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Films about India: From Literature to the Movies

Last updated on: January 31, 2013 14:19 IST

Films about India: From Literature to the Movies

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India has many diverse faces. With its chaotic ambiance, bustling colours and inevitable contradictions, it's a country that refuses to be defined and can only be experienced.

So it's no surprise it forms a captivating backdrop or vast stage to tell enchanting stories about unique souls in many an author's imagination. Quite a few of these literary escapades have translated to big screen delights as well by International filmmakers of Indian origin and otherwise.

From Jean Renoir's The River and David Lean's A Passage to India to this Friday's release from Indo-Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta who offers an onscreen adaptation of Salman Rushdie's acclaimed novel, Midnight's Children, India has attracted a variety of filmmakers down the years.

Midnight's Children employs magical realism to chronicle the ups and downs in the lives of its key protagonists born on India's Independence Day with special powers. The film features a huge line-up of actors ranging from Satya Bhabha, Siddharth, Shabana Azmi, Rahul Bose, Shahana Goswami, Ronit Roy, Darsheel Safary, Shriya Saran, Rajat Kapoor, Vinay Pathak and Ranvir Shorey.

On that note, here's a look at some of the recent most book-to-film adaptations of stories set in India.


Image: Sathya Bhabha and Shriya Saran in Midnight's Children


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Kai Po Che/ 2 States

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Majority of Chetan Bhagat's writings have been adapted into big screen treats. Be it Rajkumar Hirani's blockbuster 3 Idiots based on Five Point Someone to One Night at A Call Centre which inspired Atul Agnihotri's abysmal Hello.

And now Abhishek Kapoor's upcoming Kai Po Che! (based on The Three Mistake of My Life) set in Gujarat and revolving around three friends against the backdrop of politics, religion, cricket and business is generating huge buzz ever since its promos came out.

Also in works is Dharma Productions' Alia Bhatt-Arjun Kapoor 2 States, which examines the aftermath of a Punjabi-Tamilian marital union.


Image: Sushant Singh Rajput, Amit Sadh and Raj Kumar Yadav in Kai Po Che


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Life Of Pi (2012)

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Ang Lee's excellent rendition of Yann Martel's 'unfilmable' Man Booker prize winner has garnered a whopping 11 Oscar nominations.

Pi starring rank newcomer Suraj Sharma along with Irrfan Khan, Tabu, Adil Hussain and Gerard Depardieu, marries spectacular 3D technology with masterful storytelling to unfold the fantastic adventures of an Indian boy, a Bengal Tiger along with other representatives from the wildlife after a shipwreck triggers a journey into profound spirituality.

Read the review here


Image: Suraj Sharma in Life of Pi


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The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012)

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Adapted from Deborah Moggach's novel These Foolish Things, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel relies on the seasoned expertise of a star-studded British cast like Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson along with Dev Patel and Lillete Dubey to rise above cliches.

Shot extensively in Rajasthan, John Madden's drama is about a bunch of retired English folks looking to kick start second innings in a quaint hotel in Jaipur.

Read the review here


Image: Judi Dench in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel


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Eat, Pray, Love (2010)

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American author Elizabeth Gilbert's bestseller finds a dazzling endorsement in Julia Roberts who plays her in this romance drama that met with tons of negative reviews for its overload of cultural stereotypes.

The story revolves around a recently divorced woman who impulsively travels to Italy, Indonesia and India in search of everything the title says. Needless to say, India fulfills its mysticism duties with its handy supply of gyaan-spewing babas in packed yoga ashrams.

Read the review here


Image: Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love


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Slumdog Millionaire (2009)

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Winner of eight Academy Awards, Danny Boyle's slick fairy tale about a young man surmounting unbelievable odds and a series of questions to win a prize sum and the girl of his dreams catapulted Mumbai girl Freida Pinto to international stardom along with earned A R Rahman not one but two Oscars.

Based on Vikas Swarup's Q & A, Slumdog Millionaire goes all out to show the dark underbelly of India's most glamorous city but is much too racy and shrewd to flounder.

Read the review here


Image: Dev Patel and Freida Pinto in Slumdog Millionaire


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The Mistress of Spices (2006)

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Rather inconspicuous among the many projects Aishwarya Rai Bachchan signed up to make an impression as a desi import on the global scene is  Paul Mayeda Berges' adaptation of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's enigmatic, engaging novel.

While the book itself is quite a page turner and captures the strange dilemma that binds an Indian immigrant with psychic abilities to recommend spices to heal one's soul, Ash's bland performance and Gurinder Chadha's lackluster screenplay failed to make magic.

Read the review here


Image: Aishwarya Rai in The Mistress of Spices


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Water (2007)

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With films like Earth, Fire and the concluding film in her element trilogy, Water, Deepa Mehta has shown commitment to make powerful films about issues that plague India.

In the controversy-ridden Water, which originally began with Shabana Azmi, Akshay Kumar and Nandita Das only to be replaced by John Abraham and Lisa Ray, Mehta poignantly captures the plight of widows in pre-Independence India.

Only unlike Ice Candy Man, made into 1947: Earth, Bapsi Sidhwa based her book Water: A Novel after it was fully filmed.

Read the review here


Image: Lisa Ray and John Abraham in Water


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The Namesake (2007)

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Mira Nair garnered well-deserved praise for her delicate, almost poetic adaptation of Jhumpa Lahiri's acclaimed novel about cultural disparities, search for identity and its repercussion on an immigrant family in The Namesake.

The story of a Bengali couple and their son named after a Russian writer travels significantly between India and America but finds its true soul courtesy memorable performances from Irrfan Khan, Tabu and Kal Penn.

Read the review here


Image: Tabu in The Namesake


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