Industry executives, producers and screenwriters got into the details of adapting literary material into film scripts at a Film Bazaar Knowledge Series discussion this week.
India has experienced growing use of books as source material in recent years, driven in part by streaming, which Sidharth Jain, founder of specialist adaptation company Story Ink. called “an inflection point.” But the Indian industry is still relatively new to the process and Jain said that development capital remains “a pain point.”
“As an industry, we are still learning to write a script and still learning to write in the correct format. But we will pick it up fast,” said producer Sunitha Tati. She cited the example of the recent Tamil-language hit “Ponniyin Selvan: I” (“The Son of Ponni”), based on a book. “Director Mani Ratnam knew how to take a most beloved novel to screen in probably the most appropriate way.”
“Netflix has been leading the book to screen initiative in India,” said Tanya Bami, series head at Netflix India. “Having book as source material helps get attention. We love the conversion of a book to a screenplay and then into a film or series. We have seen success with the format with ‘Sacred Games,’ ‘Selection Day’ and ‘Monica, O My Darling,’ among others.”
Aspiring filmmakers were advised to do their homework and to compare and contrast the original books with the finished films. “Anyone who has watched Satyajit Ray’s ‘Pather Panchali’ must read the book by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay and compare how Ray converted the book and thereby understand things like what to expand and what to leave out,” said Vikram Sahay, joint secretary, Information and Broadcasting Ministry.
Amar Chitra Katha, a company which has a vast comic book library of 400 or more titles, has tied up with well-capitalized production firm Applause Entertainment (“Criminal Justice India,” “Scam 1992”) to adapt some of the titles into animated content. “The comic book is a storyboard that’s ready. With Applause Entertainment we have a deal on the 2D and 3D animation side, but there is so much potential for live action also,” said Preeti Vyas, CEO and president of Amar Chitra Katha.
“Nowaday some are writing books with the intent of making films to get rich quick. But a book works best when it fulfils its full potential and achieves what it’s meant to do,” said author Tahira Kashyap Khurrana. “But when [a book is] written from the sole perspective of being made into a movie, it fails miserably. Both formats are different, but you have to be true to your medium,” she said.