Some films are maybe just inspired by specific literary works instead of being a direct adaptation. Works of literature have always been one of the primary muses for the film industries around the world. Famous literary works are frequently adapted into movies, often sharing the same title.
While this trend has given rise to numerous debates on the nature of films and books, the fact remains that imitation is the most effective form of flattery! So, here’s a list of Bollywood films that you probably didn’t know were based on or inspired by works of literature –
Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s magnum opus Bajirao Mastani, released in 2015 starring Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone, and Priyanka Chopra Jonas in lead roles. It became a substantial commercial and critical success upon its release and is one of the highest-grossing Indian films of all time.
While it garnered several accolades and praises, most people don’t know that the film was based on the Marathi fictional novel Rau by Nagnath S. Inamdar. The book narrates the fictionalized romance between real-life historical characters of Maratha General Peshwa Baji Rao I and his second wife Mastani and the subsequent outrage it caused.
The novel was published in 1972 and translated into Hindi and English in 2008 and 2016, respectively.
A period crime-thriller film, Bombay Velvet, was directed and co-produced by Anurag Kashyap, starring Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, and Karan Johar, along with a noteworthy supporting cast including Vivaan Shah and Kay Kay Menon.
This 2015 film received drastically contrasting reviews upon its release – the critics praised it, while the audience provided highly negative feedback, which led to its commercial disaster at the box office. The movie was based on historian Gyan Prakash’s book Mumbai Fables. This non-fiction was published in 2010 and is about the history of Mumbai.
Hum Aapke Hain Koun..!
This 1994 romantic drama starring Madhuri Dixit and Salman Khan was written and directed by Sooraj Barjatya for the silver screen. The film celebrated Indian familial traditions and values. It was the first Indian film to gross over Rs. 1 billion worldwide and remains one of the highest-earning Bollywood films ever.
This cult movie contributed to several changes in the film industry and has made a lasting impact on Indian wedding celebrations with its popular songs and games. This film is an adaptation of an earlier film Nadiya Ke Paar released in 1982, based on Keshav Prasad Mishra’s Hindi novel Kohbar Ki Shart.
Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam
A romantic musical released in 1999, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam was directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, starring Salman Khan, Ajay Devgn, and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in lead roles. The film narrates a newly-wed man who discovers that his wife is in love with another man and sets out to reunite them.
The film was a commercial success worldwide and was released as Straight from the Heart internationally. The film also garnered predominantly positive reviews from critics based on Rashtriyashayar Jhaverchand Meghani’s play Shetal ne Kathe. Apart from this play, the movie has also been often described as a loose adaptation of Maitreyi Devi’s Bengali novel Na Hanyate, published in 1974.
Made in China
Made in China, a 2019 comedy film directed by Mikhail Musale saw Rajkummar Rao and Mouni Roy starring as its leads. The movie follows Rao’s character – a Gujrati businessman who goes to China in the hopes of increasing his business prospects.
Though it didn’t receive critical or commercial success, Rao’s performance was praised. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Parinda Joshi, published in 2019.
Kabir Khan‘s Phantom is a 2015 action-thriller starring Saif Ali Khan and Katrina Kaif in leading roles. The film follows a disgraced Indian soldier executing a series of assassinations in the hope of restoring his honor. It opened to mixed reviews from critics and audiences alike.
This film is based on S. Hussain Zaidi’s and Gabriel Khan’s 2015 book Mumbai Avengers which chronicles the aftermath of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. The screenplay of the movie was written in coordination with Hussain Zaidi.
Meghna Gulzar’s 2018 spy thriller film starring Alia Bhatt and Vicky Kaushal in lead roles, with a host of prominent supporting actors, emerged as one of the highest-grossing Indian films featuring a female protagonist. It also received a positive response from critics who praised Gulzar’s direction and Bhatt’s performance.
Based on the novel Calling Sehmat by Harinder Sikka and published in 2008, it narrates an accurate account of an Indian RAW agent married into a family of military officials in Pakistan to relay information to India before the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971.
In 2020, Sikka alleged that Meghna Gulzar had changed the film’s name without his permission and accused her of taking a pro-Pakistani stance in the movie.
Shootout at Wadala
This 2013 film directed by Sanjay Gupta serves as the second installment of the Shootout film series. It’s an action gangster film starring John Abraham, Anil Kapoor, Kangana Ranaut, Tusshar Kapoor, Manoj Bajpayee, and Sonu Sood.
It is loosely based on the book Dongri to Dubai: Six Decades of The Mumbai Mafia by Hussain Zaidi. The film dramatizes the encounter of gangster Manya Surve and the Mumbai Police in 1982, which resulted in the former’s death.
The Zoya Factor
Dulquer Salmaan and Sonam K Ahuja starrer 2019 film The Zoya Factor is a romantic comedy directed by Abhishek Sharma., with Shah Rukh Khan serving as its narrator. The film centers on Zoya Solanki, who becomes a lucky charm for the Indian cricket team during the 2011 cricket world cup.
The film also follows her relationship with Nikhil Khoda, who doesn’t believe in such superstitious behavior. The film is lightly based on Anuja Chauhan’s 2008 novel of the same name.
What’s Your Rashee?
This 2009 romantic comedy by Ashutosh Gowariker saw Harman Baweja and Priyanka Chopra Jonas playing the lead. The film follows Baweja’s character Yogesh Patel, an NRI looking for a bride to marry within ten days to save his brother’s life, and his meeting with 12 potential brides – one from each zodiac sign, each played by Chopra Jonas.
The film was commercially unsuccessful and received mixed reviews, but Chopra Jonas was lauded for her performance and became the first actress to portray 12 roles in one movie. Though several plot changes were made for the cinematic adaptation, the film is based on the Gujarati novel Kimball Ravenswood by Madhu Rye.
While there are many more such works, this list focuses specifically on Bollywood films, adaptations of Indian literary works. How many of these works did you know?
Edited by Urvashi Gupta