New wave of remakes – Will revamps work?
New Delhi : So you were stunned by the death of Vijay Dinanath Chauhan in Agneepath, followed by voluble rhetoric? But Bollywood is not ready to let go of this popular mass character yet. Director-producer Karan Johar — whose father Yash Johar had made the 1990 film — now plans to resurrect the character as the film is set to be remade.
However, Johar is not the only one thinking on those lines. Pooja Bhatt intends to remake her father Mahesh Bhatt’s critically acclaimed Arth. Sunny Deol-starrer Arjun’s remake is already under-production. Add to the list Satte Pe Satta and Amar Akbar Anthony — whose new versions are coming up soon. The obsession with remakes is not limited to successful Hindi films. Remakes of South Indian films like Khakha Khakha, Just Math Mathalli, Bommarillu and Ready are in the pipeline while adaptations of Hollywood films like Stepmom, Bride Wars, What Happens in Vegas and The Italian Job are in various stages of production.
Putting technical advances to best use, Hindi filmmakers have tried to capitalise on the emotional appeal of successful plots. They appear undeterred that filmmakers have not always struck gold with the remake of classics. The most talked about remakes — RGV Ki Aag, Umrao Jaan, Victoria No 203 and, most recently, Karzzz — have failed to set the cash registers ringing. “Remakes work only when the intention is to re-interpret a subject,” says writer Javed Siddiqui, who wrote the original Umrao Jaan. “Delve into an area only when you know it well. If you cannot surpass what has already been shown, then why would the audience watch it,” questions Siddiqui, who believes that in spite of a brilliant cast, the remake of Umrao Jaan didn’t do well because it wasn’t an “honest endeavour”.
Imitation may be the best form of flattery, but not for lead actors cast in remakes as they often face flak. “Comparisons are inevitable. But the new actors should refrain from copying the original protagonists’ mannerisms and dialogue delivery,” says Nikhil Dwivedi, who is playing the title role in the remake of Arjun. Even though it may be impossible to fight the cult status and nostalgic appeal of the original movie, the idea shouldn’t be to outdo the classic. “It is about using new equipment and resources and making a film inspired by the original,” says the actor.
The remake rage, however, is not propelled by commercial considerations alone. Many filmmakers are driven by the urge to retell an old story. “It’s an artist’s impulse,” feels writer Jaideep Sahni. “Like in the case of Don, Farhan Akhtar was passionate about the film. Both Anurag Kashyap (who remade Devdas) and Farhan brought a fresh perspective to the table,” feels Sahni, who also supports the remake of South Indian films. “There are some very good stories in the South that need to be told to a larger audience,” he says. For producers and investors, this tried-and-tested formula is also a safe bet. Producer Boney Kapoor — who has remade as many as 15 South Indian films, including Wanted — laments that the trend stems from the dearth of original scripts in the Hindi film industry. “There are far better writers down South. The good writers here prefer writing for their own production houses,” he explains.
The South Indian remakes —like Ghajini and Bhool Bhulaiyaa — have taken Bollywood by storm, but adaptations of Hollywood films, like Hitch and Bruce Almighty, have garnered a mixed response. Siddharth Malhotra, director of We Are Family, an adaptation of Julia Roberts-starrer Stepmom, feels such projects work only when it blends with the Indian sensibilities. “For me, the film was inherently Indian. But I have changed it a lot to make it my own,” he says.
The increasing fervour for remakes has put writers in a spot. Writer-turned-director Barnali Ray Shukla has noticed a resistance amongst producers to explore new ideas. Recounting her initial days, she says, “A respected producer who I met last year, said my subject was fabulous, but asked me to get a few reference DVDs to figure out what kind of script that was.”