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A few weeks ago, Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah completed 1,000 episodes. While this once again established the show's popularity, it also brought back to focus columnist Taarak Mehta and his column Duniya Ne Oondha Chashmah, written by him for a Gujarati weekly magazine Chitralekha since 1973. A column on social issues, it was picked up by producer Asit Kumar Modi owing to its strong content and relevance today. "While most family-oriented soaps resemble Bollywood feature films of the '70s and '80s, a daily comedy has to have original stories and screenplays," says Modi.
Apart from Taarak Mehta, there have been several shows in the recent past that have borrowed from various forms of literature. Gora, a new show on Doordarshan, is an adaptation of Rabindranath Tagore's novel of the same name. Another show on SAB, Lapataganj, is inspired by the writings of eminent Hindi satirist Sharad Joshi. JD Majethia, known for shows such as Khichdi, Shree and Baa and RK Laxman Ki Duniya, has bought the rights of Gujarati novel Ek Meethi Daal and is working on its screenplay right now. Sanjay Leela Bhansali's upcoming magnum opus Saraswatichandra is based on Govardhan Tripati's novel of the same name.
For most writers, adapting a novel is easy because it already has the characters well etched out. Gargi Sen, the producer of Gora, says, "I initially wanted to make the novel into a film. While I was researching for it, I realised that Tagore had, in fact, written it episodically in 24 parts. Hence, our job was made easy. All we did was add a bit of nuances, and made it into 26 episodes."
However, the trend of adapting literary works to the small screen is age-old. The two most prominent instances — Ramayana and Mahabharata — were adapted for television by