By Apoorva Murthy and Suhas Balasubramanya
Book lovers have always loathed the fact that when a book becomes a movie, the movie rarely stays true to the book. This session with Bhawana Somaaya, Tisca Chopra, and Madhuri Banerjee with T. P. Rajeevan moderating, dealt with exactly this unfortunate dilemma.
The session began on a serious note with Rajeevan explaining that Cinema is a collective, cohesive art intertwining the lives of characters. The filmmaker must navigate various religious and political themes in the process.
Madhuri playfully held up her book “Scandalous Housewives” and thus sparked discussion on whether movie makers should pick scripts from books or look for scriptwriters.
Tisca revealed, also on a light note, that she and her pilot husband are working on a script together. Her scandalous un-housewifey confession was that they often fight to the point of divorce when her husband insists on sticking to the script while she advocates for creative freedom on behalf of the actor. Tisca feels, as an actor, it is sometimes necessary to deviate a bit to add creativity. She spoke about the endless layers that come into play when a book attempts to transform itself into a movie. It’s important to consider everything from the cinematography to the screenplay.
The discussion then moved on to the monarch in Indian cinema – the actor. The actor who actually gets the last word on the script. Keeping an eye toward anticipating how the box office will respond pushes producers toward making sensual item numbers and the like to get the audience flooding the cinema halls and providing returns on considerable investments.
Somaaya cited the example of the numerous movies that have been made on Devdas and how she felt each one had further deteriorated the character of Paro and Chandramukhi. She also spoke candidly about being fed up with the expectations of script writing. For this reason, Somaaya now prefers writing dialogues and getting involved in the entire process rather than just handing over a script that will never see the light of the day in its attention to stay “true” to the original characters.
While Tisca wouldn’t advocate for writers to write keeping in mind that their book could be possibly made into a movie, Somaya felt writers are becoming increasingly self-conscious and are, in fact, writing predominantly to cater to the commercial future of it.
T. P. Rajeevan expressed his disappointment at the divide in categorizing regional vs.Hindi cinema. Many regional movies bring forward experimental, innovative films. He stressed the need to work collectively towards “Indian movies” as opposed to propagating the regional or Bollywood tag.
Tisca offered that writers have now found a more friendlier medium in Television as compared to movies. International TV series like Game of Thrones and Homeland are making writers richer, by at least a few millions.
Answering to a question posed by the audience on whether movies were gaining more resonance within society than writing, Tisca emphasized how films have largely become an escapist medium among Indians. Oozing disgust at the portrayal of women in Indian cinema, Tisca contends that if aliens were to watch Indian cinema 500 years down the line, they would safely presume Indian women wore short clothes and spent all day dancing around water bodies!
The session concluded with Somaaya insisting that today, the lines between scripts, books, movies, and screenplays were blurring, if not dissolving. There‘s also an opportunity for screenplays to release as books, accompanied with fanciful illustration.