Mess with the classics at your own peril. Any filmmaker taking liberties with his source material while adapting it for film is bound to incur the wrath of diehard fans, as we’ve seen time and time again In 2014, Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, based on the Book of Genesis, invented new characters such as CGI rock giants to tell the Biblical story of the great flood and was banned in several Middle Eastern countries for its efforts. Closer home, Ram Gopal Varma’s Aag, his much-reviled sequel to Sholay (1975), was a critical and commercial failure, with Total Film even including it in their list of the 66 worst films of all time. In a recent interview with Film Companion, director Srijit Mukherji, who helmed two of the short films in Netflix anthology Ray, said that since Bengalis are naturally protective of Satyajit Ray, they were bound to get angry at him for interpreting the writer’s stories in his own way.
Here are 5 films that deviated from their source and met with frosty receptions:
1. Settai (2013)
When a Tamil remake of Delhi Belly (2011) was announced with Arya, Santhanam, and Premji Amaren, audiences thought Tamil comedy would finally grow up and move beyond one-liners. But the makers took out the original’s rude and offensive jokes so the remake could be more ‘family friendly’, a shame because no family would watch something based on Delhi Belly anyway. Those who showed up for the wicked jokes had to be content with a bit of stale, scatalogical humor, nothing to match the edginess of what defined the original. “Seeing a ‘family friendly’ version of Delhi Belly feels like watching a plot-only adaptation of an opera, after someone threw out all the music on the assumption that our audiences don’t understand Italian and don’t care for full-throated melodic lines that are suspended in air for far too long,” wrote critic Baradwaj Rangan.
2. Dev D (2009)
Anurag Kashyap’s modern-day reworking of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s classic Bengali novel reimagined the setting as Punjab and wove in elements of the 2004 Delhi Public school MMS scandal. While the film opened to critical acclaim, it also received criticism from novelists, who felt that the director should not have taken liberties with the source material. Writer Mamta Kalia said, “Thank God Saratchandra is not alive otherwise he would’ve cried after seeing what has been done to his novel.” Historian Priyamvad said Kashyap did not have the right to change the setting and period of the story, saying, “No filmmaker or film writer has the right to change the period or location of a story from what is in the novel. I don’t allow anyone to do it and it should not be allowed.”
3. The Hobbit Trilogy
Peter Jackon’s take on JRR Tolkien’s 1937 novel, The Hobbit, is widely considered one of the least faithful adaptations of all time, turning a lighthearted children’s fantasy adventure into an action-packed war trilogy. Despite being one of the highest-grossing franchises of all time, fans criticized the forced and underdeveloped romantic subplots, poorly rendered CGI, the extensive padding required to stretch a 310-page novel into a full trilogy, awkward callbacks to the Lord of the Rings films and baffling characterization of characters such as Bilbo Baggins (a naive hobbit turned into a daring action hero) and Smaug (a cunning dragon turned into an incompetent beast).
4. Osthe (2011)
In Osthe, Simbu tried to unsuccessfully recreate Salman Khan‘s amoral swagger as Chulbul Pandey from Dabangg (2010). But audiences were quick to complain about how he played ‘Osthe’ Velan flatly, devoid of the original character’s quirk. What should have been an action film set around a swashbuckling hero, instead played out as a tame, talky film set around a generic Tamil masala hero. “Truth is, there’s absolutely nothing new. Osthe lacks the panache and quirkiness that made its original work,” wrote critic Pavithra Srinivasan.
5. The Shining (1980)
Though Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 adaptation of Stephen King’s novel The Shining was a critical success, it’s had one major detractor over the years — King himself. “I think The Shining is a beautiful film and it looks terrific, it’s like a big, beautiful Cadillac with no engine inside it,” said the author. His major grouse was that while the protagonist, Jack Torrance, is a good man who eventually loses his sanity in the novel, Torrance in the film is abusive from the beginning, which negates any possibility of an arc. He also called the film misogynistic and insulting to women, saying, “Shelley Duvall as Wendy (Jack’s wife) is really one of the most misogynistic characters ever put on film. She’s basically just there to scream and be stupid, and that’s not the woman that I wrote about.” King hated the film so much that he made a much more faithful adaptation, a three-episode miniseries, in 1997.