Books are better than movies. That’s the popular consensus when it comes to the culture clash between bibliophiles and cinephiles. However, while some people might be moved by the emotion of a piece of text, some might be moved by an actor’s reaction.
Some movies stay faithful to the written text, while some go ahead and improvise things within the confines of the author’s universe. And some of these adaptations haven’t let their source material down. Even if they deviated slightly from the written word, the directors made sure they captured the essence of the author’s book and thereby found common ground. Here are 18 such movies:
Based on Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s novel of the same name, ad film director Pradeep Sarkar successfully mounted this gorgeous period-drama set in the 1960s in Kolkata. The movie saw commendable performances by Saif Ali Khan, Sabyasachi Chakroborty and a stellar debut by Vidya Balan. From the tram lines to the Durga Pujo celebrations, the film recreated the Kolkata environs quite successfully.
2. There Will Be Blood
Paul Thomas Anderson’s movie was based on Upton Sinclair’s Oil! and while the book was a social satire on the relationship of a father and a son who debate ideals between themselves, the movie is more intense and dramatic in its treatment. Anchored by Daniel Day-Lewis’s fantastic performance as Daniel Plainview, the film isn’t far behind its excellent book.
Again based on Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s alcoholic protagonist Devdas, the character was recreated by Abhay Deol and Anurag Kashyap as this acid-popping, vodka-guzzling man in Delhi. While it managed to remain faithful to its source material by capturing the lead character’s angst of unrequited love, the film was uber stylish by itself.
4. 2001: A Space Odyssey
Hand-picked by the author, Stanley Kubrick did more than justice to Arthur C Clarke’s stellar sci-fi novel. Kubrick not only preserved the novel’s cosmic ambiguity, but also aided the story with impeccable production and sound design which was way ahead of his contemporaries in 1968. The movie is still considered a technical marvel, nearly half a century since its release.
5. The Prestige
The Nolan brothers, fresh off the success of their first superhero studio film (Batman Begins), adapted a novel by Christopher Priest which followed the rivalry of two magicians in 19th century London. Priest has reportedly seen the movie three times and is said to have been very impressed with the adapted screenplay and the final cut.
6. V for Vendetta
Closely following Alan Moore’s graphic novel of the same name, the Wachowski sisters successfully adapted their source material into a movie which looked stylish and had some really cool action sequences. Starring Hugo Weaving (who doesn’t take off his Guy Fawkes mask) and Natalie Portman as the two principal characters, the movie was liked by both the fans and others.
7. Fight Club
Based on Chuck Palahnuik’s ground-breaking novel of the same name, Fincher helmed this satire on American capitalism. Starring a skinny Edward Norton and a luminous Brad Pitt, the movie depicted the opposite extremes of the modern man. It remains one of the most well-received adaptations in the history of movies.
8. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Adapting the first novel from the Millennium trilogy, Fincher was nearly flawless when it came to cramming his movie adaptation with details in an efficient way. Also, the film’s lead actors were chillingly fantastic including Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara and Stellan Skarsgard.
9. Gone Girl
Fincher again, the movie was based on the best-selling material by Gillian Flynn and starred Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike and Neil Patrick Harris in the lead roles. According to the author herself, this was the most perfect marriage of material and director. And the movie is a first grade adaptation.
10. Bourne series
Based on the characters created by Robert Ludlum, the filmmakers Doug Liman and Paul Greengrass only inherited a skeleton of the actual story. However, the streamlined version of the story didn’t disappoint as Matt Damon owned all four films as the amnesiac CIA ‘asset’. And Tony Gilroy became a household name.
11. Raging Bull
Based on the life of the middleweight champion Jake La Motta, the film is an unflinching look at the mercurial boxer’s career and his relationship with everyone close to him. It charts his journey from the streets to that of a champion, who then has to become a host at a cabaret club to pay the bills. Directed by Martin Scorsese and acted by Robert De Niro, the movie is a gold standard for most.
12. Life of Pi
Helmed by Ang Lee, the book was thought to be ‘unfilmable’ for the longest time, with several plans falling through in the pre-production phase. However, Lee managed the impossible task of shooting a film about a boy stranded in the middle of an ocean with a Royal Bengal tiger. The film omitted several portions of the novel which made the text more immersive. But overall, the film did pretty well.
13. Apocalypse Now
Based on Joseph Conrad’s Hearts of Darkness, director Francis Ford Coppolla adapted the novel which was originally set in Congo to war-torn Vietnam. Powered by the outstanding performances of Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall and Martin Sheen, the film successfully captured the horrors of war.
14. The Blue Umbrella
Based on the short story by Ruskin Bond, Bhardwaj adapted it into a full-fledged feature film with Pankaj Kapur playing Nandu, the conniving local tea-seller. Seduced by the bright, blue umbrella of a little girl he becomes more and more envious of her celebrity status in the village. Bhardwaj did well to capture the innocence of childhood.
Loosely based on The Last Leaf by O’Henry, this movie by Vikramaditya Motwane beautifully captured the surreal elements of its source material. And as the love story took centre-stage, both Ranveer Singh and Sonakshi Sinha did some of their best work in the movie.
16. 1947: Earth
Deepa Mehta’s second movie in her elements trilogy, was based on Bapsi Sidhwa’s Cracking India which was originally called Ice Candy Man. Starring Aamir Khan, Rahul Khanna and Nandita Das, the movie was a brilliant portrait of the partition with our lead characters right in the middle of the tragedy.
17. The Namesake
Jhumpa Lahiri’s outstanding novel on the identity of the American desi kid was beautifully adapted by Mira Nair into a movie starring Kal Penn, Irrfan and Tabu. Lahiri’s attention to meticulous details was complimented by Nair’s keen eye as she built the environment of a Bengali household without making it apparent.
18. Black Friday
Based on journalist Hussain Zaidi’s book on the aftermath of the 1993 bomb blasts, Anurag Kashyap made this epic saga of a film which contained close to two dozen characters and nearly a dozen storylines. All of it was successfully weaved into this 2 hour 40 minute movie which captured the doom of the incident and the dread it left the city in.
Nicely done, filmmakers.