Saturday, January 02, 2010

Lucky Idiot

It takes talent and a bit of luck to write a bestselling novel.

It takes a lot of luck to get a filmmaker with talent to buy the rights to your book. And create magic out of it.

I am talking about the celebrated Slumdog Millionaire. Adapted from the novel Q & A by Vikas Swarup.

Was Slumdog 70% like the original? Doesn't look like it. Many of the key characters, events and incidents were changed. To quote just a small example:

In Q & A, the first-person narrator and quiz show contestant is named Ram Mohammad Thomas, whereas the protagonist is named Jamal Malik in Slumdog Millionaire. Ram was abandoned at birth in the clothing bin of a Catholic church in Delhi, and raised for eight years by a benevolent English priest named Father Timothy.

His surname comes from a family that adopted him for three days before giving him back to the church. Local religious leaders suggested his first and middle names, on the theory that his birth parents might be either Hindu or Muslim.[8] Father Timothy and the Catholic Church do not appear in Slumdog Millionaire, nor does Delhi.


You can play compare-compare here. But despite the many changes, Slumdog retained the seed of the idea which sprang in Vikas Swarup's brain. And that was a boy from the slums winning a million bucks in a quiz show. Because every question asked was in *some way* connected to an event or experience in his life.

That seed was nurtured by people who were really gifted in their craft - making a compelling audiovisual drama onscreen.

The writer of Slumdog Millionaire was the hugely talented Simon Beaufoy (of 'The Full Monty' fame). Because of Simon Beaufoy, the hugely talented Danny Boyle took a look at the script and went on to make the film.

Ultimately, Simon Beaufoy won an Oscar for 'best adapted screenplay. And he did not forget to thank Vikas, even in his acceptance speech...

What's my point? Just one simple thing:

It does not matter how close or how far the film is from the book.

I am sure Vikas Swarup had a kickass agent/ lawyer to negotiate his contract. One who would not agree to let his client's name appear in 'rolling credits' (the ones that whiz by at the very end of the film!)

As for that acceptance speech... You can be a Chatur Ramalingam in life or a Phansuk Wangdu. And you know who we'd all rather be!

55 comments:

  1. just saw the outburst from vidhu vinod chopra in the press conference.. also the hilarious position that aamir took.. the conference made these guys look like real idiots..

    there is a deeper issue of the flagrant copying in bollywood and being brazen about it.. it is the same aamir who did Ghajni (couldnt even copy Momento well) Ghulam (total ripoff from "on the waterfront").. and Aatank hi Aatank (sad copy of Godfather).. even the idea of Lagaan is not all that original.. so he should shut the yap, do the song and dance numbers and count his monies.. even the second bench of hollywood (such as kevin spacey, adrian brody, ralph fiennes, liam neeson, geoffery rush etc) have more acting talent in their pinkies than in the whole body of aamir

    as far as others are concerned, this episode shows their class and character.. a true example of money doesnt mean talent.. the immodesty is sickening..

    kudos to bhagat who raised his voice.. he is the only one who sounds like a normal person among the crazies associated with this movie

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  3. After going through both sides of the story, I think I have understood the ins-and-outs of the controversy.

    VVC and company approached Chetan Bhagat for rights to FPS in order to make a movie out of it, which they claim would be 2~5% based on it. Chetan agreed, trusting them on their word and accepted the payment. However he made two (big) mistakes.

    1) He didn't read the script. He had really no idea on how 'loosely' is the movie based on the book. Probably if he knew it was substantially based on the book, he would have charged more. Bad for him. You waive the rights to whole book (since 2~5% is extremely subjective and unenforceable).
    2) He didn't realize that 'Rolling Credits' actually mean the end credit roll zipping past the screen, and NOT a still page at the beginning of the movie.

    I think Chetan really believed that movie would be just a shade of FPS and didn't think much about it until the release. He was miffed that VVC and company took each letter to word and not the spirit he intended (i.e. very few similarities and industry standard practice of still credit at the start). He felt betrayed and answerable to his fans who were let down by the incident. Thus the blog post.

    Having said that, VVC is also guilty of borderline lying to Chetan on the similarities between the book and movie. But he will have law on his side. I don't think Aamir (or any of the cast) is at fault. They are contracted by VVC, and irrespective of their personal beliefs would side with their contractor since typical deeds of acting contract prohibit actors to speak foul against the production crew. Not that I am saying Aamir would have sided the other way if it were an independent case in front of him; just that this issue is irrelevant.

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  4. @Ashish,

    The link is broken.

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  5. it's not about who's bigger or better.. it's just jarring all our value systems.. it's plain "not right".

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  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  7. I'm so happy this happened. Now I can proudly say, that I had clubbed Arindham Chaudhari and CB in the same group from the very beginning. Arindham marketed IIPM for more than its worth and Chetan Bhagat never deserved the TOI editorial column - it's so much better off as a blogpost.

    "I am talking about the celebrated Slumdog Millionaire. Adapted from the novel Q & A by Vikas Swarup."-
    I like this. :D

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  8. I totally agree with rashmi bansal and I’m just thinking was vidhu vinod chopra drunk?
    Catch my take on this from here
    Yes, I have read the book!

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  9. Absolutely agree with you Rashmee! In fact when i wrote my blogpost about 3i and FPS, i had this angle but did not include it for want of details. But now that i know i would like to add a link of this post to my blogpost! Do read my post too!

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  10. saw the movie read the book etc etc.
    Chetan Bhagat undersold himself to VVR and is sore about it now. Yes the movie is heavily based on the book but why did he settle for pittance ? Chetan sorry man no marks for being naive

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  11. As most people, I am also bit confused with the whole blame-game surrounding this project.
    The movie's similarity with the book is definitely more than the 3-5% claimed by Rajkumar Hirani and significantly less than the 70% claimed by Chetan Bhagat. Maybe, both should agree on a 25-30% figure and settle the issue ;-)

    Another thing which is a bit suspicious is that Chetan Bhagat gave an interview in Sep 2008 saying that he liked the final script of 3 Idiots and now claims on his blog that he was not shown the final script.

    http://in.movies.yahoo.com/news-detail/34739/I-liked-final-script-of-Three-Idiots-Chetan-Bhagat.html

    http://www.chetanbhagat.com/blog/general/a-book-a-film-and-the-truth

    CB needs to clarify this.

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  12. The whole blame game is highly confusing.But Mr.bhagat should have been given the due credit.

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  13. Well written

    Anyway. its not like Chetan is a saint who has been exploited. Even now i am sure he is glad with all this free publicity.

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  14. Well written

    Anyway. its not like Chetan is a saint who has been exploited. Even now i am sure he is glad with all this free publicity.

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  15. There are some contradictions in the version of CB that he has been so widely spreading. Apparently, RH had an agreement with CB of not mentioning his (CB) name in the credits of the movie. Also, i read a news article a few hours back where CB admitted reading and being content with the way the script of 3I shaped up. Now CB is telling the entire world that he was never shown the final script!!

    I agree that CB should have been given his share of honor for the story of 3I by RH. But if the agreement as being mentioned by RH was signed by both the parties then there should be no reason why CB should now claim anything out of 3I. I am though not sure which party's version i should believe.

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  16. I feel humans generally have this tendency to not appreciate others. That is precisely what has happened. Both sides wants to snatch credit and in that process gain publicity which these days whether good or bad, only helps and everybody needs that irrespective of how famous one is. Lack of GRACE!

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  17. Enjoy cartoon on the same lines....
    http://caricaturehome.blogspot.com/2010/01/3-idiots-and-five-point-someone.html

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  18. There was a time before the marketing types started graduating and people had some peaceful entertainment and some real news.

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  19. No soul turns bigger or smaller by thanking someone. For whatever reason. Infact, a person showing a gesture of appreciation and gratitude will only be looked up to and admired for his leadership.

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  20. Chetan had a lousy lawyer who let his client accept the contract. Why should he cry foul now?

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  21. Bollywood truly believes in being unreasonable and unexplained!!!

    Even an icon like Aamir Khan enjoys being greedy. FPS was tweaked by Abhijath Joshi..and he is arguing in percentages where numbers are cooked at random.

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  22. Hey Congrats, you just made it into the 10 most silliest Book List :

    http://www.livemint.com/2010/01/01221434/The-decade8217s-10-silliest.html

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  23. people! the only problem bhagat has is that his name only appears in the rolling credits. in an interview in sept 2009, he says that "he has read the script and approves of it". all this tallk is about not getting the "correct credit". if he had stuck to this, VVC would have released new prints with the simple correction and "aal would be vaal". but no, bhagat wants his moment in the sun. so let us give it t him. he is the one responsible for the stupid ending and weak story. case closed. and bhagat, live and learn, i say. go and write more stuff like "hello".

    ReplyDelete
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  33. Wrong side.

    You sign a contract, you are bound to whats in there. Period.

    And, for argument sake, I would say the movie became a hit because of all that was NOT in FPS.

    - Mr Dalal

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  41. That last spam is actually downright funny.

    Anyway, I was going to say that, to begin with, the terms of the contract clearly stated Bhagat would get rolling credit. The contract is up there on Chopra's site. So while yes it's kind of unconventional of Chopra and the folks not to mention FPS in the beginning, they are technically not at fault here at all. I find Bhagat's cry foul utterly non convincing

    And other arguments arising out of the sidelines of this controversy like exactly to what degree the book resembles the movie, are simply blown up by the jobless people of the world. Once someone buys movie rights for a book, they can do whatever the heck they want with the story.

    ReplyDelete
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