January 28, 2023


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10 Movies made on books written in Indian regional languages

7 min read


(As the editor’s pick for this week, this article will be available for free reading till a week)

“Books and movies are like apples and oranges. They both are fruit, but taste completely different.”

Stephen King

If you were to ask a book lover to choose between a book and a movie adaption of the same, they are bound to pick the book. And, you might even end up getting a few reasons why the movie was terrible. The debate between what was better the movie or the book is eternal and never-ending. However, that doesn’t take away the fact that there are some amazing movies made based on books. At the cost of sounding unlike a book lover, it needs to be added here some were even better than the books.

Time and again Hollywood has made awe-inspiring movies based on books setting the bar high for movie adaptations. Internationally it has been observed that once a movie is made on a book, the sales of the book automatically start soaring as there is a lot of interest generated on the plot. On the other hand, a lesser-known fact is that a decent number of movies have been inspired by books written in Indian regional languages, some even winning awards for the screenplay and story. Considered to be cult classics, these movies in today’s times are a study in itself for any ardent cinema buff. 

So today, we are sharing a carefully curated list of 10 such movies which were based on books written in Indian regional languages:

1. Balika Badhu (1976)

Balika Badhu is a Bengali novel written by Sahitya Academy Award-winning writer Bimal Kar.

It is the story of a time when child marriages were very common in India. Balika Badhu which loosely translated means the child-bride. The story revolves around the two primary characters who are married off as teenagers and are beginning to understand the implications of marriage and its responsibilities. At the same time, the country is undergoing a major upheaval in terms of the freedom struggle. The personal and social struggles of a young mind at that time in India are highlighted beautifully through this story.

A movie of the same name was made by famous director Shakti Samanta starring Sachin and Rajni Sharma. It went on bag many nominations in Filmfare awards that year and won a few too. 

2. Choker Bali (2003)

Based on a famous Bengali novel of the same name by Rabindranath Tagore, this movie starring Aishwarya Rai and Raima Sen was directed by Rituparno Ghosh. It won the National Award for the Best Film in Bengali that year followed by a lot of international nominations. 

This is the story of Binodini a young widow and talks about the manner in which widows were discriminated against during those times. Having lost all her support, she starts staying at an old woman’s house place who is kind enough to offer her shelter at such trying times. Later she realises her son, Mahendra had refused to marry her when they were looking for alliances. But now, Binodini and Mahendra experience a strong attraction towards each other. The only problem is, Mahendra is now married. The rest of the story is about the chaos that follows this attraction.

3. Devdas (2002)

This is one book that has seen many adaptations. From movie adaptations to TV and theatrical adaptations, it is very renowned and has many versions too. Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s Bengali novel Devdas (1917) was the inspiration for both the movies titled Devdas starring Dilip Kumar and Shahrukh Khan respectively.  

The story revolves around Dev and Paro, two childhood sweethearts and neighbours who are separated due to a twist of fate. Paro is married off immediately to a rich landlord and Dev is unable to accept this. He takes to drinking and starts visiting nautch girls where he meets Chandramukhi, who takes an instant liking for him. Though married off in a wealthy family, Paro does not have a happy marriage as her challenges are manifold there. Amidst her struggles, she comes to know about Dev’s alcohol addiction and how he has now left his home too permanently. She manages to track him down to Chandramukhi’s place where Dev has made his new home. While Paro wants to make sure Dev is well taken care of and is in safe hands, Dev is no longer in a position to process the happenings around him due to his heavily intoxicated state of mind. The story ends on a sad note as Dev dies a lonely death under a tree, due to liver cirrhosis pining for Paro but to no avail.

The movie made in 2002 by critically acclaimed director Sanjay Leela Bhansali won 5 national awards, the Filmfare award for the best film along with other 10 Filmfare awards in various categories. 

4. Pinjar (2003)

Inspired by a Punjabi novel written by Amrita Pritam, this movie depicts a poignant love story with Partition as the backdrop. With a stellar star cast, this movie was critically acclaimed for its brilliant performances. 

It is a moving story which captures the Hindu-Muslim violence that happened due to Partition and how women were kidnapped, raped or forced into marriages just to save themselves. It is about one such woman, who was forced into marriage and now finds herself in a country which looks completely alien after new borders have been drawn.

5. Saraswatichandra (1968)

Based on a Gujarati Novel of the same name by Govardhanram Madhavram Tripathi, the film is set in19th century feudalism in India. It went on to win the National Film Award in both Cinematography and Music Director Categories that year.

6. Sahib, Biwi aur Ghulam(1962)

Saheb Bibi Aur Ghulam a movie that created history is based on a Bengali novel by Bimal Mitra.  Till date, it is considered to be one of the ‘must-watch’ Bollywood Films for its sheer brilliant screenplay.

It gives us a glimpse of the haveli raj and feudalism prevalent in Bengal during the British raj through the story of a zamindar, his unhappy marriage, his wife who kept pining for his attention and his mistress.

The film was a success both commercially and critically, going on to win 4 Filmfare awards and was also chosen as India’s official entry to Oscars that year. 

7. Rajnigandha (1974)

This Basu Chatterjee directorial is based on a short story “Yahi Sach hai” written by noted Hindi writer Manu Bhandari. The story revolves around Deepa who is into a relationship with Arun who is a happy-go-lucky guy. On a chanced trip to Mumbai (then Bombay) she bumps into her ex-boyfriend and is suddenly attracted to him all over again. Only to realise how wrong she was all this while in her definition of love.

This heartwarming movie with its beautiful take on the complexity of relationships went on to sweep the Filmfare awards in 1975 by winning the Best Picture in both the Popular and the Critics award.

8. Paheli (2005)

Not many know that this Amol Palekar directorial is actually based on a short story called Duvidha written in Rajasthani by Padma Shri Vijayadan Detha. 

The story revolves around a ghost who falls in love with a living human being and the chaos that follows.

9. Shatranj Ke Khiladi (1977)

Master storyteller Premchand’s poignant short story Shatranj Ke Khiladi written in 1924 was adapted on screen by Satyajit Ray.

As the name suggests, the movie revolves around the game of chess and its players. It is a tale of how obsession over a game of chess made kingdoms collapse.

With a stellar star cast that had actors like Shabana Azmi, Sanjeev Kumar and Amjad Khan donning the pivotal roles, this movie is powerful portrayal of how far can one go for their obsession. 

10. Pather Panchali (1955)

Pather Panchali, both the movie and the book are considered to be masterpieces.

The story is of a young boy Apu and his life in a small village in India. The trials and tribulations of being born in a poor family and the constant struggle for survival is beautifully depicted here.

Pather Panchali the novel was written in Bengali by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay in 1929 and made into a movie by Satyajit Ray. It not only won the National Award for Best Feature film that year but also holds a place in one of the greatest films ever made till date. It is a part of his Apu Trilogy which consists of 3 movies – Pather Panchali, Parajito and The World of Apu – all critically acclaimed and appreciated.

Spot any favourites? What’s your score from this list?