February 28, 2009



Every time I read portions of The Namesake, what blows me away the most is that it's written so effortlessly in present tense.

I'm on a Jhumpa Lahiri OD... again. I really need to find new authors.

And to all and sundry, please read books before they're made into movies. That way, you're buying them when they still haven't had beautiful cover designs replaced by film shots.

Anyone care to talk about how the books-vs-movies thing affects you? Even when the movies are really well-made, I feel a faint sense of being cheated, because now I won't ever be able to visualise the book the way I did before I watched the movie. Right from what a character looks like to what a situation feels like - it's made so tangible and visible by a movie that it takes away the depth to some degree. The answer should be to not watch them at all, of course, but curiosity is a powerful thing.



Anonymous said...

i've often thought much the same about documentaries and real-life.
watching a heart-wrenching documentary about child abuse is all very well, but ask anyone whose spent a day at a child shelter or an old-age home, and our whole outlook in life can change.
but yes, there might very much be a counter-argument.
such movies might prove to be hugely unfaithful to their books, but, they do make a considerable number of people feel like reading the book.
in an odd way, the movies bring the books into the limelight. even poorly made movies. infact, those, i think, might end up doing more good. coz then, everyone wants to read and see exactly HOW bad the movie was.
in much the same way, as how documentaries seem to keep people in touch with some of the harsher aspects of life, lest we forget those that we ought not to.
two sides to a coin. maybe yes. but i'm a guy who rarely reads anything, except the morning news, off the net.

Curlyconman said...

Yes,I felt the same while reading One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest after watching the movie.While reading I'd always relate the protagonist to Jack Nicholson's character in the movie which would stunt my visualisation.I wasn't able to paint my own version of Randle Mcmurphy(protagonist) and the other characters.Though the movie was a brilliant adapation and remained honest to the book,there are always inevitable omissions and minor alterations which can be a bit disappointing.

Even in the Namesake,didn't you think that entire part of adultery and the subsequent divorce was rushed and happened all too soon?

I guess some books are just NOT meant to be adapted into movies.I kinda regretted watching To kill a Mocking Bird cos' when I read the book I'd never imagined Atticus Finch to be so wooden like Gregory Peck.I wonder how he got an oscar for it.Even Scout wasn't the same.

But the fix is that you can't judge a movie independently if you've read the book it's based on.You're bound to compare it to the book and be a bit disappointed cos' only good books are adapted to good movies.Atleast 9 out of 10 times,that's the case.

And if you've seen the film first,then it hinders your imagination, as you said, while reading the book.

Sorry to have written a blog post of a comment.
But couldn't forgo this one. :D

Abbey,what new authors?

Padhaai-Likhaai nahi hai kya? :P

Karthik Sivaramakrishnan said...

One must remember that very often the movie springs from the desire of a person like you and I who has not only read the book but was so impressed by it that they felt the urge to convey it to a larger audience. So one must commend their initiative, and at the same time acknowledge that it is that reader's visualisation of things. It could make for interesting comparison with one's own reading. It is usually advisable not to watch a movie before reading a book because nobody can really compress all the information in a book into a 2 hour movie and still do justice to the detail. If they did, then it is a bad book to begin with and could easily have been shortened to just what the movie portrays! :)

Jhayu said...

I'm going to cite one example only: Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Adams' brilliance was completely lost, for the simple reason that what made the book riotously funny for me was the beauty and the utter nonsensicality of his prose, which of course could not have been transferred onto the screen.

Meh. Mostly, though, I end up reading books after they become movies, though still before having seen the movie myself.

Avantika A. said...

Im right there with u Mudra. Movies never do justice to the books they're based on. There's so much in the description and the words used, so much emotion, nuances, little quirks of the characters which you just cant get on the screen.
There is also the limitation (slf-imposed) of stuffing (and thereby slaughtering) a book into 2-3 hours. The writers of the movie then take artistic liberties and slash away parts of the book to suit the movie going audiences and add useless bits of 'masala' (ref: harry potter series, hitchhiker's guide etc).

Making a movie on a book is like spoon feeding the population ideas and visualisations that belong to someone else.

I remember weeping when i saw the movie based on my favourite book (anne of green gables)...the actress for anne was just so wrong, and my 13 yr old self couldnt get how they could ruin the book by choosing ashort girl to play someone who in the book is tall and graceful. Hmph.

Ps: I agree that they ruin book covers by having film scenes on them. Blech.

Asterix said...

Your honour, I present two evidences in my case of Books vs Movies.

Evidence 1: The LOTR saga. I had seen the first two movies without reading the book and I was blown away. Then I read the book and I was torn apart between two conflicting feelings. For one, Jackson et.al. had trimmed down the content substantially. But OTOH, he had shown sequences in a way that I wouldn't have otherwise imagined in my wildest dreams. For example, the Argonaths or the Dead Marshes. The third movie was equally amazing although I knew what to expect visually since I had read the book. So in this case I would say that the movie catapulted my visualization of the novel into another level. I didn't feel cheated.

Evidence 2: 2001 The Space Odyssey. Again, this is a visual masterpiece, although relatively less complex than LOTR. Still, I felt woefully inadequate in the imagination aspect as compared to what I saw in the movie.

I see such movies just to see a (possibly) different way of visualization and also to notice any small yet interesting plot points I might have missed during my reading.

Ofcourse, "heavy" books that deal with complex human relationships like The Namesake and Devdas are a completely different beast. I read very few such books so I really can't comment.

Interesting post though. I assume that the exams are over? :-)

Mudra said...

@Arayans: I know, the exposure to the book is the only 100% great consequence of the movie.

@Curlyconman: Yep, too rushed. Haven't seen the other movies you're talking about, and don't think I will now.

@Karthik: True, but what I'm also saying is that the movie takes away the imagery of the book irreversibly - you can't imagine the book any more without having the movie scene flash into your mind.

@Jhayu: They did try to make up by having long-ish narrations, but seriously, nothing like the book's prose. And the descriptions in the book seemed so much more fantastic than the movie, where the people and situations were reduced to rather mundane stuff. Again, every reader's perception is different.

@Avantika: Actually, now that you mention it, I do wonder how the authors feel? It's one thing to look at the money and sign, and another thing to endure the movie in the theatre when it's made.

@Asterix: Actually, LOTR I'd agree on. Fantastic book, fantastic movie. Haven't seen the other one. Those missed-plot-points you're talking about, happened to me when I watched LOTR. But it is different with emotions etc.

@All: No, exams are not over. I blog during exams, I can't help it. Be sympathetic to my failings (both types). And when I say I need new authors to read, I mean later.

@Self: Long comments, long comments. Much enjoyment.

Peru said...

Well, I agree. The Namesake was better off the way it was picturised in my head. Sorry, short comment. :)

indiegurl said...

the only Indian authors whose work I like are jhumpa lahiri, vikram seth and rohinton mistry.

I hope to God they dont make a suitable boy into a movie! :O

Anonymous said...

Hey its really worth thinking -

I just stopped reading fiction, since school - I guess coz I've got into a lot of factual reading as well as Biographies. So I rely on Movies for my dose of fiction.

But then I did watch the Sherlock Homes series on TV, and it really was disappointing compared to what was in the book that I'd read several years ago - Some facts just cannot be expressed on Screen.

I first felt that story telling through Books evolved when Visual Aid such as TV was not there. But that's not true. Some of the greatest literary works (read: Shakespeare) have been written exclusively to be enacted on stage. So the question you're asking Muddu, has probably been debated for centuries.

I think that the deeper your story, the better it is in a Book, while a Movie can have good entertainment value.

I'd told you some time ago that I was writing a fiction story - I recently completed the detailed storyline, and I seriously was thinking whether this would be better as a movie or a book - And I realized that both a book and a movie would appeal to different kinds of people. The book would really appeal to people who'd like to get into detailed facts (It would be on the lines of a John Grisham). If a movie were made there's no way that the story could be said in as much detail, but it would yet be thrilling and have great entertainment value.

Mudra said...

@Peru: Yep. And apology accepted. :P Don't be silly.

@Divya: Dude, A Suitable Boy would need a TV series that runs for 5 years. :D Don't you find Rohinton Mistry very depressing?

@Spru: I've seen the Sherlock Holmes series too, and it's horribly disappointing, I agree.

About Shakespeare - it's different maybe because it was written for stage. There's no mental thought process or sentiment - if there is, it's a soliloquy. So there can't be a difference, right? It's bound to be good when performed.

And yeah, the audiences ought to be different. Except that we end up watching the movies and that's where the problem lies. :)

indiegurl said...

Arey but that's what you'd have thought about LOTR also before the movie came out! I mean, just LOOK at the size of it. But what they did? THree-hour movie na?

Also, everyone does keep complaining that rohinton mistry is too unhappy, but i've never found that to be true. However I have a sneaking suspicion that my liking for him has less to do with his literary pedigree and more to do with the fact that he writes about Parsis. And Parsi boys are always cute. :D

I kind of suck, no?