When 1 in 5,000 books gets made into movies….

Next Friday, the movie 2 States, which is based on Chetan Bhagat’s bestselling novel, will hit the theaters in India and rest of the world. And that has lad to few news articles and blog posts that talk about the phenomenon of movies that are based on books. I read somewhere that film rights for books is the Holy Grail for authors. I call it scaling the Everest of bookwriting. The reason is as follows: since 2004, only about 1 in 5,000 fiction books that have been published in India has been made into movies. In other words, only a handful of authors have scaled this ‘summit’.

As I began my research to arrive at the above figure, I read several blog posts, looked up on IMDB and news articles. In particular, this blog post and this one were quite informative.  Wikipedia also has a list of Indian movies that are based on books.  I think some of the information needs to be updated, which I plan to do shortly. It appears that less than 20 films released between 2004 and 2013 were based on books, if one excludes the books for which films rights were purchased, or moves that are under production.

Next, I looked at the market for book publishing in India. The table below shows that between 90,000 and 100,000 titles or books are published in India every year. This includes fiction and nonfiction titles in English, Hindi, and regional languages such as Marathi, Bengali, Tamil, and others.

Books Published in India

*I have assumed that these numbers are for 2012 because the publication does not specify the year.

Nobody has so far made a movie on “How to lose 10 pounds in 30 days”; or “How to prepare for the Civil Services Exam.” In other words, one needs to exclude nonfiction other than biographies and books based on historical events. I came across some reports that nearly 10,000 biographies or fiction books are published in India every year. Based on these figures, one can say that about 1 in 5,000 fiction books published in India every year is made into films.

You may ask why do I like to convert everything into numbers and ratios? I think that is a good way to keep oneself grounded. Simply put, I may have to write 5,000 fiction novels if I ever hope of seeing my novel ever made into a movie in India. That is, unless I am one of the writers whose multiple books have been made into movies: Shakespeare, Sharatchandra Chattopadhyay, Munshi Premchand, and more recently, Chetan Bhagat. It is noteworthy that 3 movies (and counting) that have released in the past decade are based on Chetan Bhagat’s books. Statistically speaking, this should not have happened, but it did!

Note that I have written this post not to promote 2 states, but because this book has a special place in my heart. During our courtship period some years ago, my wife had recommended that I should read this book. After all, we were going to spend the first year of our married life in IIM Ahmedabad. The flip side is that according to my wife, it was the only time that I ever followed her recommendation. Now that is a story for another post. Or several posts.

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