Bollywood looks to TV for ideas

Film adaptations of series yield mixed bag

LONDON — In Hollywood, TV series offer easy pickings for studios looking to develop known property for the bigscreen. But in India, filmmakers are just starting to harvest the riches of TV — with mixed success.

Actor-turned-director Anant Mahadevan is adapting a feature version of his ’90s culture-clash comedy “Ghar jamai,” which aired on pubcaster Doordarshan, with its second season on Zee TV. Show was about a young married man, played by Bollywood star R. Madhavan, living with his wife’s family — a social stigma in India.

Mahadevan says the film will not be just a bigscreen version of the TV show, and will feature plots and actors largely different from the series, although Madhavan will reprise his role. A spring shoot in Canada and India is planned.

Last year writer-director Aatish Kapadia made a bigscreen version of his successful 2002 sitcom “Khichdi,” about a large family living in a crumbling mansion, after series producer Jamnadas Majethia sold the idea to Fox Star Studios India.

The series, produced by UTV and Hats Off Prods., ran for 98 episodes over several seasons on News Corp.-owned Star Plus channel.

The TV characters reprised their roles for “Khichdi: The Movie,” which was a box office success. Budgeted at 20 million rupees ($422,000), it grossed $1.6 million.

“We saw the opportunity (to bring) Hollywood practices to India,” says Vijay Singh, chief exec of Fox Star Studios India. “Popular and successful television shows like ‘The Simpsons,’ ‘Mission: Impossible’ and ‘Sex and the City’ get made into films regularly. This was an opportunity for the first time in India that a television series could be migrated onto the cinema platform.”

But shifting a property from the smallscreen to the silver screen, as in Hollywood, can be tricky and nothing guarantees success.

Another immensely popular sitcom, “Office Office,” a satire on Indian bureaucracy that began airing on SAB TV in 2001, was made into a feature by producer Eagle Films this year. “Chala mussaddi Office Office” underperformed at the box office.

Producer-director Rajiv Mehra says older auds liked the film, but younger ones didn’t.

“I think we tried too hard to stay true to our subject and did not cater to the wider audience,” he says.

But that hasn’t deterred other filmmakers — a feature version of AB Corp.’s 1993 sitcom “Dekh bhai dekh” is being planned.

Singh and Mehra hope to produce more movie adaptations of hit shows but both feel the Indian market isn’t quite ready yet.

“Audiences clearly differentiate between television content and film content, and (that) content has to be rewritten to suit the idiom of cinema,” says Singh, who adds that the boom in film sequels also is slowing the opportunities for smallscreen-to-bigscreen fare.

Mehra, too, sees a gap between film and TV auds. “Our television shows have the maximum viewership from housewives and the older generation, and cater to the 35-60 age group, whereas the cinemagoing audience is in the 17-30 age group,” he says.

“I think it may not be out of line to say that our cinema today is more evolved than television programming. There was a time in the ’80s when television was offering good and progressive content and cinema was stuck with formula. I think the roles have reversed.”