Bollywood bows classic adaptations

Indian industry takes a lesson in literature

MUMBAI — Bollywood has learned a lesson from the complaints about its unlicensed remakes and is looking to source material that cannot complain — classic literature.

While Shakespeare figures prominently with “Othello” and “Hamlet” adaptations in the pipeline, remakes of Daphne du Maurier’s “Rebecca” and Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita” aren’t far behind.

Vishal Bhardwaj-helmed “Othello” adaptation “Omkara” will screen in the Cannes market in May. The $4.4 million pic, produced by Big Screen Entertainers, is slated for an August release.

Pic will be distribbed in India by the producers and elsewhere by Eros Intl., which also will market the music outside India.

This is Bhardwaj’s second attempt at Shakespeare. He also directed the 2004 “Macbeth” adaptation “Maqbool,” which was critically acclaimed but not commercially successful.

Bhardwaj explains the choice of “Othello” saying, “I was introduced to Shakespeare very late in life while researching for my debut film ‘Makdee.’ I found Shakespeare’s stories very humane and timeless .”

Helmer Onir who is planning a modern “Hamlet” set in Sikkim state, is still working on the script and expects to start shooting later this year.

Ananth Mahadevan is working on his “Rebecca” interpretation, which is expected to start shooting in late July for an early 2007 release. Pic is budgeted close to $1.6 million, per Mahadevan.

Meanwhile, Ram Gopal Varma and Shashilal Nair will both try their hands at the “Lolita” story.

Varma, whose film will have Amitabh Bachchan playing the older lover, clarifies that the film is not a straight “Lolita” adaptation but just a love story between an older man and girl.

Nair explored a romance between an older woman and boy in his previous “Ek chhoti si Love Story” (A Small Love Story) and now says he wants try the story in reverse.

Nair’s $1.3 million “Lolita” is skedded for an August release. He is undaunted by that fact that his film, aimed at the urban audience, might raise the shackles of feminist groups. In a country where village girls as young as 13 are married off to men as old as their fathers for a considerable dowry, the subject isn’t taboo.

Bollywood’s love affair with English literature is not a recent phenomenon.

Previous adaptations include “Angoor” (Grapes, 1982), the successful adaptation of the “Comedy of Errors”; “Bees saal baad,” Biren Nag’s 1962 adaptation of “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” in which actress Waheeda Rehman played the hound; and myriad versions of “Pride and Prejudice,” “The Count of Monte Cristo,” “Wuthering Heights” and “Jane Eyre.”