Taarak Mehta Ka Oolta Chasmah has completed over 1000 episodes and is still going strong.
What makes this achievement noteworthy apart from it being a daily comedy, is the fact that it’s based on the works of popular Gujarati columnist Taarak Mehta. Then there’s Ashwini Dheer’s Lapatagunj based on Sharad Joshi’s short stories that had an original run of two years and is back with a second season. Saraswatichandra has been adapted from Govardhanram Tripati’s novel by the same name and was initially produced by Sanjay Leela Bhansali. It’s changed hands now and according to sources, the serial that was beleageured with problems, is on an upward swing. Tumhari Paakhi, promos of which are airing on Life Ok has been converted from a novel Navabidhan by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay. Zee’s Bh Se Bhade produced by JD Majethia has its central character Bhade outlined from one of VP Kale’s short stories. Ekta Kapoor’s Yeh Hai Mohabbatein adapted from Manju Kapoor’s Custody will be aired on Star Plus from next month. Also, in the pipeline is Dheer’s Gunahon Ka Devta 2 based on Dharamvir Bharti’s book. In short, a slew of shows based on literature are making their way to the small-screen.
Back to the roots
Doordarshan (DD) had several serials including Malgudi Days, Katha Sagar, Discovery of India, etc, based on literary works in the late ’80s but after that there were few takers for literary works.
Aatish Kapadia, who has scripted several adaptations like Resham Dunk, RK Laxman Ki Duniya (based on Laxman’s legendary cartoons) and upcoming Bh Se Bhade says, “During the DD days, TV was viewed by section A and B audiences, who were well-read. Literature-based shows therefore were a huge success. But with TV going down to grassroot level, where-in the audience has a naive innocence and prefer simple saas-bahu dramas, shows based on literary works reduced.” But, things are changing now and makers are going back to literature to source stories.
Says Danish Khan, Head Fiction, Star Plus, “We find variety, richness, originality and powerful perspectives in literature. These stories have been consumed by a limited set of audience. TV being mass media has the ability to take these stories to a very large set of audience. So it is a symbiotic relationship — television gets stories and stories get a much larger audience. We will see more incidents of adaptations.”
For Dheer doing something based on literature is like going back to school. “Books by Munshi Premchand, Jai Shankar Prasad and Mahasweta Devi used to be a part of our course. At that time I did not know the value of literature, but later when I started writing, I went back to these very books,” he says. For Lapatagunj, a satire on the existing system, he converted 100 essays of Sharad Joshi into stories. Though he doesn’t want to talk about Gunahon Ka Devta 2, he says when he read the book in his childhood he found it boring but now finds it synoymous with romance. When Asit Kumarr Modi thought of doing a daily comedy five years ago, he wondered who would be able to write humour on a daily basis. “I have been a regular reader of Mehtaji’s columns, which deal with current issues in a tongue-in-cheek manner. Because of the literary connection, dialogues and narration are very clean, which is why I adapted it,” says Modi, who is planning to make another show based on Mehta’s works.
True to the original?
Kapadia, who burnt his hands with Resham Dunk, which he had penned as a novel and later serialised it, believes one should stick to the original. “I remember in the serial we deviated from the basic plot and it didn’t do well. One has to remain faithful to the story, else what is the point in adapting it,” he muses. Dheer avers that the soul of the book has to be maintained. “If not, don’t say I have adapted,” he says simply. He points out that for Lapatagunj, they had limited material and the show went beyond that. “But because we remained true to the original the second season has been accepted, which are fresh stories,” says Dheer. Shashi Mittal, who is scripting Tumhari Paakhi, a love story, is creating new incidents and situations, because the novel was written several years ago. “Adapting a novel is very difficult because every individual consumes a book differently and has his/her own takeaway from it. An adaptation retaining the same flavour is challenging. As writers we don’t know which aspect has struck a chord with the reader and in case we change/edit/amend that very aspect from the book the viewer may not like it.” Like Saraswatichandra, which has deviated from the novel. However, producer Sunjoy Wadhwa maintains that they are sticking to the main pointers. “Yes, we have introduced some fiction in between two junctures to make it entertaining. Also, this is a serial and the content in the book is limited.”
Hits and misses
For every hit adaptation, TMOC, Lapatagunj, there have been misses like Keshav Pandit that was based on Ved Prakash’s novel. Yet, as Anooj Kapoor, EVP and Business Head, SAB TV, says, established works sit right for TV because you are assured of acceptance whether it is Taarak Mehta, Sharad Joshi or RK Laxman. Modi, however, cautions that just adapting is not enough.
“There has to be some value addition which gels with the viewers’ imagination,” he reckons.