Quick Lit | Seema Chowdhry

Lost in adaptation

It would be easy to dismiss this “lad lit" as an amateurish attempt, yet something about the protagonist Nitin’s vulnerability, as well as “THE" idea through which he brings about the downfall of the man who hurt him, makes you want to find out more. Adapted from the Tamil novel, Neon Nagaram (Neon City), written in 2011 by Shammeer, the plot of You Stole My Song is simplistic and has all the elements of “lad lit": boy-bonding, love story gone awry, a bar, music, cricket, a good-versus-evil fight, and a “papa" complex.

The story starts with Nitin’s sidekick, Govinda, a wastrel whose only ambition in life is to participate in a reality show. Though it is not said in the book, the audition of “Baddies", the reality show that Govinda attends, is based on that of the MTV show Roadies. To get selected, Govinda has to prove to the judges that he is indeed the “king of meanies", and this he manages to do by betraying the confidence of his long-lost and just-found college room-mate Nitin who, in turn, has already been betrayed by a well-known music director and dumped by his lady love.

Nitin and Govinda meet accidentally in a bar and Nitin is not ready to divulge all that has gone wrong with his life. It is only after a lot of prodding that Govinda manages to extract the story. Among a few things that stick out like a sore thumb in the plot is what Nitin is doing in an obscure bar when he has no intention of drinking away his blues. He sips water and stares at his cellphone. Why is Nitin reluctant to share his story with Govinda? The love story, however, is handled deftly and Nitin’s hesitation in approaching the smarter Aditi is realistic, as is his delight that she wants to be more than friends.

Perhaps the reason why the plot seems thin in many places is because the book has been adapted to suit the tastes of a “pan-Indian audience" and is not translated verbatim from Tamil. Since one could not read the original novel, it seemed only fair to speak to Chandru, the adaptor (who works with the author Shammeer at Paadhai, “a creative group that expresses emotions through writing and music in Chennai") and find out what went into turning Neon Nagaram into You Stole My Song.

For one, explains Chandru, the setting moved from Chennai to Mumbai; the medium for the exposé shifted from a radio show to a reality TV show; the protagonist’s father, with whom he shares a good relationship in the original, was replaced by a bartender in a father-figure role; and the plot became more light-hearted. This is where the book also loses out. It is evident that the author-adaptor is not really clued into the nuances that make Mumbai the city it is or the reality TV industry the place it is. As a result, the setting seems forced. Also, where Govinda is supposed to create a light moment in the sob story, he is plain annoying.

For the next adaptation, it might be a good idea not to tamper with the original story too much.

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