Since 2006, World Hindi Day has been celebrated annually on January 10 to promote the language on the global stage. Hindi cinema has however since time immemorial inculcated the love for Hindi across the world. From Russian fans singing ‘Mera Joota Hai Japani’ and ‘I am a Disco Dancer’ to Shahrukh Khan’s German fans mouthing the dialogues from ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge’ to Tanzanian siblings and TikTok creators Kili Paul and his sister Neema wowing the world by lip-syncing Hindi film songs, the power of cinema has helped Hindi transcend all boundaries.
Veteran producer Anand Pandit agrees and says, “Hindi cinema has immense soft power and its reach continues to increase with time. When I travel abroad, so many people I meet share their favourite dialogues or one-liners from their favourite films and recall songs they have grown up with. Cinema also has a great literary heritage. Some of the best writers in the subcontinent have contributed to our films.”
Here are some of his favourite literary adaptations in cinema:
Chehre: This film is of course Pandit’s personal favourite and he says, “I produced this film as I was drawn not just to its theme but its writing. Director Rumi Jaffrey adapted the story by Ranjit Kapoor so well for the big screen and the dialogues had so much power. When delivered in Bachchan Saab’s baritone, the dialogues reminded me of the golden era of film writing when each line was cheered in theatres by the audience!”
Devdas: The 1955 version, says Pandit is his favourite adaptation of the Sharat Chandra classic. He says, “The dialogues in the film were written by Rajinder Singh Bedi who was truly a literary icon. There is such depth and meaning in the simplest of lines. The language reflects such diversity of influences just like India and has such pathos. This was one of the most perfect adaptations of a very well-loved book. Bimal Roy’s direction and the performance of Dilip Saab, Suchitra Sen and Vyjayanthimala turned this film into an instant classic.”
Shatranj Ke Khiladi: This Satyajit Ray film was based on Munshi Premchand’s short story of the same name and had a formidable cast. Pandit recalls, “The film was perfectly adapted into a great film by Ray himself along with writers Shama Zaidi and Javed Siddiqi. Add to that the performances of Amjad Khan, Richard Attenborough, Sanjeev Kumar, Saeed Jaffrey, Shabana Azmi, and Farooque Shaikh and the voice of the one and only Amitabh Bachchan as the narrator and history was made!”
Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam: Pandit believes among the greatest director and writer collaborations was the one shared by Guru Dutt and Abrar Alvi. He says, “Such was their synergy that people could not believe that Alvi Saab and not Guru Dutt had directed this film! What a masterpiece this turned out to be anyway and how well it adapted Bimal Mitra’s Bengali novel ‘Saheb Bibi Golam’ into cinematic perfection. The performance of Meena Kumari was of course beyond brilliant!”
Maqbool: Shakespeare was interpreted best in this 2004 classic, believes Pandit and says, “Macbeth came alive in its Indian version so powerfully and all credit should go to Vishal Bhardwaj, the late Irrfan, Tabu and Pankaj Kapur. What an interesting take on a classic Jacobean tragedy and such great performances.”