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Shoma A. Chatterji 
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Shoma A. Chatterji 


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Nagesh Kukunoor’s Bollywood Calling made interesting quips on how scripts are written for Hindi mainstream films – they are not written at all! The final twist came when the foreign actor was given a beautifully bound script after shooting was complete! Over the years, the storyline in Indian mainstream cinema has received a bad beating at the hands of filmmakers. One cannot quite blame them because they function under financial pressures and have to target the box office. How then, does one explain the tremendous success of the films of Bimal Roy, Guru Dutt, B. R. Chopra and others whose films based in the glory of the literature they were based on. 


Devdas, Parineeta, Sahib, Bibi Aur Ghulam, Godaan, have been based on rich literary texts. Shailendra produced Basu Bhattacharya’s Teesri Kasam adapted from a story by Phanishwarnath Renu by Nabendu Ghosh for the screenplay. Raj Kapoor, who played the lead, tried to get Shailendra to change the end but Shailendra released the film as it was, true to the original story. It won the top award at the National Awards but flopped miserably. Times have changed. The turning point probably came with Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas. Vishal Bharadwaj sought inspiration from two Shakespeare classics, Macbeth and Othello. Macbeth became Maqbool and Othello turned into Omkara.  Maqbool was critically acclaimed but was a commercial flop. Omkara was drawn and quartered by critics and did reasonable business. These adaptations of Shakespeare tragedies were more metaphorical than literary or even celluloid adaptations because the language the characters spoke in, especially in Omkara, was so distanced from Shakespearian English that it distanced itself from the original enough to stand on its own. How many Indians who saw these two films have even heard of Shakespeare, much less read him? Literary classics have been an inspiration for filmmakers in India and Indian filmmakers across borders.

Gurinder Chadda’s Bride and Prejudice starring Aishwarya Rai is a contemporized adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Vidhu Vinod made Parineeta with Vidya Balan as Lalita, the character played by Meena Kumari in the earlier film version of the same Sarat Chandra classic directed by Bimal Roy many years ago. Meena Kumari won the Filmfare Award for her performance at a time when awards were not sold across the counter like some of them now (allegedly) are. Literary classics are not the only favourites however. Rohinton Mistry, a contemporary Indian novelist provided inspiration to Rahul Bose for Everybody Says I’m Fine. Though it was a brilliantly original story put across with rare insight on screen by Bose, it did not find favour with the Indian audience. Bengal has been instrumental in this revival. Rituparno Ghose made his version of Agatha Christie’s The Mirror Crack’d as Shubho Muhurat in Bengali. Gautam Ghose made a sequel to Satyajit Ray’s Aranyer Din Ratri based on Sunil Gangopadhyay’s novel of the same name. For Abaar Aranye, Gangopadhyay collaborated with Ghose on the story and the script ....


Shoma A. Chatterji, film critic, journalist and author, won the National Award (1991) for Best Film Critic and the Best Film Critic Award from the Bengal Film Journalists’ Association (1998.) Her book Parama and Other Outsiders – The Cinema of Aparna Sen, won the National Award for the Best Book on Cinema in 2003. She won a research fellowship from the National Film Archive Pune in 2003-2004 and recently submitted her dissertation for her Senior Research Fellowship from PSBT (Public Service Broadcasting Trust) Delhi.

She won the second prize in the Sahitya Akademi’s Golden Short Story Translation Contest in 2007. She is awaiting the results of her Ph.D. thesis on Cinema in the History stream. The title of the thesis is Men Directors – Women’s Voice. She writes extensively on cinema and gender issues. She also covers media, human rights, development, child rights and contemporary issues in several print and electronic media publications across India. She has been on the panel of several Film Juries at International Film Festivals such as Mannheim-Heidelberg, St. Petersburg, Dona San Sebastian, etc. She has presented papers on television and cinema at Thessaloniki, Greece, Mannheim, Stuttgart and University of Heidelberg, Germany, School of Sound, London, and Asian Film Centre, Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Besides contributing to many edited compilations on Indian cinema, she has singly authored 16 published books on cinema, gender issues, short fiction and urban history. She currently contributes to The Statesman, The Tribune, Sahara Time, Screen, The Clean India Journal, Bride & Style, Tran World Features, South Asian Cinema and Film India Worldwide. She has been writing for 30 years and is based in Kolkata.


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