The Never-Ending Debate of Books vs Movies.


It was a peaceful Saturday sit-in yesterday for my husband and I. We kicked off the day with some music from the 80s on YouTube and ended with The Bodyguard starring Kevin Costner as the titular character and Whitney Houston as singer-actress Rachel Marron, the client whom Costner’s character was paid to protect.

After the movie (which we watched for free on Yes Movies), I remembered that I wanted to watch The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel as well. Actually, I was supposed to watch that movie immediately after reading the book. But I completely forgot all about it and to be honest, if I did watch it now, I wouldn’t remember the storyline much as I had finished the book last year. But still, it wouldn’t hurt to watch it anyway.

So I did.

But I stopped halfway through the movie.

Because I realised that the movie had not followed much of the book at all! Granted most movies don’t actually follow the book word for word, but there were no proper transitions at all between each scene and the early parts of the movie had not properly explained who each character was and why they had decided to go to India. Whereas in the book, there were chapters that were dedicated to describing each character and his or her purpose in the story.


Which brings us to this never-ending debate of whether books are still better than movies or vice versa. Of course, it depends on whose side you’re on and what sort of person you are. If you’re like me, an avid reader who swears by the novels she reads and doesn’t let e-books get in the way of your paperback relationship, then books will always triumph over movies. If you’re hardly a reader and prefers to have comic books as your bed-side choice, then movies will be your source of joy and happiness.

It is undeniable that a book always takes the cake over its movie version. Movies will never ever replace the power of imagination that a book has for you through its pages. With books, you can close your eyes and pretend that you’re arm-wrestling with cowboys on the moon with Spongebob Squarepants and Patrick Star on Robot Pirate Island. You can already hear the mechanical sounds in your ears. That’s what imagination does to you and to think that Spongebob and Patrick didn’t even need a book!

But wait, let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. Not all movie adaptations are evil. Some are pretty good even if it meant that they had to be clipped to fit the standard duration. The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Harry Potter franchise and the Chronicles of Narnia were pretty decent movie adaptations.


Movies can do a lot of things, like making us see a lot of things. They can bring whole new worlds to life before our eyes and turn characters into living and breathing bodies. Movies leave us on the edge of our seats as nail-biting battle scenes are being fought in front of us, or leave us heartbroken and in tears over a death, or smiling with joy at a birth of a newborn child.

Books require complete silence and are a pure, undiluted form of escape, there’s nothing like sitting in a cinema with only the lights streaming from the big screen in front of you, devoid of any other distraction (save for the errant ping of an ignorant cinema-goer) and your attention is paid only on the story playing on the screen.

Movies are amazing creations but they don’t have the same kind of magic that books have. With movies, you’re merely an observer. You don’t feel the emotions that the character feels; you aren’t reading every single one of their innermost thoughts, their doubts, fears and hopes. Movies also have the bad habit of leaving us with this thought, “That’s not how I pictured it to be!” Just like the movie that I watched last night. The book and the movie did not match at all, with what seemed like missing key characters or characters thrown into the mix just for the sake of being there. It’s kind of like fluff-writing where you add in unnecessary items just to plump up the plot and make it seem longer.

But with books, you feel everything, you know everything and you live everything! You can be the saviour of the world; you can be the girl who battles a life-changing disease; you can be a demigod, an alien, an angel, a god, a villain or a hero. You can be anything and everything. There are no limits to who you want to be. There is no limited storytelling time with books compared to movies. Movies have to be condensed to the point of removing or deleting parts which also leads to what I call as mis-transitions. Changes of scenes that have no rhyme or reason of being there. That’s because movies have to be done and over with within a maximum of 3 hours. Any longer and your cinema-goers might just nod off in their seats.

Books don’t need the power of visuals to allow readers to put the story together with the elements in their minds. The stories that you read in books will stay with you forever. Just like music and vinyl, and writing and books. Movies don’t have much to offer except for the scenes that you have seen with your eyes.

That is why books for me will always be better. When you read a book, nothing else exists around you and you can be that whole other person in a completely new and amazing world. You can be someone else, live that person’s life, be free of your own troubles, even if it’s only for a few hundred pages. Books are the medicine for your mind, the magic for your imagination. Which is why I stopped halfway through The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel movie and preferred to maintain the pristine image of the story in my head since I’ve read the book. Which is why for me, movies may be great but books will always be greater.


Book Review: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach.

the-best-exotic-marigold-hotel-by-deborah-moggachNo. of pages: 281 pages

Date published: February 16, 2012 (first published January 1, 2004)

Setting: Britain, Bangalore (India)

Original Title: These Foolish Things

When I first saw The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach at the Big Bad Wolf Book Sale, I thought, “Wow, this must be the most eccentric book title I’ve ever seen!” Still, it was enough to pique my interest to drop it into my overflowing basket of books. I paid for it along with all the other books and happily skipped home to start reading them. I chose this book out of all the other books that I bought at the end of last year and I haven’t looked back since. It has also been turned into a major motion picture of the same name in 2011 by director John Madden, with some of the biggest names in its cast, such as Dev Patel, Maggie Smith, Dame Judi Dench and Bill Nighy. The synopsis of the film and book are similar: a group of senior British citizens make their way to India to take up residence in what they believe to be a newly-restored hotel. Unbeknownst to them, the place was much less luxurious than advertised and the disappointment was quite obvious when they arrived at the hotel. Despite the obstacles, the Marigold Hotel began to slowly charm each and every resident in unexpected ways.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

When Ravi Kapoor, an over-worked London doctor, is driven beyond endurance by his obnoxious father-in-law, he asks his wife: ‘Can’t we just send him away somewhere? Somewhere far, far away.’ His prayer seems to have been answered when his entrepreneurial cousin, Sonny, sets up a retirement home, recreating a lost corner of England in a converted guesthouse in Bangalore. Travel and set-up are inexpensive, staff willing and plentiful – and the British pensioners can enjoy the hot weather and take mango juice with their gin.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a brilliant comedy of manners, mixing acute observation with a deeper message about how different cultures cope in the modern world.

The book introduces us to Dr. Ravi Kapoor, a man of Indian heritage but considers himself English, who is married to Pauline, an English woman. The house they live in is shared with her widowed father, Norman, who keeps getting the boot from other nursing homes as a result of his foul mouth and lecherous behaviour. Due to Ravi’s desperation to get rid of his unbearable father-in-law, he teams up with his cousin, Sonny (played by Dev Patel) and eventually the two decide to open a retirement home in Bangalore which they plan to run specifically for the elderly English people. Ravi uses Norman’s obsession with sex to entice him to make the move to India with the rest of the other elderly folk moving along for their own reasons. Racist bigot Muriel Donnelly moves as well, although her reasons for moving are not made clear until well into the novel.

They are quite a combination of characters, so to speak, from the newly-widowed Evelyn Greenslade (played by Judi Dench), wheelchair-bound Muriel Donnelly (played by Maggie Smith), single High Court judge Graham Dashwood (played by Tom Wilkinson), Douglas and Jean Ainslie (played by Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton, respectively) who are a couple disillusioned with one another, vivacious gold-digger Madge Hardcastle (played by Celia Imrie) and lonely Lothario with a foul and lecherous mouth, Norman Cousins (played by Ronald Pickup).

It is a seemingly predictable plot from the start, in a sense that not all of them will survive, that new relationships will begin while the old ones will fracture and wither away. There will surely be secrets, lies and discoveries where everyone will eventually learn about as long as they are living there. This is actually a lot for one book to handle, with many of the scenes overlapping each other.

What I like about the book is its exploration into the difficulties faced by the elderly folk in a modern society. For the most part, however, the issues that they deal with on a daily basis are fairly undemanding. Most of the characters are afraid in a way and their worries are very well portrayed by the author. What I didn’t like, though, was Norman’s never-ending obsession with sex and his impotence, which all began to get a little tiresome and repetitive. This might come off sounding a little wrong and evil to you, but I was kind of relieved when the author killed him off.

But it still was an interesting story and quite an entertaining one too. Though, I often did wonder how were the British pensioners ever going to find solace and comfort in a shabby and desolate hotel that has been turned into a retirement home for old folks (for the reason of profiteering I’m sure in Sonny’s eyes if things had gone his way). Also, the culture and communities in India must have been an eye-opener to some of the folks who has never seen beggars at every corner of an area!