Written for the screen
Deepika Gurdev

IT used to be said that writing and architecture are the main carriers of culture and civilisation. Now that books are being put on celluloid, one can safely add movies to the list.

Take a look at some recent and upcoming blockbusters: The Harry Potter series, Da Vinci Code, Memoirs of A Geisha, Brokeback Mountain and The Legend of Narnia—the list goes on. Closer home, Chetan Bhagat will soon don the hat of a script-writer for the movie version of his own best-seller, One Night @ the Call Centre. Q & A by diplomat turned author, Vikas Swarup, had the industry buzzing not just about the book rights but also the movie rights.

The world of movies is so in thrall of what’s been written, about to be written or going to be written that often book rights are snapped up even before the book gets off the press. Good news for authors and book sellers, since books invariably see a revival in sales as soon as the movie is out.

Are we then soon likely to see more books that will resemble movie scripts or the stuff that I detest (movie scripts that get re-hashed and sold as books)? As I explored more of these bookish celluloid thoughts, I came across this brilliant letter posted on the literary website (http://nthposition.com/blasphemyinnarnia.php). Here was my hero, author C.S. Lewis, immortalising his views on what he thought of a live action version of the classic children’s Narnia books.

"Anthropomorphic animals, when taken out of narrative into actual visibility, always turn into buffoonery or nightmare—at least with photography." That is something he was absolutely opposed to. In another note, he suggested he could possibly consider a cartoon version, but would have definitely flipped had he seen the film version complete with its computer-generated God-like Lion Aslan.

Despite those apparent differences on how the author felt about his work, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, has already risen steadily in the box office charts. That’s not all, sales have also made this Christmas season truly merry for booksellers.

As it happens, a movie revives book sales, though one can argue C. S. Lewis was never out of fashion. The rush to buy the box-set of the Chronicles or even the re-packaged film-cover book had the cash registers ringing.

In the case of the Chronicles, the treatment has been as good as one would expect from Disney. If you’ve read and seen The Bridges of Madison Country or even Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair or Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient, you’ll know how the stuff in the movies can be so different from the characters or themes of the books.

While some may enjoy that journey, for me, spending two or three hours inside the cinema house is never enough. I like to snuggle up to my books, hide in my little corner, end up looking and feeling like a Hobbit or travel through Turkey and the Snow. Now, that’s what great books can do to you, something movies just can’t. Call me a purist, but give me a book any day.