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  • Writer's pictureDavid Morris

INSIGHTS: Indian Film: Christie Adaptations - Past & Future

This month, Agatha Christie Limited has confirmed that Indian filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj will develop a series of big screen films for Indian audiences based on the works of Agatha Christie. With the the still pending Kenneth Branagh Death on the Nile and the potential he may create additional English language films, a large swath of the global population will continue to be able to experience Christie on the big screen. Given this announcement, it seemed appropriate to also revisit prior films from India based on Christie's works. For those who tirelessly look for something 'new-to-them' to watch, hopefully the following will inspire you to find something different.

The Past:

Films made for the Indian cinema inspired by Christie's works can be found, with some effort, around the world. However, not all have subtitles so English speakers will likely enjoy the more recent films which have a more modern production value and subtitles. Below is a chronological list from oldest to newest though this is unlikely a comprehensive list:

Chupi Chupi Aashey (1960)

This Bengali language film, whose title translates as "Comes Quietly" is based on Agatha's short story Three Blind Mice and the stage play The Mousetrap. Filmed in black and white, it is unclear if there is a subtitled version or where most viewers can see this film. However, episodic installments are available on YouTube in most regions.

Gumnaam (1965)

This Bollywood movie, whose title translates as "anonymous", was reportedly one of the most successful movies of that year. The film narrates the tale of seven strangers, who get stranded on a mansion, and is based on And Then There Were None. The film can be found in full on YouTube and other streaming channels. A DVD region free version is available with subtitles. Seeing a Christie film with Bollywood dance scenes in it is always an unusual treat.

Dhund (1973)

This Hindi film, whose title translates as "fog", is based on Christie's play The Unexpected Guest in which a traveller decides to assist a woman with a murder. The film was reportedly very successful at the box office. It can be viewed in most countries on Amazon with subtitles, and a DVD is available.

Tarka (1989)

Filmed in the Indian language Kannada (southwestern India), Tarka is a remake of Dhund, and is also based on Christie's The Unexpected Guest. It's titles translates as 'logic'. It is a more traditional film, without any Bollywood style scenes. It can be found on less well known streaming channels or can be acquired on video CD in Kannada, but it is unclear if a subtitled version is available.

Puriyaadha Pudhir (1990)

Another remake of Dhund / Tarka, and thus The Unexpected Guest, but this film is in Tamil. It's title translates as 'mystifying puzzle'. It was not a great success at the box office. It can be located on YouTube in most regions and can be found on video CD though it is unclear if a subtitled version exists.

Aar Ya Paar (1997)

A Bollywood style film in Hindi inspired by several books, but specifically Christie's Endless Night. It's title translates as 'Now or Never'. The film can be found in full on YouTube in most regions, but without subtitles. DVDs are readily available that offer subtitles in multi-region format.

Shubho Mahurat (2003)

This Bengali film is based on Christie's The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side. It's title translates as "Good Luck". This film won two National Film Awards including Best Feature Film in Bengali and Best Supporting Actress. Outside of India, the film is a little harder to find. Though it can be found around the world on less mainstream streaming channels or by purchasing the DVD (which may require you to own a multi-zone player).

Grandmaster (2012)

This Malayalam-language film is based on Christie's The A.B.C. Murders. This film won a Best Actor award for Mohanlal at the Asianet Film awards. Outside of India, it is quite accessible and can generally be found on Netflix or by purchasing a DVD/BluRay (not to be confused with “The Grandmaster”).

Chorabali (2016).

This Bengali film is based on Agatha Christie's Cards on the Table. It's title translates as "Quicksand". Outside of India it is also fairly accessible. It can often be found on Amazon’s streaming platform or by purchasing a DVD/BluRay.

For any fan of Christie's works adapted for the screen big or small, Mark Aldridge’s book Agatha Christie on Screen is a must. It is extremely comprehensive and a worthy addition to any fan's library of Christie related resources.

The Future:

The new India-based franchise series authorized by Agatha Christie Limited will feature an entirely new pair of lead investigators, not Poirot, Miss Marple or Tommy & Tuppence. The genesis for the project occurred while the filmaker, Vishal Bhardwaj, was stuck in his Mussoorie home during the coronavirus pandemic. His love for murder mysteries, especially Alfred Hitchcock and Agatha Christie, prompted him to pursue the rights to make a film based on one of Christie's novels and initially is considering one that could be shot in a single location because of filming restrictions. From this inspiration he went a step further to gain the rights to a multi-film franchise.

Bhardwaj said “…I love Agatha Christie. India has a huge fan base of hers. And people of our generation, those who did not grow up with mobile phones and social media – you know we lived on novels! Summer vacation, libraries… those memories, wishing that the book never ends!”

The first film is currently in development and is due to shoot in early 2021. The only details released relate to the ‘detectives’. The film will introduce a young heroine who is thrown into solving a murder, and teams up with an unlikely companion to solve the case. Details of which Christie novel is being adapted for the film have not been revealed yet. The cast is currently being finalized.

Future films will follow the duo as they continue to investigate multiple murder mysteries. While rights to a franchise have been granted by Agatha Christie Limited, the specific novels up for adaptation are unknown.

Bhardwaj is best known internationally for his acclaimed Shakespeare trilogy “Magbool,” (Macbeth) “Omkara” (Othello) and “Haider” (Hamlet). Because of his popularity and prior success, there is great anticipation building for this new film franchise.

“Agatha Christie had a tremendous skill of defining emotional chaos, dysfunctional relationships and the turmoil in her characters while engaging us in a riveting mystery,” said Bhardwaj. “It is an honor to create an Indian franchise of a pair of young investigators looking to take over the world with their intelligence and charm. ACL have been such amazing partners and we are all excited to be on this journey.”

Mathew Prichard, grandson of Agatha Christie and CEO of Agatha Christie Limited said he is looking forward to Bhardwaj’s take on his grandmother’s writings. “I’m truly excited at the prospect of developing a new Agatha Christie film franchise in India, and am delighted to be partnering with Vishal, who is a multitalented and visionary filmmaker with a terrific track record for adapting works to create memorable pieces of cinema. (Bhardwaj) has also demonstrated a real passion and understanding of my great grandmother’s characters and stories and I very much look forward to seeing where this project takes us.”

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