“All great film makers have fashioned classics out of other people’s stories. Apur Sansar thus grew out of situations conceived by the author himself. I, as the interpreter through the film medium, exercised my right to select, modify and arrange. This is a right which every film maker, who aspires to do more than doing a commercial chore – to artistic endeavour, infact-possesses. He may borrow his material, but he must colour it with his own experience of the medium”.
The question may be asked: if these film-makers do not contribute an original story or an idea, what do they contribute? Well, one may just as well ask: What did Shakespeare contribute in Hamlet or Kalidasa in Shakuntala? Or, what was the contribution of the Vaishnava poets, who had only one basic situation to write their verses on – Krishna’s love for Radha?
Reduce the plot of Anna Karenina to its essentials and what are we left with? The staple storyline of a thousand cheap novelettes.”
– Satyajit Ray, in an essay, “Should a film maker be original?”. Published in Filmfare, August 1959. Re-published in his collection of essays: “Deep Focus: Reflections on Cinema”, 2011.
Ray talks majorly about his adaptation of the Apu-trilogy in this short essay. But, the discussion has more general implications though! (IMHO).
As someone who loves reading Ray talking about his own film-making, I am looking forward to read more on the liberties he took in making movies out of popular stories and novels, because like he said: “Books are not written to be filmed.”
Okay, let us not map this excerpt to the scene by scene remakes and sometimes copies of movies in to multiple languages. Its not about that. 🙂