Archive for April, 2011

The Graphic Novel

The graphic novel was coined as a term to distinguish itself from comics as they supposedly carried more mature and literary content and works of art. In the United States the first form of popular visual books began with the likes of Superman, Batman, Captain America, Green Lantern by DC Comics and various derivations of it with super human strengths and ability to fight evil that came in all shapes and sizes. With colorful names and costumes they vanquished evil using detective methods and mysterious powers. These comics were a subtle way to influence the public opinion regarding social and political ideologies besides serving to idealise the American way of life and preservation. This was particularly important in the years of the world war and subsequent threat of communism in the post world war era. Besides superheroes a lot more funny animal characters were also created and licensed from studios like Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Bugs Bunny and Woody the Woodpecker which were highly popular. Syndication in major newspapers across the world also increased the readership and following of comics.

In the course of time the comics evolved from simple battles between good and evil to more complex forms of expression with philosophical, sexual and the metaphysical mirroring the changes in the society thus diverging from the juvenile or ‘comic’ to more serious artistic execution.

The term “graphic novel” began to grow in popularity months after it appeared on the cover of the trade paperback edition of Will Eisner’s ‘A Contract with God’ (October 1978). This collection of short stories was a mature, complex work focusing on the lives of ordinary people in the real world. The critical and commercial success of A Contract with God helped to establish the term “graphic novel” in common usage, and many sources have incorrectly credited Eisner with being the first to use it.

From here onwards publishers like Marvel and DC comics started taking more and more interest in the graphic novel business signing on many talents to take on previous works and adapt them and also create new groundbreaking stories. Most importantly were two artists – Alan Moore and Frank Miller who created dark compelling characters with layered storylines. Major among them was Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen.

The Dark Knight Rises was created by Frank Miller who portrayed an aging Batman in a dystopian future mulling over concepts of mortality, vigilantism and heroism. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons came together to create arguably the finest graphic novel in the last century with the setting being in a alternate reality having superheroes who have retired from crime fighting and now living ordinary lives with the threat of nuclear war impending. Time even listed it as one of the best novels of all time.

Alan Moore after a few years also went on to write the Orwellian piece –‘V for Vendetta’ while Miller wrote his very famous ‘300’ about the Battle of Thermopylae and the film noir styled ‘Sin City’.

Of late there have been a whole lot of writers on the Graphic Novel bandwagon because of its popularity and that the chances of it being turned into a movie are very high. Mark Millar is one of the lot making in big with his Wanted starring Angelina Jolie and James McAvoy and the last year’s Kickass.

With Hollywood reaching its creative nadir in terms of scripts, Graphic Novels are manna from heaven making it with very easy to adapt it to screen with fancy CGI and big stars making it the perfect recipe for summer blockbusters. While some of them are worth the price of a ticket most just take page by page and put it up on the screen.

All in all whether its saving the planet or saving Hollywood, graphic novels are here to stay for now atleast.

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Book to Cinema Adaptations – Bollywood’s Best 10

The Hindi Film Industry, or Bollywood as it is popularly known as, has often preferred to work with original stories and develop them into mainstream cinema. Unlike Hollywood, Bollywood has not looked at bestselling novels as creative or viable revenue for film screenplays. With the blockbuster success of 3 Idiots, filmmakers are now looking at novels penned by Indian authors as a source that could produce box office success. Recently, the rights to the bestseller Two States was picked up by Sajid Nadiadwala who is one of the most successful film producers in Bollywood. We feel the time is ripe to list the ten best book-to-movie adaptations that Bollywood has produced.

1. Guide One of the finest movies to come out of Bollywood and considered a masterpiece by many. Guide brought together the eternal charmer, Dev Anand, and paired him opposite the powerhouse known as Waheeda Rehman. The story revolved around a footloose guide (played by Dev Anand) who falls in love with a beautiful danseuse (played by Waheeda Rehman). The film deals with the metamorphoses of the footloose guide to a spiritual guru who fasts unto death so that rain may arrive in a drought-hit village. The screenplay of the movie was adapted from the novel, The Guide, by RK Laxman. Guide was screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 2007.

2. 3 Idiots Considered to be the second most successful Hindi film, in terms of box office returns, 3 Idiots touched on the issue of education versus real knowledge. Performances by the three main protagonists, especially Amir Khan, endeared the movie to audiences. The highlight of the movie has to be the welcome speech delivered by Chatur Ramalingam (played by Omi Vaidya) which is replete with double-meaning innuendos. Though the screenplay was loosely adapted from Chetan Bhagat’s Five Point Someone, the author had an issue with the filmmakers for not giving him due credit which resulted in a minor controversy.

3. Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam Adapted from the Bengali novel Saheb Bibi Golam by Bimal Mitra, the movie is a realistic portrayal of the decline of the Bengali aristocracy during the period of British rule in India. Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam will forever be remembered for the superlative performance of Meena Kumari as the lovelorn Choti Bahu who becomes an alcoholic so that her husband will stay at home with her.

4. The Namesake Probably the only film in the list which may not be considered as ‘Bollywood’. The fact that the film starred two Bollywood actors, Tabu and Irrfan Khan, and has a strong Indian essence is reason enough for the movie to appear on this list. Based on the book by Jhumpa Lahiri, the film revolves around the struggle of a Bengali couple (Tabu and Irfan) to come to terms with the American way of life. Richly textured visuals and fine performances by the lead actors and support cast were the highlights of The Namesake.

5. Black Friday A film that brought to life one of the worst acts of terror committed in India: the 93’ Bombay Blasts. Based the book by S. Hussain Zaidi, the film intricately recreates the events surrounded the blasts and how the guilty were brought to justice. Anurag Kashyap was in terrific form as director and extracted award-winning performances from the principal cast. The sensitive nature of the 2004 film caused it several delays and was released three years later in 2007.

6. Maqbool The Indian version of Macbeth was set in the seedy universe of the Mumbai underworld. Vishal Bhardwaj assembled a cast of stellar performers which included Pankaj Kapur, Naseeruddin Shah, and Om Puri. Though the movie was not a commercial success, it launched Vishal Bharadwaj as one of the finest filmmakers in Bollywood.

7. Hazaar Chauraasi ki Maa A National Award winning film that centres around a woman who has lost her son, a Naxalite. The film marked the return of Jaya Bahaduri to acting after a gap of 18 years. Based on the book by Mahasweta Devi’s Bengali novel Hajar Churashir Ma, the screenplay was written by Govind Nihalani who was also the director of the movie.

8. Umrao Jaan (1981) The story of Umrao Jaan, a famous Lucknow courtesan, gave Rekha the opportunity to essay one of her finest performances to date. Adapted from the Urdu novel Umrao Jaan Ada by Mirza Hadi Ruswa, the film was directed by Padma Shri awardee Muzaffar Ali and depicted the rise and fall of the ethereal courtesan. The production design of the period film and unforgettable songs such as “Dil cheez kya hai” were the highlights of the film, apart from Rekha’s powerhouse performance.

9. Dev.D Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s classic Bengali novel Devdas is probably one of the most adapted novels. Bollywood has had three different movie versions. We have picked the latest version for its creative, new age interpretation of the novel with a twist at the ending. To a certain extent, Dev.D epitomises a young, modern India which has its own set of rules. Anurag Kashyap brings a certain psychedelic essence to the modern day retelling of the classic Devdas.

10. The Blue Umbrella It is an innocent tale of a kid set in a small village of Himachal Pradesh whose prized possession, a blue umbrella, is stolen by the richest man in the village. Directed by Vishal Bharadwaj, the film won the 2006 National Film Award for Best Children’s Film. The screenplay is adapted from a novel of the same name by Ruskin Bond.


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