Rigged and Rigmaroled

As We Journey Through the Daily Grind

What the Well-read Person is Watching

Posted by Rani on January 3, 2011

I am not well-read. Contrary to what you may have heard (uhmm, probably from me). If I were, I wouldn’t have had to wait for Brad Pitt to become Benjamin Button to know Fitzgerald was there first (albeit differently). Oh, woe is me! There was more to Fitzy than just the great Gatsby?!?

And so, years after I declared making movies out of books was the worst thing to happen to a book, I eat humble pie. This unwell-read person owes to Hollywood more than one “ohhh, this was based on a book?” moment. Sigh.

My moment of extreme realization, as it were, really came when the first of ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ was made into a movie. What sort of literary childhood had I had that I didn’t know of THE chronicles as THE book?!? Aghast, dejected, forlorn, I wandered long and far (one end of my living room to the other), contemplating my reason for existence. I threw my ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’ on to the floor. I closed the door on ‘Lolita’. ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ gathered dust. Then I snapped out of it. And proceeded to my favorite secondhand bookstore to get me a copy of the Chronicles (the book, duhh). And went on to read all seven chronicles, before the remaining movies could even be made. Hah!

And then, there’s the history bit. The ‘general knowledge’ bit. The ‘based on a true story’ ones. I watched ‘Valkyrie’. Snippets of the mal movie ‘Pazhassi Raja’. ‘A Beautiful Mind’. Closer home, people watched ‘Taare Zameen Par’ (and suddenly, everyone knew everything about dyslexia). I may not be well-read (anymore) or well-informed (never was) but I am smart. Creative dramatization is needed in a movie so fiction here is really just based, sometimes loosely only, on fact. I get it, I get it. So, I always google further to get the “real” story (or, as real as what the Internet can offer). Ooh la la. Or, I read the book, as the case may be. And then get irritated at how far the movie is off the mark from the spirit of the ‘original’.

But then it struck me, in all its creative beauty – such movies help bring to the masses (me being part of that mass) what we otherwise might not have known (enough) about.

‘Gone with the Wind’ garnered far more press for the dashing Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh than for Rhett and Scarlett. But a ‘happy’ ripple effect was new interest in the book itself, and the story of southern civilization and life before the American Civil War; the story of a civilization gone with the wind. Of course, the earlier fact-fiction point besides, a movie can never really do justice to a book nor is it always an “accurate” depiction of the book even (for instance, Ken Kesey apparently never watched the movie rendition of his ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ but still heartily disliked what he knew of it, the movie not being like how the book was). Well, albeit with my belief in such movies now stronger, I still feel that movies-based-on-books should be seen as just that – a movie, based on a BOOK. If you want the whole deal, read the book already.

But we thank you, Hollywood, for at least letting us know.


2 Responses to “What the Well-read Person is Watching”

  1. Ayesha said

    One movie I really really wish was also a book is Fiddler on the Roof.
    Tat’s it. That’s my comment on this very interesting post of yours. 🙂
    Good start to the new year.. and here’s hoping for more! Cheers!

    • Rani said

      Well…yeah. I suppose. But I’m thinking the Broadway one was sufficient? 🙂

      Having said that, I think each of these has to be considered as a separate entity, in its own right. Movies that use books (or Broadway) for inspiration, is just one source, finally!

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