Books and films have forever had a mutually beneficial relationship. This trend has long been inspiring Kannada filmmakers too, especially between the 70s and the 90s. Films such as Sharapanjara, Bangaarada Manushya, Naagarahaavu, Eradu Kanasu, Bhootayyanna Maga Ayyu, Antha, Bandhana, Hoovu Hannu, Muthina Haara, Aa Dinagalu… have all been inspired by books. But with commercial films raking in the moolah, book adaptations stopped being thought of as belonging in the mainstream. However, it appears that filmmakers are again returning to literature, with quite a few upcoming films based on paperbacks.
Historical subjects have long been the Kannada filmmaker’s favourite hunting ground. While Kurukshetra directed by Naganna was based on Mahabharata, many upcoming films are historical dramas. Bichhugathii Chapter 1—Dalavayi Dange is based on Palegara of Chitradurga. Baramanna Nayaka starring Rajavardan, now in post-productions, and Darshan-starrer Gandugali Madakari Nayaka, are both based on BL Venu’s novel Raja Bicchugathii Baramanna Nayaka. Hariprriya’s next, Amruthamathi, directed by Baraguru Ramachandrappa, will be based on Yashodhara Charithe which was written in the 13th century by Mahakavi Janna. Meanwhile, Gultoo director Janardhan Chikkanna’s second project is based on Omerta, a book written by Bengaluru-based journalist and writer, Ravi Belagere.
Rajendra Singh Babu, a producer and director popularly known for his film, Bandhana (1984), based on a novel, doesn’t think there is any guarantee that a film being based on a novel will fetch success, but however, believes that a novel gives the film solid narrative strength. “A novel gives the basic foundation for the story, the character, and scenes. Kannada film industry has adapted from books right from Karuneye Kutumbada Kannu (1962). We had directors like Puttana Kanagal, TV Singh Thakur, and S Siddalingaiah to name a few who adapted books,” he says, adding, “Adaptation of a novel is a big art when it comes to compressing the content for the duration of a film. Also, people would have read the story and thus there are comparisons.”
The director is set to helm a historical subject, Gandugali Madakari Nayaka under Rockline Productions, and knows the challenges of adapting a 1,000-page book into a two-and-a-half-hour film. “Psychological studies show that people don’t like to watch a film for more than 2.5 hours. This means that we have to exercise our intelligence in adapting stories,” says the veteran director. Madakari Nayaka, Babu notes, has decades of information about Hyder Ali and Madakari. “How we will make it interesting is important. Sometimes, we take our own decisions to add value to these characters,” he says.
For actors too, novel adaptations demand a different approach. “Novels have intricate detailing and it is important not to betray the character’s nature,” says actor Rajavardan, who plays the lead in Bichhugathii Chapter 1, directed by Hari Santhosh.
Director Janardhan Chikkanna, who is adapting Omerta, notes that no two artists can paint the same picture. “For a writer-director like me, when I have the freedom to just direct, it truly opens the colours in my mind and helps me paint a better picture,” he says, making a case for adaptations.
Rajavardan claims to have read B L Venu’s novel at least 10 times to understand the content. “The diction in the book is easily comprehensible. Initially, when I started reading, I thought it would be a heavy subject. But as we proceeded with the shoot, with one line from the book getting shot for two-three days, that’s when I was content that we were doing justice to this book,” he says.