From Devdas To Haider: Best Bollywood Films Adapted From Novels

In this article, we will list out our favourite Bollywood films based on novels, and how they seamlessly brought the pages of a book to life on the silver screen.

Entertainment Desk
Written By: Entertainment Desk
Updated: October 21, 2023 | 11:00 IST
SRK and Shahid Kapoor
In this article, we will list out our favourite Bollywood films based on novels.

Bollywood movies enjoy massive fandom! Fans desperately wait for new releases every week, and with the onset of OTT platforms like Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+ Hotstar, and SonyLiv, fans have plenty to choose from and there are unlimited options when it comes to the viewing experience. However, with so many choices out there, only a few movies or shows manage to leave a mark on the audience. 

Over the years, the taste of audiences has kept on evolving with changing times. However, whenever the industry has decided to adapt novels for the big screen, the audience has shown its love. When filmmakers decide to adapt a novel into a movie, sometimes the results are just beautiful. Over the years, Bollywood has shown its love for novels and there have been many movies that have turned out to be absolute gold when it comes to novel adaptations.

For a long period of time, Bollywood has managed to breathe life into timeless classics like Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay's 'Devdas', a tale of tragic love and self-destruction, portrayed with brilliance by actors like Dilip Kumar, Shah Rukh Khan, and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. Chetan Bhagat, who happens to be one of the best-selling Indian authors, has seen several of his novels adapted for the silver screen. 

Films like '3 Idiots' and '2 States' have been based on his novels 'Five Point Someone' and '2 States'. These adaptations not only entertained but also sparked important conversations, regarding the education system and societal taboos. 

Vishal Bharadwaj has had a long-standing love affair with William Shakespeare, and he has adapted several of his novels into movies. Vishal Bharadwaj has so far adapted 'Macbeth', 'Othello', and 'Hamlet'. 

Recently, Sujoy Ghosh also made 'Jaane Jaan' for Netflix, starring Kareena Kapoor Khan, Vijay Varma, and Jaideep Ahlawat. 

'Jaane Jaan' is the official adaptation of the bestselling novel ‘Devotion of Suspect X’ by Keigo Higashino.

In this article, we will list out our favourite Bollywood films based on novels, and how they seamlessly brought the pages of a book to life on the silver screen. 

1. Devdas (2002)

Directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, the movie starred Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Madhuri Dixit and Jackie Shroff in lead roles. The movie is based on the 1917 novel of the same name by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay. The plot of the movie revolves around Devdas Mukherjee (SRK), and how he goes on a path of self-destruction after not being able to marry his childhood friend Parvati, played by Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.  

As per several interviews, Bhansali stated that he was inspired to remake the novel into a film after reading it for a second time. The film had first premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, and it opened to mixed reviews. However, in India, the movie turned out to be a major commercial success and it emerged as the highest-grossing Indian film of the year, At the 48th Filmfare Awards, it also won a record-setting 11 awards, including Best Film, Best Director (Bhansali), Best Actor (SRK), Best Actress (Aishwarya Rai) and Best Supporting Actress (Madhuri Dixit). 'Devdas' was also nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Film Not in the English Language.

2. Maqbool (2004)

Directed by Vishal Bharadwaj, 'Maqbool' is an adaptation of William Shakespeare's 'Macbeth'. The movie is a crime drama film, starring Irrfan, Tabu, Pankaj Kapur, Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Piyush Mishra, Murali Sharma and Masumeh Makhija, is still viewed as one of the best movies to come out of Bollywood. 

The film had first premiered at the 2003 Toronto International Film Festival. The movie did not perform well commercially, however, the critics showed their appreciation. Pankaj Kapur went on to win a Filmfare Award for Best Actor (Critics) and a National Film Award for Best Supporting Actor. The film was also screened in the Marche du Film section of the 2004 Cannes Film Festival.

3. Parineeta (2005)

Directed by debutant Pradeep Sarkar, 'Parineeta' stars Sanjay Dutt, Saif Ali Khan, and Vidya Balan in lead roles. For the unversed, 'Parineeta' was also the debut film of Vidya Balan. The Hindi film is an adaptation of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay's 1914 Bengali novella of the same name. The film's screenplay was written by the film's producer, Vidhu Vinod Chopra. 

The plot of the film revolves around the lead characters, Lalita and Shekhar played by Vidya Balan and Saif Ali Khan. The story takes an unexpected turn after a series of misunderstandings surface and they are separated due to the conniving schemes of Shekhar's father. 

At the 53rd National Film Awards, Parineeta won Best Debut Film of a Director (Sarkar). At the 51st Filmfare Awards, Vidya Balan picked up the win in the Best Female Debut category.

4. Omkara (2006)

Directed by Vishal Bharadwaj, 'Omkara' released in 2006 and the crime drama film was adapted from William Shakespeare's 'Othello'. The movie had an ensemble cast of Ajay Devgn, Kareena Kapoor, Saif Ali Khan, Konkona Sen Sharma, and Vivek Oberoi. The film is set in Meerut and it was the second film in Bhardwaj's trilogy of Shakespeare adaptations, which began with Maqbool (2003). 

The movie is till date Vishal Bharadwaj's most critically acclaimed film, and it received praise for its direction, story, screenplay, and performances of the ensemble cast. 'Omkara' is still viewed as one of the best performances of Saif Ali Khan's career. 'Omkara' was also showcased in the Marche du Film section at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. 

5. 3 Idiots (2009)

Directed by Rajkumar Hirani, the movie starred Aamir Khan, Sharman Joshi, R Madhavan, Kareena Kapoor, Boman Irani, and Mona Singh in leading roles. The movie was loosely adapted from Chetan Bhagat's 'Five Point Someone'. The plot of the film revolved around the friendship shared by three students (Aamir, Madhavan and Sharman Joshi) at an engineering college, and the film is also a satire on the pressure created on students by the Indian education system. 

The movie is still viewed as one of the best to come out of Indian cinema, and it also won 3 National Awards. The film was later remade in Tamil as Nanban (2012). A Mexican remake, '3 Idiotas', was also released in 2017.

6. Haider (2014)

Directed by Vishal Bharadwaj, 'Haider' stars Shahid Kapoor, Tabu, Kay Kay Menon, Shraddha Kapoor and Irrfan Khan in lead roles. The movie is a modern-day adaptation of William Shakespeare's 'Hamlet'. The movie was set in Kashmir and the plot revolves around Shahid Kapoor's character, and how his life changes after he returns to Kashmir at the peak of a particular conflict to seek answers about his father's disappearance. 

'Haider' is the first Indian film to win People's Choice Award at the Rome Film Festival. The film also won 5 National Awards. 

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Over the years, Bollywood's ability to transform novels into cinematic spectacle, has highlighted the industry's creative brilliance and the respect it has for literary works. These adaptations end up paying homage to the original works but also breathe new life into them. We can just hope that the trend continues. With these novel adaptations on the big screen, one can hope to see the readers and cinephiles being united to enjoy their shared love for storytelling.

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