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Zoya Akhtar: Literary world an untapped source of inspiration

A platform like the Word To Screen market gives you access to literary works that you’ve never seen or heard of before.

IANS | Mumbai |

Hindi and other regional authors do not enjoy a lot of Bollywood attention when it comes to films based on literature, feels filmmaker Zoya Akhtar.

“I think the marriage of their (Hindi authors) content and (film industry) storytellers and producers hasn’t happened yet. It’s sad but true. A lot of people don’t read to start with. They don’t even read the language they’re comfortable in. They’re not going to read translated works, and there’s no media around the Indian film industry that tells you about content from (regional) languages. So, when you don’t have information that they exist, you don’t end up discovering these,” said the Gully Boy director”, on the sidelines of the fourth edition of the ‘Word To Screen Market’ 2019 by the Jio MAMI 21st Mumbai Film Festival with Star, which took place on Monday.

Zoya felt, for these reasons, the concept of Word To Screen was “fantastic” because it brings stories to your doorstep saying, “dude you want stories? Here are stories from all over India!”

This year, at the ‘Word To Screen Market’, over 550 books were up for optioning, ranging across 30 genres and presented in eight languages. Asked about the genre of her choice, Zoya expressed: “For me, I think there has to be a narrative, a human story or a plot that keeps me going, or keeps me turning the page. If the world is something that can be visually interesting or beautiful, that is what attracts you. There are difficult worlds also, on which people have made films but that is the challenge.”

This year, renowned authors such as Sundari Venkatraman, Satya Vyas and Nilotpal Mrinal, bilingual bestseller authors Pankaj Dubey and Anukrti Upadhyay graced the event. A total of 28 eminent publishing houses from across the country including HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, Juggernaut Books and DC Books were a part of the market. Stories were pitched by authors to various platforms including Netflix, Amazon and Hotstar for being translated onto the screen.

Talking about the event, Zoya said: “The platform has only grown since its inception, and I am thrilled to have been a part of this journey. The Word to Screen Market aspires to bring together the best of two industries. The turnout this time, once again proved that the literary world is an untapped source of inspiration. I saw tremendous potential in the stories that were pitched, and I’m excited to see how we can work together to bring these narratives to life.”

Zoya feels more films and web series should be made from literary works. “A platform like the Word To Screen market gives you access to literary works that you’ve never seen or heard of before. I don’t follow too many authors and their work is not something that is part of my worldview. So, when you come to a place like Word to Screen, it’s exciting because you find yourself sitting in front of authors from across the country, listening to stories and something is bound to click. It’s like a treasure hunt,” she said.

On the work front, Zoya Akhtar’s movie Gully Boy, starring Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt, has been recently selected as India’s official entry for the Oscars.

Next, Zoya Akhtar is a part of the directorial team of the anthology horror film Ghost Stories. It comprises four short film segments directed by Zoya, Anurag Kashyap, Karan Johar and Dibakar Banerjee. Ghost Stories will release on Netflix.