Over the years, Indian cinema and literature have been intertwined domains. However, in recent times, Bollywood has more or less shied away from adapting critically acclaimed novels from across the country.
On the contrary, Hollywood has often dipped into the pool of literary excellence stored over the decades, a la the recent The Great Gatsby. There have been a few Shakespearean adaptations of late in Bollywood as well but very little has happened on the desi front. While some pulp fictions and its ilk have crept onto the big screen, several of our bestselling classics have been gathering dust.
Delhi is Not Far by Ruskin Bond: Bollywood has turned to this writer before. 7 Khoon Maaf was based on his short story but this particular novel is a better bet. The book’s a tribute to big city dreams and life in a small rustic north Indian town where things move rather slowly.
It is full of memorable characters and events, dialogues, moments to smile, passion and interesting relations.
Probable protagonist: Multiple.
Partitions by Kamleshwar: Veer-Zaara may be a shot at entertainment but it failed to go behind the scenes. That’s also why Partitions shall not be an easy subject but given its wide range, a very honourable challenge nonetheless.
After all, it has everything in it -- from politics to zealous gods to the landscape of the country -- ingredients for a perfect heartwarming drama.
Probable protagonist: Multiple.
The Dark Roomby RK Narayan: Dev Anand-starrer Guide (1965) was adapted from RK Narayan’s novel by the same name but no one speaks of this classic by the same author.
One of his lesser-known works, the book follows the life of an Indian housewife depicting her inner state of being and mind along with the metaphor of a dark room. Subtle and simple.
Probable protagonist: Kareena Kapoor. She could easily repeat her Omkara act.
Meena Bazaar by Saadat Hasan Manto: Indian cinema completed a century and what better tribute than to make a film that features Manto’s pristine description of the little known Bollywood stars of the ’30s and ’40s.
He describes their lifestyle like no one else ever did -- about their habits, depressions, scandals, other embarrassing or good hidden secrets! Sounds good, right? A perfect cinematic setting.
Probable protagonist: Well, all the best names.
Raseedi Tikat by Amrita Pritam: This is a possible candidate for a biopic about one of the greatest woman writers India ever had.
The book sheds light on her struggles with life, about the relations between the woman she is and the writer inside her, about her love for Imroz and an unfulfilled affair with Sahir Ludhianvi, about growing up and about her life’s tribulations.
Probable protagonist: Ileana D'Cruz, because she is underrated and brilliant at the same time.
Fever by Samaresh Basu: A proper film on the Naxalite movement (which is often confused with the Maoist elements in the country) is relevant now more than ever before.
Chakravyuh only scratched the violent surface. This novel goes bang on from an individual’s view and educates us about a hardcore believer who keeps ending up in prison.
Probable protagonist: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, because talent shows.
The Resignation by Jainendra: This Hindi novel is about a young woman wanting to live life on her own terms in democratic India. It has almost everything needed for a mainstream film -- drama, family, love, heartbreak, depression -- but what remains strongly in the end is her individuality.
In simpler terms, a modern women with a level-head and strong roots.
Probable protagonist: Priyanka Chopra, who else?
Mrityunjay by Shivaji Sawant: Bollywood is yet to do justice to the greatest epic ever written. However, this hallmark of Marathi literature can make a decent start.
Focussing on the unsung hero Karna, this peculiar tale takes a twist (in other words, masala) from the usual rendition, thus providing the much-needed punch. This literary take on Mahabharata is unique and is tailor-cut for filmmaking.
Probable protagonist: Hrithik Roshan, because of his repertoire and physique.
Shabdangal by Vaikom Muhammad Basheer: This Malayalam novel talks about war, hunger, disease and prostitution. Primarily a dialogue between a soldier and a writer, the writer takes down notes and asks questions and replies to the soldier's queries.
The novel faced heavy criticism at the time of its publication for its violence and vulgarity. They say times have changed.
Probable protagonist: Manoj Bajpai (soldier) and Emraan Hashmi (writer). With their acting chops, they’d simply fit the bill.
The Quilt by Ismat Chughtai: A lot has been done around this short story in the form of plays. However, it would be great to see it translate into the big screen.
The story which is radical and way ahead of its times deserves a cinematic adaptation to reach out to a wider audience -- more so when the theme is on sexual orientation and loneliness. The book was clearly ahead of its era.
Probable protagonist: No one else but Vidya Balan