Tracking Trends: From the pages to the screen

Chaya Unnikrishnan | DNA | 30 October 2012
Taarak Mehta Ka Oolta Chasmah will soon celebrate 1000 episodes on air — a rarity in this competitive scenario and more so, because it is based on the works of popular Gujarati columnist Taarak Mehta. Another serial Lapatagunj that is adapted from the popular works of Sharad Joshi has completed two years and RK Laxman’s legendary cartoons that led to the creation of RK Laxman Ki Duniya has just been granted an extension. That’s not all, Rabindranath Tagore’s epic novel Gora is being serialised while Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s much-delayed maiden TV production is said to be based on a novel Saraswati Chandra by Govardhanram Tripathi.
Literary works have always been a huge source of inspiration for serials, especially on Doordarshan. Tamas, Kathasagar, Discovery Of India and Malgudi Days, to name a few were sourced either from novels or short stories. Now, the channel has come up with a novel-based serial Gora that deals with the debate between modernity and tradition.
“The debate raised by Tagore is in tune with the globalisation taking place in our country. Its relevance is far greater today than any other classic in India. Also, it was appropriate to pay tribute to Tagore in the 150th year of his birth,” says Tripurari Sharan, Director General, Doordarshan. He reveals that more such adaptations are in the pipeline.
For Asit Kumarr Modi it was the idea of making a daily comedy that led him to Taarak Mehta. “It is not easy to write humour on a daily basis. I have been a regular reader of Mehtaji’s columns which deal with current issues in a tongue-in-cheek manner. Because of the literary connection, dialogues and narration are very clean,” says Modi, who has made another show Wah Bhai Wah based on poetry.
R. K. Laxman Ki Duniya happened when producer JD Majethia was approached by Dharmesh Mehta with the idea. “Laxmanji has been creating cartoons for the past 50-60 years and everyone is familiar with his common man. We take one cartoon and weave a story around it. Now, since Laxmanji is not creating any more cartoons we are taking the liberty of creating one,” says Majethia, who is planning to make another serial based on a literary work.
He has procured the rights of a Gujarati novel Ek Daal Meethi written by Dhiruben Patel.
Not all adaptations have been a success though. Muktibandhan, based on a book by the same name written by Harikishen Mehta did not find takers nor did Keshav Pandit based on Ved Prakash’s best-selling novel despite being written by Prakash himself.
Majethia recalls that Resham Dank, based on a book by the same name had to be changed because the channel was not comfortable with the idea of the male protagonist turning negative. “They had to deviate from the novel, which didn’t go down well with viewers familiar with the book,” he points out.
And yet as Anooj Kapoor, EVP and Business Head, SAB TV, which incidentally has a lot of literary adaptations, says, established works sit right for TV because they can be fleshed out nicely, keeping the essence and soul of the original intact. “You are assured of acceptance whether it is Taarak Mehta, Sharad Joshi or RK Laxman,” he reasons. Modi, however, cautions that adapting a novel is not enough.
“There has to be some value addition which gels with the viewers’ imagination,” he reckons.
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