A cinematic journey of Indian literature!

Amit Garg, Founder, Book2Screen shares how to seize opportunities in the book-to-screen revolution.

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The rise of streaming platforms and a burgeoning appetite for diverse narratives have spurred a surge in book adaptations. Producers and directors are increasingly turning to the wealth of literary gems across languages and genres for inspiration.

In 2023, the convergence of literature and screen takes precedence, presenting a rich array of books transitioning into compelling films and TV shows. This trend is more than a numerical surge; it embodies diversity across genres—mystery, fantasy, romance, and biographies—ensuring a captivating experience for every viewer.

Simultaneously, the Indian OTT landscape witnesses a proliferation of content, with major players showcasing hundreds of thousands of hours of television content. Originality takes centerstage, evidenced by the launch of approximately 400 original shows on various OTT platforms in 2023. The prolific growth is further quantified by the release of 1,50,000 content hours. In terms of investment, India allocates a substantial INR 23 billion to create 2512 hours of OTT content, reflecting a significant shift in narrative consumption toward the digital domain (FICCI-EY, 2022-2023).

A historical perspective

While Hollywood has long embraced the practice of turning bestsellers into blockbuster films, India’s approach to book-to-screen adaptations was sporadic in the past. The sporadic nature of such adaptations lacked a systematic process, with few making it to the screen despite India’s rich literary heritage.

The changing tide

In recent years, however, there’s been a perceptible shift. The rise of streaming platforms and a burgeoning appetite for diverse narratives have spurred a surge in book adaptations. Producers and directors are increasingly turning to the wealth of literary gems across languages and genres for inspiration.

Streaming giants like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney-Hotstar and others have played a pivotal role in this transformation. These platforms are not only adapting international bestsellers but are also delving into regional literature, bringing forth stories that resonate with a broader audience.

Success Stories

The triumphs of adaptations like “Sacred Games,” a page-turner by Vikram Chandra, and “The White Tiger,” drawing inspiration from Aravind Adiga’s masterpiece, vividly highlight the potency of the book-to-screen phenomenon.

Here’s a glimpse of the captivating roster: from enduring favourites like Hum Aapke Hain Kaun and gripping sagas such as Pataal Lok the artistic brilliance of Stories by Rabindranath Tagore and the intense Khakee: The Bihar Chapter, the diverse array includes Grahan, The Night Manager, Monica Oh My Darling, Mismatched, The Great Indian Murder, Dil Bekaraar, Gangubai Kathiawadi, Pataakha , Haider, 2 States, Kai Po Che, Namesake, Slumdog Millionaire, Khufiya, Jaane-Jaan, The Class of 83 and many others.

Literary festivals and platforms

Initiatives like the “Word to Screen” Market at the Mumbai Film Festival, releasing a Screen Rights catalogue at Jaipur Literature Festival, “Book to Box Office” at NFDC Film Bazaar have become crucial in bridging the gap between publishers and producers. Literary festivals are increasingly becoming spaces where the marriage of literature and cinema is celebrated, creating opportunities for collaboration.

Challenges and opportunities

While the landscape is promising, challenges persist. Securing rights, maintaining the integrity of the source material, and doing justice to the author’s vision are complex tasks.

A significant hurdle emerges as authors grapple with reaching out to production houses, navigating the intricate maze of rights, and negotiating deals. The lack of resources or connections often impedes effective pitching, resulting in missed adaptation opportunities.

A prevalent issue is the frequent misunderstanding of the monetary value associated with adaptation rights. Authors may inadvertently undervalue their work, leading to unfavorable deals, or conversely, overestimate its worth, deterring potential buyers.

Amidst these challenges, literary agents emerge as crucial representatives between authors and filmmakers. Agencies like Book2Screen, Story Ink, The Pencil, and Wattpad specialize in representing authors in the entertainment industry, streamlining the adaptation process.

Leveraging their expertise and industry connections, literary agents guide authors through the complexities of adaptation rights and negotiations. With a keen understanding of the demand for various genres and storytelling formats, agents can effectively pitch projects and passionately advocate for their clients’ work.

The road ahead

As India continues to diversify its storytelling palette, the future of book-to-screen adaptations looks bright. With a plethora of untapped stories waiting to be explored, both classic and contemporary literature is set to find its way to the hearts of viewers through the visual medium.

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