The chronicles of 3 Idiots: The book, the movie and the controversy

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Success comes at a price and in some cases, a very heavy price. 3 Idiots, Bollywood’s mega blockbuster and the biggest grosser in recent times is deeply mired in a controversy over its similarity with Five Point Someone – Chetan Bhagat’s bestseller.

3 Idiots was involved in a controversy when the director Rajkumar Hirani claimed that the movie is just five percent of Chetan Bhagat’s debut novel Five Point Someone, based on the story of three IIT Delhi students. The writer was in fumes as he claimed that the movie is 70 percent of his book. Five percent or 70 percent is a different issue as the movie recorded 100 percent on the ticket window and Chetan’s debut novel is also out of stock. Both the movie and the book are going to gain from this controversy. Chetan Bhagat is a favorite among Bollywood filmmakers. His second novel One Night @ a Call Centre was also made into a movie Hello in 2008 although the film sank without a trace. His third novel Three Mistakes of My Life is also in for a cinema version while he is riding high on the success of his fourth book, 2 States: Story of My Marriage and has relocated to Mumbai to write for films after leaving his Banker’s job in Hong Kong. He is going the Sidney Sheldon way, the famous American writer, who is the pioneer of modern day popular fiction; only thing he needs to learn is to think of apt titles for his novels which can be suitably adapted as such by filmmakers.

The relationship between books and films is as old as the art of filmmaking. Every time a movie based on a book is released, it creates the interest in all those who have read the book to watch it on celluloid and boosts the sale of the book and sometimes brings the writer out of the box up in front             of the people. This was the case of Slumdog Millionaire, which brought fame, among many, to the author and Indian diplomat Vikas Swaroop on whose novel Q & A, the Oscar-winning film was loosely based. The book was rechristened with the new title adapted from the movie and made its publisher a millionaire. His second novel Six Suspects is also being made into a film. Although, Vikas got credit in titles of the film, all those who read the book and saw the film attributed its success to its brilliant screenplay.

In fact, 2009 was the year of book films. Dan Brown’s novel Angels and Demons, a prequel to the famous Da Vinci Code, was also released worldwide, although it failed to generate interest and business like its sequel.

His latest novel The Lost Symbol is also scheduled to go on rolls soon. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince was also released in 2009 and revived the Pottermania among its fans.

Dev D, which was Anurag Kashyap’s modern day take on Sarat Chandra Chatterjee’s classic was appreciated by critics and masses alike. Earlier, Anurag Basu made Black Friday based on a book of same name on Bombay riots. Sarat Chandra remains a favorite with Bollywood with both Devdas and Parineeta being made several times. Incidentally, Parineeta, starring Saif Ali Khan and Vidya Balan, was also produced by Vidhu Vinod Chopra, who made 3 Idiots.

Another filmmaker known to base his films on books is Vishal Bhardwaj. His films Maqbool and Omkara were adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays. Although his latest film Kaminey was not based on any novel, he drew flak from critics for going the clichéd Bollywood route. He is returning to books with a film based on a Ruskin Bond novel Seven Husbands starring Priyanka Chopra.

The trend of making films out of books is not new in Bollywood. R.K. Narayan’s Guide, starring Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman is exemplary of the blend of good literature and cinema. Satyajit Ray’s Shatranj Ke Khiladi was based on a short story by Munshi Prem Chand. Upamanyu Chatterji’s famous novel, English August has also been made into a film of the same name starring Rahul Bose. Erich Segal’s novel Love Story was adapted in Akhiyon Ke Jharoke Se starring Sachin and Ranjita produced by Rajshri films. His all-time bestseller Man, Woman and Child was adapted by Shekhar Kapoor in Masoom, starring Naseeruddin Shah and Shabana Azmi, which depicted the story of a child out of wedlock. The film is treated as one of the finest Hindi films.

Godfather by Mario Piazzo is another classic example, where the book and the film both made a mark. The famous classics Gone With the Wind and Pride And Prejudice have had several editions of prints and films. The Jane Austen classic was also made into a Bollywood film by Gurinder Chadda starring Aishwarya Rai. The film based on the story of three sisters was relocated in Amritsar and all the Bollywood masalas were added to make it a spicy treat although both critics and box office rejected it.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, one of the well-acclaimed modern day fiction, depicting the tale of childhood friendship in the turmoil-hit Afghanistan is a treat to watch on silver screen as it has been shot beautifully with the backdrop of picturesque Kabul.

P.S. I Love You by Cecilia Ahern, who is a favorite among Indian book lovers. There is another interesting movie, Inkheart based on a book by Cornelia Funky in which characters from the book, when read by the protagonist, come alive. This is precisely what these book films do – help the nonreaders to a feast of words translated into moving images with director’s vision.

Children of Men, based on a book by P. D. James and rated as one of the finest movies of the past decade, is based in 2027 when human beings fail to produce their off-springs.

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