This is only a list on Indian films based on literary works from writers from all around the world or on the lives and writings of Indian authors. I have only included the films that I’ve watched and liked as well as a few that I’d love to watch. There are many more, but I’ve skipped really mainstream films, so you will not find here any Bollywood stuff apart from some of its Golden Ages, the 1950’s. Suggestions are welcome.
For more films based on literature check Encyclopaedia of Hindi Cinema (Ed. Gulzar, Govind Nihalani, Saibal Chatterjee) and Encyclopaedia of Indian Cinema (Ashish Rajadhyaksha & Paul Willemen). Also see the invaluable information given by Chasingbutterflies and Madhuranjan below on the posts.
In the future I’ll try to find time to write a small article on Indian cinema and literature. But for the moment, this is it…
Films not in the database (yet):
1) GHASIRAM KOTWAL (Mani Kaul, 1976) based on the Marathi play of the same name by Vijay Tendulkar.
2) CHAR ADHYAY (Kumar Shahani, 1997) based on a novel of the same name by Rabindranath Tagore.
3) IJAAZAT (Gulzar, 1987) based on Subodh Ghosh’s Jotu Griha.
4) JUNOON (Shyam Benegal, 1978) based on Ruskin Bond’s novella A Flight of Pigeons.
5) KABULIWALA (Tapan Sinha, 1965) based on the same name short story by Rabindranath Tagore.
6) ONE MONSOON DAY AKA ONE DAY BEFORE THE RAINY SEASON (Mani Kaul, 1971) based on the play Ashad ka ek din (1958) by Hindi writer Mohan Rakesh.
7) IDIOT (Mani Kaul, 1991) based on Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel of 1869.
8) SARA AKASH (Basu Chatterjee, 1969) based on the novel of the same name by Hindi writer Ranjendra Yadav.
9) PARINEETA (Pashupati Chatterjee,1942; Bimal Roy, 1953; Ajoy Kumar, 1969) based on Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s novel of the same name (1914).
10) SAMSKARA (Pattabhi Rama Reddy, 1970) based on a novel of U.R. Ananthamurthy.
11) ZIDDI (Shaheed Lateef, 1948) based on a short story of the same name by Urdu writer Ismat Chughtai, the lady of Urdu letters.
12) SUJATA (Bimal Roy, 1959) based on a short story by Subodh Ghosh.
13) GODAAN AKA THE GIFT OF A COW (Trilok Jetly, 1962) based on Munshi Premchand’s novel of the same name (1936).
14) UTSAV (Girish Karnad, 1984) based on Sudraka’s Sanskrit play Mrichchakatikam.
15) BIRAJ BAHU (Bimal Roy, 1954) based on the same name novel by Sarat Chandra Chatterjee (1914).
16) KHARGOSH AKA THE RABBIT (Paresh Kamdar, 2009), based on a short story by contemporary Hindi writer Priyamvad.
17) JOURNEYS WITH KABIR (Shabnam Virmani), a series of 4 documentaries on the legacy in modern India of 15th century’s Hindi poet Kabirdas. The documentaries are: Had-anhad; Chalo Hamara Desh; Kabira Khada Bazaar Mein and Koi Sunta Hai.
18) ENDNOTE AKA ANTARAL (Ashish Avikunthak, 2005), based on Samuel Beckett’s Come and Go.
19) NIRAKAR CHHAYA AKA SHADOWS FORMLESS (Ashish Avikunthak, 2007), inspired on the novel Pandavpuram by Malayalam writer Setumadhavan.
Some writers on whose works Indian directors have worked:
RABINDRANATH TAGORE (1861-1941): Charulata, The Home and The World….
BIBHUTIBHUSHAN BANDOPADHYAY (1894-1950): Apu Trilogy, Distant Thunder AKA Ashani Sanket
VINOD KUMAR SHUKLA (B. 1937): author of The Servant’s Shirt AKA Naukar ki kameez (1979) and two of the short stories in Amit Dutta’s film Aadmi ki aurat aur anya kahaniya (Room on the Tree; The Man’s Woman)
DHARAMVIR BHARATI (1926-1997): The Seventh Horse of the Sun
NIRMAL VARMA (1929-2005): The Mirror of Illusion AKA Maya Darpan
GAJANAN MADHAV MUKTIBODH (1917-1964): Mani Kaul’s Arising from the Surface is based on his writings.
Films in the database and the writers on whose works these are based:
1) USKI ROTI (उसकी रोटी) AKA OUR DAILY BREAD (Mani Kaul, 1970) based on Hindi writer Mohan Rakesh’s short story of the same name.
2) AADMI KI AURAT AUR ANYA KAHANIYA (आदमी की औरत और अन्य कहानियां) AKA THE MAN’S WOMAN AND OTHER STORIES (Amit Dutta, 2009), based on 3 short stories: Room on the Tree (Per Par Kamra, 1988) and The Man’s Woman (Aadmi ki aurat, 1996) by Hindi writer Vinod Kumar Shukla; A Bulb of 200 Watts by Urdu writer Sadat Hasan Manto.
3) MAYA DARPAN (माया दर्पण) AKA MIRROR OF ILLUSION (Kumar Shahani, 1972) based on Nirmal Varma’s short story of the same name.
4) PATHER PANCHALI AKA THE SONG OF THE ROAD (Satyajit Ray, 1955) based on the novel of Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay.
5) APARAJITO AKA THE UNVANQUISHED (Satyajit Ray, 1956) based on the novel of Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay.
6) APUR SANSAR AKA THE WORLD OF APU (Satyajit Ray, 1969) based on the novel of Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay.
7) DISTANT THUNDER AKA ASHANI SANKET (Satyajit Ray, 1972) based on the novel of Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay.
8) JALSAGHAR AKA THE MUSIC ROOM (Satyajit Ray, 1958) based on a novel by Tarashankar Banerjee.
9) NAUKAR KI KAMEEZ (नौकर की कमीज़) AKA THE SERVANT’S SHIRT (Mani Kaul, 1999) adapted from the novel of the same name by Vinod Kumar Shukla (1979).
10) CHARULATA AKA THE LONELY WIFE (Satyajit Ray, 1964) based on Rabindranath Tagore’s novel Nastanirh (1901).
11) SHATARANJ KE KHILADI (शतरंज के खिलाड़ी) AKA THE CHESS PLAYERS (Satyajit Ray 1977) adapted from Hindi writer Mumshi Premchand’s short story of the same name.
12) SATAH SE UTHATA AADMI (सतह से उठता आदमी) AKA ARISING FROM THE SURFACE (Mani Kaul, 1980) inspired on the writings of Hindi writer Muktibodh.
13) SURAJ KA SATVAN GHODA (सूरज का सातवाँ घोड़ा) AKA THE SEVENTH HORSE OF THE SUN (Shyam Benegal, 1993) based on the novel of the same name by Hindi writer Dharmvir Bharati.
14) KASBA (क़स्बा, Kumar Shahani, 1991) based on the short story In the Gully by Anton Chekhov.
15) GARAM HAVA (गरम हवा) AKA SCORCHING WINDS (M.S. Sathyu, 1973) based on a short story by Urdu writer Ismat Chughtai.
16) AJANTRIK (Ritwik Ghatak, 1958) a version of the Bengali short story of the same name by Subodh Ghosh.
17) GHARE-BAIRE AKA THE HOME AND THE WORLD (Satyajit Ray, 1984) based on Rabindranath Tagore’s. novel of the same name (1916).
18) DUVIDHA (दुविधा) AKA THE TWO ROADS (Mani Kaul, 1973) based on a story by Rajasthani writer Vijaydan Detha.
19) ABHIJAN (Satyajit Ray, 1962) based on the novel of the same name of Tarashankar Banerjee.
20) RABINDRANATH TAGORE (Satyajit Ray, 1961) a biographical documentary on the Bengali writer.
21) GHANASHATRU (Satyajit Ray,1989) based on Henrik Ibsen’s play An Enemy of the People.
22) TEEN KANYA AKA TWO DAUGHTERS (Satyajit Ray, 1961) based on Tagore’s short stories The Postmaster, Mohinara AKA The Lost Jewels and Samapti AKA The Conclusion.
23) MAHANAGAR AKA THE BIG CITY (Satyajit Ray, 1963) based on a short story by Narendranath Mitra.
24) KAPURUSH AKA THE COWARD (Satyajit Ray, 1965), based on a story by Premendra Mitra.
25) GATHASHRADDHA AKA THE RITUAL (Girish Kasaravalli, 1977) based on a novella by Kannada writer Udupi Rajagopalacharya Ananthamurthy.
26) DO BIGHA ZAMIN (दो बीघा ज़मीन) AKA TWO ACRES OF LAND (Bimal Roy, 1953) takes its name from a poem of Rabindranath Tagore’s poem, Dui Bigha Jomi.
27) DEVDAS (P.C. Barua, 1935) based on Sarat Chandra Chatterjee’s novel of the same name (1917).
28) DEVDAS (Bimal Roy, 1955) based on Sarat Chandra Chatterjee’s novel of the same name (1917).
29) DEV D (Anurag Kashyap, 2009) inspired on Sarat Chandra Chatterjee’s novel Devdas (1917).
30) BHUVAN SHOME AKA MR. SHOME (Mrinal Sen, 1969) based on a short story by Bengali writer Banaphool (Balai Chand Mukhopadhya).
31) THE ELEPHANT GOD AKA JOI BABA FELUNATH (Satyajit Ray, 1978) based on Ray’s own book series on Feluda.
32) SUKUMAR RAY (Satyajit Ray, 1987) a documentary on the life and works of the poet, novelist and playwright Sukumar Ray, father of the filmmaker.
33) SAHIB, BIBI AUR GHULAM AKA MASTER, MISTRESS AND SERVANT (Abrar Alvi, 1962) based on Bimal Mitra’s novel of the same name.
34) MIRZA GHALIB (मिर्ज़ा ग़ालिब, Sohrab Modi, 1954) on the life of Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib.
35) BHUMIKA (भूमिका) AKA THE ROLE (Shyam Benegal, 1977) based on the memoirs of the well-known Marathi stage and screen actress of the 1940s, Hansa Wadkar.
36) BLACK FRIDAY (Anurag Kashyap, 2004) based on Black Friday – The True Story of the Bombay Bomb Blasts, a book by S. Hussain Zaidi.
37) GUIDE (Vijay Anand, 1965) based on R.K Narayan’s novel of the same name.
38) A RIVER NAMED TITAS (1973, Ritwik Ghatak) based on Titas Ekti Nadir Naam by Advaita Mallabarmana.
39) THE JAPANESE WIFE (2010, Aparna Sen) based on Kunal Basu’s short story of the same name.
40) LETTER FROM THE WIFE (1972, Purnendu Patri) based on Tagore’s. short story Streer Patra.Read less