink. Two other

nominees—Doubt and Frost/Nixon—are based on plays by John Patrick Shanley and Peter Morgan respectively.

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Closer home,Dev.D—which is releasing on February 6—is inspired by Saratchandra’s Devdas. Its director Anurag Kashyap,

however,admits that though the basic premise of the story remains the same,the story has a very modern setting. “The idea came from Abhay Deol,who plays the lead,” he told The Indian Express.

The movie-goers will soon be relishing more such cinematic fare when 3 Idiots,a screen adaptation of Chetan Bhagat’s Five Point Someone by Rajkumar Hirani,and What’s your Raashee,based on Madhu Rye’s novel and directed by Ashutosh Gowarikar,hit theatres. Much before that,the beautiful Marley and me,starring Jennifer Aniston,is releasing on February 6.

Though Hello based on Bhagat’s One Night@the Call Centre flopped,filmmaker Sudhir Mishra says,“There is an interest in adapting Indian English novels on the big screen.” The cases in the point are the films based on Six Suspects,another novel by Swarup,Karan Bajaj’s Keep off your Grass,Anuja Chouhan’s The Zoya Factor and Deepa Mehta’s adaptation of Booker of Bookers,Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie. Gowarikar—who wanted to take a break from directing drama with the frothy love story of What’s your Raashee—is likely to make a film called Khelein Hum Ji Jan se,which is a screen translation of Manini Chattarjee’s Do or Die based on the Chittagong uprising.

By buying the rights of Chouhan’s chick-lit,Shah Rukh Khan,who owns

Red Chillies Entertainment,kept his word. Chouhan,who has done lots of Pepsi ads with the actor,had mentioned to him that she was working on a novel and he’d told her that he’d buy the rights when she was done. “I’d thought he was kidding,but it turned out that he was serious,” she says.

For Bajaj,however,the film offer came as a surprise. But he feels his coming-of-age tale will play well on the screen. “The book is a good mix of masala (campus adventures) interspersed with an introspective take on Indian spirituality (road trip through Rajasthan,Benaras and Dharamsala),” he says.

Often,books provide a story which is

explored further by the filmmakers. Mishra plans a similar move when he “mixes characters from Devdas with that of Hamlet in a

political tale”. Some changes,however,are done to meet the demands of cinematic medium. Bajaj’s book has monologues,which are replaced by actions. But,it’s different with Chouhan. The ad filmmaker feels the visual element has crept in her story. The trend of reel adaptation books has not caught in India even after sporadic

projects like The Japanese Wife and Chokher Bali. “In India,a lot more people see movies than read books. Yet,a big movie gets people curious about the book too.”

A film might be based on a book,but Mishra considers that to be a completely different work. “The treatment decides whether a good story works on screen. It’s François Truffaut who made Jules et Jim story so wonderful. However,in case of Pather Panchali,both Satyajit Ray’s adaptation and Bibhuti Bhusan Bandopadhya’s novel are splendid.”

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