Aatish Kapadia: I took very few days to adapt Aankhen

The 2002 film directed by Vipul Amrutlal Shah was based on the Gujarati play Andhalo Pato and released on this day (5 April) 15 years ago. Writer Aatish Kapadia spoke to about his experience of adapting his play to the big screen.

Sonal Pandya

The film adaptation of Aankhen (2002) starred Amitabh Bachchan, Akshay Kumar, Arjun Rampal, Paresh Pawal and Sushmita Sen. Bachchan played a vengeful ex-employee of a bank who employs three blind men to help him rob the establishment. Whether the plan succeeds is the real challenge of the story.

Writer Aatish Kapadia took on the task of adapting the Gujarati play Andhalo Pato (Blind Man’s Buff) to the big screen. It took him only a few days to adapt the play into a film with just a few changes.

"It was more or less the same because even the play was written as a strong narrative, which had a certain pace and a different kind of storytelling as far as stage is concerned," Kapadia recalled in a conversation with "[Only] certain things that were being said in the dramatic version [the backstories of the three main characters, for instance] were shown on the big screen. So it was just a basic adaptation and change of medium. The narrative remained the same."

Writer Aatish Kapadia

Several Hindi films have, over the years, turned to adapting plays into features. While Kapadia does not see this as an emerging trend, he admits there is a natural leaning towards plays for material.

"If a play has done well, it will have a certain amount of content because nothing but content can work [on stage]," he explained. "You better have good content and reasonably good performances, otherwise people won’t spend money to watch your play. The filmmaker feels a little relaxed that okay, at least I’m going to get reasonably good content. How well he or she adapts it into a narrative is left to their imagination."

Kapadia said Andhalo Pato, which he wrote himself, had a cinematic feel to begin with and he always felt it would make greater impact as a film. "But, ironically, people who have seen both say the play was stronger," he said. "Probably because some of the performances on stage were much better. [Also, a Gujarati play is] always about a family. Nobody had imagined that there would be a bank robbery happening on stage. In a film, you can expect that."

Last August, producer Gaurang Doshi announced a sequel to Aankhen with Bachchan, Arshad Warsi and Southern actress Regina Cassandra, making her Hindi film debut, in the lead roles. However, the sequel has run into legal trouble and shooting has not begun as yet. Director Shah and writer Kapadia are not part of this new production.