Business – Nothing Novel in Hollywood
Hollywood has scripted major success stories with novels. Very often, sequels follow. The Harry Potter fantasy movies based on J K Rowling’s bestsellers are cases in point. In Bollywood, though, this is not the case. And going by the recent spat between Chetan Bhagat, author of the bestseller Five Point Someone, and the producer of 3 Idiots, the movie based on the novel, the situation is unlikely to change soon.
“Around 200-250 new films are released every year in India of which maybe one or two are adaptations of bestsellers. Clearly, there are not enough takers,” says Vishal Kapur, chief operating officer, Fun Multiplex.
“In 2010, there will hardly be any new movie adaptations of novels. However, this may become a trend in the years to come. Compared to Hollywood, Bollywood has a long way to go in terms of movie and script selection. It also depends on audiences’ tastes,” says Jehil Thakkar, head of media and entertainment, KPMG.
Most Bollywood movies follow a simple path – boy meets girl, misunderstandings follow, a few special effects maybe and a happy ending – with the end product sauced up with some songs. While recent Bollywood movie adaptations have made profits thanks to a marketing splurge before their release, trade analysts believe that the lack of a filmic Indian literary tradition makes it difficult to adapt books to the big screen.
Officials at the Satyajit Ray Film Institute reason that bestselling authors are celebrities in their own right and there is always the danger that they may disagree with the film interpretation and plunge the project into uncertainty or controversy. Minor writers employed by the studio (script-writers) do not pose any such dangers.
“Legal agreements between authors and Bollywood producers should be more elaborate with credits properly spelt out. Hollywood is more mature with copyright issues,” says Thakkar.
A Mumbai-based trade analyst opines that bestsellers written on themes that are relevant to the youth would find audiences, although the movie may need major alterations so that audiences can relate to it. Movies dealing with basic human emotions like love and jealousy have found popularity, like with Omkara, a Vishal Bharadwaj adaptation of Shakespeare’s masterpiece Othello.
In Hollywood, the journey of some movie adaptations of bestselling novels started as early as the 1940s, with Victor Fleming’s classic adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s bestseller Gone with the Wind. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King has been the highest grosser at $1.129 billion, according to trade and distributors’ estimates.
The year 2006 saw the hugely anticipated movie adaptation of The Da Vinci Code, the bestseller by Dan Brown. In its opening weekend, the film earned over $224 million worldwide.
In Bollywood Chetan Bhagat is on a roll, with his third book, The 3 Mistakes Of My Life, becoming the foundation of a movie by Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani of Excel Entertainment. The budget and the release date of the movie have not yet been announced.
The advantage of using a bestseller with a strong story line is that it appeals to all audiences, urban and rural, which is more than can be said about the typical Bollywood potboiler.
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