Poor Chetan Bhagat.
Books get made into movies all the time . One famous book-as-movie celebrated its 70th anniversary a few weeks back. And no one even imagines Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind without Clark Gable’s Rhett Butler departing with his devastating “frankly my dear , I don’t give a damn.” Nor can Scarlett O”Hara’ s vixen-face belong to anyone but Vivien Leigh.
But mostly, Margaret Mitchell didn’t have to be worried sick about rolling credits,or calculate the percentage of adaptation from book to movie. Authors like to be given due credit, as did Chetan Bhagat for “3 Idiots”, and in most cases, they do get what they want. Even if you are not J.K.Rowling, or Stephanie Meyer, but just Chetan Bhagat, producers are not going to forget to put “based on” or ” adapted from”, right up in the main titles, in the BEGINNING of the movie, when everyone is glued to their seats, as a opposed to rolling credits when folks are scrambling to be the first at the parking lot, and couldn’t care if the writer got his due or not.
Even if they rewrote the script a dozen times, and the movie doesn’t resemble the book one whit, the author got his credits. Like Peter Benchley, whose 1974 book Jaws became Spielberg’s blockbuster movie, bearing no resemblence (as Benchley complained to Spielberg, who didn’t really care) – Jaws is now regarded as a watershed film in motion picture history, the father of the summer blockbuster movie. And it is the first movie to have grossed $100 million for its producers. It is always mentioned in the list of 100 Greatest Films Ever Made.
But it still is Peter Benchley’s story. Right from the opening credits.
Another movie, another book. Just a year ago. Slumdog Millionaire. The book was a good read, a page-turner that I started reading on the ride home from Blossom’s on Church Street, and finished two hours later at home. The movie, alas, wasn’t the book. I liked the book better (I always do. Like the goat in Jokes for All Occasions- that has just feasted on a roll of negatives of Gone With The Wind, someone actually threw in the garbage dump, and says on a burp, “I like the book better”).
If I were Vikas Swarup, I would rather have seen more of Q&A in the movie than Slumdog Millionaire featured before meandering away from the storyline. But it was the year of The White Tiger at the Booker’s and India-as-muck was the flavour of the season, and movies do exaggerate, and you don’t really have to like all the movies that come back with the Oscars. So Vikas Swarup had a great time at Oscar’s, he got his credits, and Q&A is now called Slumdog Millionaire.
Of course, Slumdog Millionare wasn’t really an Indian movie. I mean, it was about Indian, but it rode to the Oscar’s on English shoulders, and the non-Oscar A.R.Rehman is far more admirable ouvre than what he gave us in Slumdog., I thought. Mind you he is the best, after Ilayaraja, who is a legend, though without an Oscar. Yet. And we are proud of all the Oscars that Rehman and Resul Pookutty brought back home.
Many years ago another Oscar did come to India. Another “Indian movie” Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi took eight Oscars in 1982, and a solitary one came to the very Indian Bhanu Atthaya for costume-designing.
Can Chetan Bhagat with his average novel, with very “ordinary Indians as readers”, dream of sweet revenge? Or is it too late to connect the dots differently?
I did buy Five Point Someone at Blossom’s on Church Street, but I regret to report I didn’t finish it. It was a page-turner, of a different kind- I skipped pages, and don’t really remember how the book ended. I’ve yet to watch 3 Idiots, but I don’t have to watch it to know its a shame he didn’t get his opening credits. But this time, I don’t think I’m going to say I like the book better.
In 2011, 3 Idiots is going to bid for Oscars. I think I have a “I-told-you-so” moment to look forward to on this one. Will it be third-time lucky for producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra, who went a-wooing the Oscars with Parinda and more recently, Ekalavya?
Somehow, I don’t think so, though I’d like NOT to have an “I-told-you-so” moment on this one. Slumdog and Gandhi were not India’s entries. At least Mother India, our first foray into Oscars, in 1957, actually made the list. And until Lagaan (2001) there were no nomination. Neither has there been any since. Oscars, is not really the goal of Indian cinema. It could be that aspiring to Oscars means some good, memorable cinema comes our way. Taare Zameen Par didn’t make it, but it’s still a good movie, but any guesses on why it didn’t make it? More Hollywood movies of TZP’s genre have been flung out on its ears by Oscars’ selectors than anyone cares to remember. And it can’t have been because the translators were dyslexic. Devdas was opulent, and we love watching it over and over, mostly for Madhuri Dixit’s “Maar Dala”.
Ekalavya? It probably got in because like the original Ekalavya, someone couldn’t do a thumbs-down on it.
3 Idiots at Oscars seems doable. However. Should Vidhu Vinod Chopra worry about rolling credits? May be not. Oscars doesn’t do sympathetic selections, which is generally the preferred method of selection in India.
Moral: The books-to-movies story in India will never be the same again. There may not be an “official book-to-movie” story anymore. Producers may just not think of talking to authors who expect credit where it is due, and simple help themselves to the book.
Trend: People may linger to watch the rolling credits from now on. Or the question may not arise if the moral of the story is upheld.
For Chetan Bhagat: It’s too late, though, to join the party, and reprint another lot of Five Point Someone as “3 Idiots”, taking a leaf out of Vikas Swarup’s book.