Aboard the mystery train

With the film adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express all set for release tomorrow, we take a look at some Indian films that owe their stories to the ace novelist

Published: 22nd November 2017 11:48 PM  |   Last Updated: 23rd November 2017 09:33 AM   |  A+A-

By Express News Service

To say that Sherlock Holmes became an influence for a generation of mystery writers would be an understatement. When a young Agatha Christie published The Mysterious Affair at Styles in 1920, the world, which was enamoured by Holmes, began to take notice of a short, portly Belgian with a stiff moustache. Hercule Poirot had arrived and would come to be called the gentleman detective and the words — “little grey cells”, “order and method”,”mademoiselle” — would forever be associated with him. The author then introduced an elderly spinster called Miss Marple, who became another iconic detective in the Christie universe.

The Guiness Book of World Records has it that Agatha Christie is the world’s best selling novelist. So it should come as little surprise, that over the past century, her works have been adapted in films. Yes, in Indian films too, even if she doesn’t always get the credit.

Nadu Iravil (1966)
Adapted from: And Then There Were None

Another adaptation of Christie’s masterpiece, this film didn’t have its characters stranded in an island. Instead, the family members are all holed up in a house. It dutifully follows the same idea of each one dying, with the assets of the deceased out for the taking. This film is more famous for being directed, produced and composed by Veenai S Balachander, the man who introduced noir to Indian films with the fantastic Andha Naal (1954), a film with no songs.

Dhund (1973)
Adapted from: The Unexpected Guest
This BR Chopra directorial was based on the Christie play, The Unexpected Guest, and featured Sanjay Khan, Zeenat Aman, Danny Denzongpa, and Ashok Kumar, among others. The story is about a car-wrecked stranger knocking on the door of a damsel-in-distress who has just shot her husband.  On hearing her sad tale of woe, the stranger decides to help her escape punishment.

Grandmaster (2012)
Adapted from: The A.B.C Murders
Starring Mohanlal, this became the first Malayalam film to be streamed in the US/Canada region via Netflix. The film follows Chandrasekhar (Mohanlal), an IPS officer, who investigates a series of murders after receiving an anonymous note. Starring Narain, Priyamani and Jagathy Sreekumar, this B Unnikrishnan film went on to become so popular that it spawned a themed restaurant in Kerala.

Shubho Muharat (2003)
Adapted from: The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side
Directed by National Award-winning director Rituparno Ghosh, this Bengali film is an adaptation of Miss Marple’s The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side. Rakhee Gulzar played the role of the elderly spinster (or as is called in this film, a Bengali Pishi) and Nandita Das and Sharmila Tagore ably assist her. The story revolves around the death of an actress on the shooting spot and the mystery surrounding it. The film won the National Award for Best Feature Film in Bengali and the Best Supporting Actress (for Rakhee’s performance).

Adhey Kangal (1967)
Adapted from: Witness for the Prosecution?

Directed by the legendary AC Tirulokchander, the film revolves around a domestic killing and has a multi-layered narrative with audiences being unable to guess the culprit till the very end. While it is not entirely clear which Christie novel served as the inspiration, it’s widely believed to be along the lines of Witness for the Prosecution. Notably, the makers of this film requested audiences not to reveal the climax in the days after its release. The film was remade in Telugu as Ave Kallu.

Aatagara (2015)
Adapted from: And Then There Were None
This Kannada adaptation was directed by K M Chaitanya and featured an ensemble cast of Chiranjeevi Sarja, Meghana Raj, Parul Yadav, Ananth Nag and more. The film landed in controversy when it was  accused of being a remake of Aduthathu (2011), a Tamil film, but the director later clarified that it was just an adaptation of the novel. While some characters of Aatagara remained true to the book, others were changed to keep up with the times.

Gumnaam (1965)
Adapted from: And Then There Were None
Before Manoj Kumar became the flagbearer of patriotic films like Upkaar, he starred in the adaptation of  Agatha Christie’s most appreciated book, And Then There Were None. Featuring Mehmood, Pran, Helen among others, it is a faithful adaptation of the novel in which eight people land up on an island and begin to die mysteriously. A few years back, the film was called to mainstream attention when the film’s opening song, Jaan Pehechan Ko, was used in a 2011 Heineken commercial.

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