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Word to screen: Filmmakers, publishers bridging the gap

IANS | New Delhi |

Translating literature into cinema is not new for the Hindi film industry. Now with the emergence of digital platforms and a shift in audience tastes, publishers and content providers are increasingly looking to chart a more streamlined roadmap to bring compelling narratives to screen.

“This idea of adapting a book to a movie is becoming more commonplace as compared to five years ago,” Anish Chandy, who heads business development and sales at Juggernaut Books, said.

“Around five years ago, there was no demand…. So we were on a zero base. But now, there’s a significant demand, where people are getting in touch with us and asking what else is there,” said Chandy, who describes over-the-top (OTT) platforms Amazon Prime Video and Netflix as “rich uncles” who have given a boost to the word-to-screen format.

Netflix has already commissioned “Sacred Games”, based on author Vikram Chandra’s book, and “Selection Day”, based on the book by author Aravind Adiga, for the Indian market. These apart, there are a string of books being made into films or web series.

Hoping to bridge the gap between all the players involved, Jio MAMI (Mumbai Academy of Moving Image) Mumbai Film Festival with Star organised the second edition of the Word to Screen Market in Mumbai last month. It saw representatives from content studios and publishing houses as well as filmmakers and authors.

Actress Sonam Kapoor, who has confirmed that she is featuring in a screen adaptation of Anuja Chauhan’s 2008 novel “The Zoya Factor”, said at the gala: “Books were my respite when I was growing up and then films became my profession. I think the marriage of both is very important, especially because for a consumer who can’t consume books as well, it’s easier to consume films.”

Filmmaker Kanu Behl said: “Books seem to be disappearing off desks and the hard copy versions of books are going out of people’s minds. So in today’s time, it’s even more important that books are talked about.”

While the filmmaking world has become more receptive to the idea of adapting from books, publishers and authors are trying to decode the ‘right pitch’ apart from looking for the red flags while dealing with content producers.

Chandy says 20 per cent queries from content providers turn into deals, and according to him “that’s huge for now”.

“We are hoping for it to increase on a rapid pace,” he said.

Arpita Das of Yoda Press said, “The writers are back in the centre. The writer had been relinquished or sidelined for sometime, and I think the next step would be to look towards literature and the stories that it has because that’s a better source.”

The Jio MAMI team is trying to put in place a skeletal system that can help filmmakers, publishers and authors in recognising the best content and in striking the right deals.

Says Smriti Kiran, Creative Director, Jio MAMI: “This broken, sporadic relationship that the film industry and literature share in this country needs fixing. Cinema needs stories and literature has plenty to offer. We are trying to enable these two worlds to forge friendships, collaborations and find these untapped narratives.”