Also see: Books to Bollywood: 2 States, others
One of the biggest challenges is to collapse a book into two hours, for a moviewatching experience, says Supratik Sen, who worked on the screenplay of Kai Po Che (an adaptation of Chetan Bhagats Three Mistakes Of My Life) along with Bhagat, Abhishek Kapoor and Pubali Chaudhary. He further adds, With the attention span that people have these days, you cant have a long, preachy, never-ending movie. People dont have the patience when watching a film; the kind which they have while reading a book.
So, a film has to be served to the audience in a certain way packaged nicely, without losing the ingredients that you liked in the book.
Most of Bhagats books (Five Point Someone, One Night At The Call Centre, Three Mistakes Of My Life, 2 States) have been made into films. Books and films are different mediums, hence some variations have to be made, to suit the taste of the movie-goers. So many other things like locations matter when it comes to making a film, says the author.
Fiction vs non-fiction
Adapting fiction books gives a better space to writers and film-makers to make changes and give a fresh take. When it comes to non-fiction books, there are many more challenges. Sanjay Gupta who directed and co-wrote the screenplay of Shootout At Wadala based on Hussain Zaidi's book, Dongri to Dubai, opines, When you adapt a book, you have to find ways to communicate what a character is feeling and going through, because in the book, it's just a narration. I had adapted a non-fiction book, so I know it's a lot more challenging because you're literally breathing life back into the character. To recreate that time, space and characters is tougher. In fiction you can create your own world. With non-fiction there's also a risk of going into the documentary space, but as a film-maker it's my job to entertain people.
Even when it comes to adapting classics, a lot needs to be done to give it a contemporary feel, making it relevant to todays times. Sen is also working with Abhishek Kapoor on Fitoor, that is inspired from Charles Dicksons The Great Expectations. This is also a mammoth task, its like a beast which has to be tamed.
The work on the screenplay has been a little extensive, because its a classic book, and we had to give it a contemporary setting to make it relevant today. Were almost in the process of completing it though. But the thing with Chetan Bhagats books is that theyre already relatable to the present times. adds Sen.
Since books only have a narration and no dialogues, more often than not, a complete understanding of the character and writing dialogues accordingly becomes a task. Milap Zaveri who was the dialogue writer for Shootout at Wadala with Sanjay Gupta, Sanjay Bhatia and Abhijeet Deshpande as co-writers, says he got all the creative freedom while working on the film. Zaveri shares, Celluloid needs a lot of dramatisation, and it needs you to be a little largerthan- life. So, a balance has to be struck, wherein you have to stay true to the spirit of the book and make the film in an entertaining manner. The book helps you know the characters and their traits, and then you create dialogues. It was challenging considering that I had to create dialogues for a person whos dead. Sanjay Gupta helped me a lot since Ive worked extensively with him in the past. Keeping in mind the directors brief, Zaveri had to reflect the power of the characters in their dialogues. I was going through a lean patch that time, and had to write really well to make a comeback. I finished writing the dialogues within a span of one or two months. Eighty per cent of the dialogues I wrote in the first draft were retained in the film, adds the writer.
The process of converting a book into a screenplay depends on the content of the book. Some movies try to incorporate all the chapters, while for some, film-makers just take the idea and bring in fresh variations. In Kai Po Che, we incorporated a few variations, different from the book. We had that liberty because Chetan was also involved with us, and we had quite some time to work on the screenplay. The book deals with a lot of things like earthquakes, riots, cricket, politics, so the backdrop was heavy. We had to tone down on it and make friendship among the three boys, the main essence of the film. What I think should be done is that we should take the basic idea, and give it a fresh take. For instance, the way Vishal Bhardwaj picks up and makes films on Shakespeares stories and puts his own stamp to it, expresses Sen.
Adapting a book is also about being selective and deciding upon which chapters of the book should make it to the screenplay of the film. According to Zaveri, they didnt include all the chapters ofDongri to Dubai in Shootout at Wadala. Only parts of the book that were suitable to the screenplay were taken. A book has the luxury to have a lot of sub-plots, and then come back to the main plot. But a film has to stick to the main plot, he further added.
Clearly, some of the hit films made from books in recent times have followed the formula while writing the sreenplay. But, there have been some that tried to veer off the trodden path. Hello adapted from One Night At The Call Centre and Aisha based on Jane Austens novel Emma are among the few that failed to make a mark.