Will our filmmakers turn to literature? – The New Indian Express
Express news service
While searching for a panel discussion on “From Book to Film / OTT”, I was struck by the list of adaptations: the large number of films in all languages, adapted from books, made me wonder why we even struggle to write our own film stories when books across a plethora of genres are readily available. Take, for example, the 1958 Sivaji Ganesan classic, Uthama Puthiran, based on the French novel by Alexander Dumas, The Man in the Iron Mask, or how about the long-running James Bond and Harry Potter films. shining examples of how a bestselling book can turn into a successful movie franchise? Most international cinema awards have a category for the best adapted screenplay.
Recently, the French Netflix show Lupine modernized a legendary comic book series into an updated tale set in picturesque Paris. Indian cinema is also full of examples of book adaptations. In Tamil, writers like Jayakanthan, Sujatha and T Janakiraman and the Eternal Kalki have left us with stories suitable for the big screen. Still, there is a gap in recent years looming, like an elephant in the room.
In Tamil, there hasn’t been much success for movies made from books, with rare successes that take us back either to the classic era that saw movies like Thillana Mohanambal and Iruvar Ullam, or to the new cinema. wave from the 80s like Mullum Malarum, Udhirippokkal, and 47 Naatkal. Right now, Vetri Maaran is showing us how relying on literature can make a movie stand out, with Asuran and Visaranai being adaptations. The copyright issue has been a gray area and the consent of the original author to changes that need to be made during adaptation can become tricky. Writing is a personal process and an understanding of the writing format for novels and screenplay is important. Adapting a book is a double-edged sword, unless the author is also involved in the process of writing the film, thus avoiding the angst of changes for the film version!
With the rise of OTT, the spotlight is on books, which are seen as a source of content and characters. Sacred Games remains India’s most successful web series, replaced only recently by Scam 1992. A web series lends itself to better adaptation as there is sufficient time to remember the chapters of a book. Although in India production houses and platforms mainly focus on genres like crime, thrillers and less on romance and family dramas (let alone comedy), the fact that good books create better content cannot be disputed.
In West Bengal and Kerala there is a seamless connection between books and movies, which can also be the case with Tamil and Telugu. Writing more than 500 minutes of content is akin to writing a novel, for which writers sometimes months, or why, years. But there are books readily available in all Indian languages! The bottom line here is to have one person or a team of people who can read books and recommend titles to production houses or platforms.
Action / mystery / thriller novels make compelling material, while drama is difficult to interpret and scale. Historical / mythological take time to come together (the shooting of Ponniyin Selvan, the most prestigious Tamil film from a novel / series has just ended). Romance, on the other hand, is considered a “personal genre” and best left in the original script space, but some of the most enduring love stories have come from books, including Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare, of course, has a story for each genre.
It is time for the Tamil literary and film worlds to come together to tell us compelling and impactful stories.
The writer is a content producer and an art curator