Anil Dhirubhai Ambani's Reliance Entertainment has recently announced the acquisition of the media rights to Vineet Bajpai's Harappa Trilogy.
"I have just delivered twins and I am in the hospital. I am reading your book and it is helping me forget the pain; the book takes me to another world and gives me the strength to endure this." This was written to author Vineet Bajpai, founder of Magnon eg+ who says that it is just one e-mail among the thousands he received after the release of his Harappa trilogy.
Anil Dhirubhai Ambani's Reliance Entertainment recently announced the acquisition of the media rights to the Harappa Trilogy.
"While I cannot reveal the value of the deal with gratification, what I can share is that the Harappa deal is one to the biggest book-to-screen transactions ever, in India," Bajpai shares. It has only been a week since Reliance made the announcement and reports are already suggesting a Rs 200 crore budget that has been earmarked to film a movie on Harappa. Other reports suggest that Reliance is planning to make a multi-season web-series for premier OTT platforms. "The output, whether it is two films like Bahubali or a multi-season web-series, will perhaps, be the biggest scale anyone from the advertising space has touched before," says Bajpai.
The best-selling Indian author released the first edition of the trilogy - 'Harappa: The Lure of Soma' in Mid 2017 followed by 'Pralay: The Great Deluge' in early 2018 and 'Kashi: Secret of The Black Temple' in September 2018. Before the trilogy, he wrote three books - 'Build from Scratch' in 2004, 'The Street to The Highway' in 2016 and the business-cum motivational book 'The 30 Something CEO'.
"There is one thing where a book becomes popular. There is another where the book starts finding a cult following and that is what has happened with Harappa. I have been invited to almost all the literature festivals of the country and everybody is quite stunned that within 18 months, a franchise became so popular and achieved such massive sales," Bajpai asserts.
More than 2 lakh copies of the trilogy have been sold so far and the books have managed to cut through all age groups.
Bajpai recollects reading a student's email where she was complaining that her mother took the books away from her as she was unable to take her eyes away from them. There were snaps of people taking the books to temple and worshipping them while some of them were kept with other gods and goddesses in their homes. Readers also shared their expectation of the trilogy being made into a film. "The readers' reaction told us that the movie move ought to happen. We did not pitch the trilogy to anyone, but three of the biggest production houses in India's media and entertainment space approached us and we felt Reliance is the best partner for various reasons," Bajpai adds.
From Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay's 'Devdas', the book which has been made into a film in different languages by different directors to the recent release 'The Accidental Prime Minister', based on Sanjay Baru's book 'The Accidental Prime Minister: The Making and Unmaking of Manmohan Singh', India has seen a number of book-to-screen adaptations. But, be it the Chetan Bhagat books that were made into films, Hussein Zahidi's 'Black Friday' which went on screen with the same name or Harinder Sikka's 'Calling Sehmat' (filmed as 'Raazi'), the book-to-screen journey was limited to films only. Because of the certification and censorship involved, just a few, particular types of books found a cinematic projection.
With the emergence of the digital medium and large digital video platforms in India, the dynamics have changed. Balaji Telefilms' digital video on demand platform - ALTBalaji made an episodic series - 'Bose: Dead/Alive' based on Anuj Dhar's novel 'India's biggest cover-up'. Actress Vidya Balan bought the media rights of Sagarika Ghose's book 'Indira - India's most powerful Prime Minister' and actor/producer Shah Rukh Khan is producing an eight-part-series for Netflix based on Bilal Siddiqi's book 'The bard of blood'.
Last year Netflix released 'Sacred Games' based on Vikram Chandra's book with the same title. While famous Indian filmmakers directed the series - Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane - Netflix roped in Chandra as a consultant, often seen in the writers-room which had National Award Winner writer Varun Grover, Smita Singh and Vasant Nath working on the screenplay.
Bajpai too will work closely with the makers when the project kicks off. "The leadership at Reliance is cognizant of the fact that I am not just an author but also an advertising leader who spent two decades in the advertising industry. So I don't just write books, I also have the experience of building brands, target marketing and the entire creative process. From budget to casting to the number of episodes the web-series needs, I will be working closely with Reliance Entertainment throughout the process," says Bajpai.
Bajpai is upbeat about the book-to-screen adaptation and believes that the trilogy has everything necessary for a blockbuster. "Is it a historical thriller - yes, does it have mythology - yes, fantasy - yes, modern day crime - yes, elements of romance - yes, action - yes, conspiracies - yes. A lot of the people have compared the trilogy to Lord of the rings; Times of India called it India's answer to George R R Martin's Game of Thrones," he shares.
"I hope with the Harappa trilogy a whole new spectacular standard will be set because we are expecting that with this trilogy, we should be able to produce something which is comparable to Game of Thrones," Bajpai concludes.