Dusk was falling rapidly when an intense discussion on the grinding process of selecting a script to make a successful commercial grade film had begun, on the first day of Bangalore Literature Festival at Hotel Lalit. In the panel, we had Mr Baradwaj Rangan, Mr MK Raghvendra, Mr Sanjoy Hazarika, and Mr Ravi Gupta – all eminent and dominant personalities in the arena of filming and literature. While the ensuing discussions covered a broad range of topics and scenarios, the crux of the matter was quite focused – What are the parameters based on which a script is selected?
The discussions started with taking examples from how Hollywood movies such as the Harry Potter series or the Lord of the Rings were taken from previously written bestseller novels and how they went on to become global hits. A correlation could be found that popular novels can lead to successful movies, but not always. According to Baradwaj – a renowned film critic and writer – the popularity of the novel alone may fail to make a movie work since the cinematic vision of the director has a significant impact on the overall visual experience the audience expects.
As per Mr Sanjoy Hazarika – a human right activist, author and a filmmaker – writing and filmmaking are two completely different mediums for storytelling. Writing is telling a story by forcing the reader to imagine situations and details with the help of the author. On a moving screen, the movie makers create the complete visual experience leaving very little room for the audience to use any form of imagination.
Mr MK Raghavendra – another distinguished film/literary scholar, theorist & critic – illustrated certain choices for adapting a particular script. The very first choice is to literally translate the novel to a film. As a second choice, the filmmakers could use the ‘brand’ of a popular script written by an eminent or legendary author. Bollywood movies like ‘Haider’ or ‘Omkara’ which were adaptations from Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Othello’ are classic examples for this choice. As a third choice, the director chooses to follow the script in a reverential manner and use voiceovers to narrate the scenes. The film ‘The Age of Innocence’, directed by Martin Scorsese, which is an adaptation of Edith Wharton’s novel, is an example for this particular choice.
Can novelists and movie makers, essentially directors, work together to make a good movie? Mr Ravi Gupta – an author, and film producer – illustrated the problems involved when writers and movie makers work closely. According to him, writers develop a sense of ownership for their content and can be very adamant if the directors want to change certain aspects of the novels.
He cited the difficulties he faced to convince the renowned author Kushwanth Singh to sell the rights to his novel ‘The Train to Pakistan’. It took a lot of efforts to finally convince Kushwanth and when the movie was made Kushwanth had to say – The movie is better than the book!
On the other part of the spectrum, certain popular writers like Chetan Bhagat have already changed their writing styles to fit filmmaking. So there is a mix of authors, some are difficult to work with, some are relatively easier.
To summarize, it can be said there is no one-stop solution on how to select a script. But certain indicators such as the popularity of the script or novel, the overall appeal of the storyline or the key characters, the impact of the script’s brand value, author’s willingness to adjust to certain modification to the original script will all have to be taken into consideration before arriving at any particular decision. The panel is pretty sure that getting the right story for the film will remain as challenging as writing or filmmaking.
About the Author: Soumik Seth is an avid follower of music, current affairs, stock market, economy, and filmography. He currently writes for Bookstalkist.