It's raining remakes

At a time when Bollywood is churning out remakes after remakes, rajiv vijayakar attempts to analyse what drives filmmakers to opt for them

It's raining remakes

What is common between the 1995 Coolie No.1 and the 2012 Bol Bachchan? The easy answer is: both movies took inspiration from Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s 1979 cult film Golmaal. One was David Dhawan’s interpretation with Govinda and had a greater resemblance to the original. The latter saw Rohit Shetty convert the basic idea into a masala action comedy. Amol Palekar and Utpal Dutt were tweaked into Govinda and Kader Khan and later Abhishek Bachchan and Ajay Devgn.

At a time when sequels are in the spotlight, not less than four sequels are in various stages of production (Zanjeer, Chashme Buddoor and Himmatwala will release in 2013, and Kaalia and Khubsoorat are in the planning stages), and the case study of Golmaal is interesting as these films encapsulate the essence of the remake phenomenon, something that essentially dates back to even the silent era — but more on that later.

Essence of a remake

David Dhawan has proved a past master of the remake, and usually when a film is reworked, the idea is not to covertly steal, but to openly make a tribute to an older masterpiece. In his prolific career, Dhawan has rehashed Prakash Mehra’s Haseena Maan Jayegi, a suspense drama of identical men, one good and one bad, made his own Haseena Maan Jaayegi (note the double ‘a’ in the last word) from the 1965 cult comedy Pyar Kiye Jaa, took the essence of Mehmood’s Do Phool to make his career-biggest blockbuster Aankhen, and even remade another Hrishikesh Mukherjee film, Bawarchi, as Hero No.1.

However, Coolie No.1 remains that rare film in which Dhawan got critical appreciation for a higher, more intelligent level of comedy circa the ’90s when mainstream comedies were not exactly in vogue. Says Dhawan, “Though the central idea was the same as Golmaal, we had actually remade a South film. But I am not sure whether that film was older to Hrishi-da’s film or not.”

The filmmaker adds, “When you are not getting original scripts, you think of remaking a good story. But generally, the basic thought is retained, and a new screenplay is written, as with my Chashme Buddoor.”
Dhawan feels that it is very important to take rights today and says that Viacom 18 had already purchased them when they came to him. A point that actor-producer Ajay Devgn, who made Bol Bachchan, supports wholeheartedly. “We only took the central idea, but we set an example by acquiring the remake rights of Golmaal.”

But equally important is the choice of story. “The film you choose to remake must be something that can be accepted by today’s audiences.” Interestingly, all the remakes of Hindi films that Dhawan has directed have been massive hits, usually bigger than the originals. About the choice of subjects, however, there are emotional reasons that sometimes outweigh Dhawan’s school of thought.

Emotions, nostalgia and more

For Karan Johar, for example, it was his need to remake his late producer father Yash Johar’s cult film Agneepath (which had flopped despite critical acclaim in 1990) to prove that the subject was ahead of its times then and also vindicate his father’s faith in the story and his sense of hurt when the film he believed in flopped. With the huge success of his 2012 version, he proved his point.

Then there were also those filmmakers who reworked their own hits, like Mehboob Khan going one better with Mother India over his own Aurat, and Kidar Sharma tweaking his Chitralekha into a superior ’60s version with Ashok Kumar, Meena Kumari and Pradeep Kumar. One exception here was B R Chopra, whose 1972 Dastaan, a remake of his own breakthrough film as director, Afsana, came a cropper at the box-office due to a change in the climax, which according to the late filmmaker, had killed the connectivity with the audience.

On the other hand, Sooraj R Barjatya, who had taken the core ideas of Bobby and Love Story to make his debut film Maine Pyar Kiya, recognised that the weakness of Nadiya Ke Paar, produced by his family’s banner Rajshri Productions, lay in the production level, script and execution of the non-star-cast film. Ingeniously reworking the script, scale, star draw and music, he emerged with one of the biggest hits in Hindi cinema, Hum Aapke Hain Kaun in 1994.

However, it is obvious that not everyone can have sound judgement in such matters. Ram Gopal Varma made his own audaciously ‘modern’ tribute to Sholay and came up with his career-biggest disaster, Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag. Varma even egoistically decided that his 2005 production James was messed up by its director, and made his own version, Shiva, a year later, with the same lead pair. It was a calamity too. On the other hand, Farhan Akhtar’s version of the 1978 classic, Don, co-written by his father Javed Akhtar, did modestly well in India, and better abroad, and became the first remake to even get a sequel in Don2, which proved a bigger hit. This phenomenon was remarkable for the way Akhtar had ‘twist’-ed his script in the end, thus paving the way for the follow-up film.

The casting of a new film was generally more a matter of skilled writing. Abhishek Bachchan would perhaps have been identifiable in both his father’s remakes, Don and Agneepath, as well as in the forthcoming Zanjeer and Kaalia, but he never figured in any. Instead, Bachchan Jr. was a part of Bol Bachchan in a reprise, so to speak, of a role essayed by Amol Palekar.

On the other hand, if Hrithik Roshan was accepted in Agneepath, Himesh Reshammiya was rejected as the 2008 avatar of Rishi Kapoor in Karz.

The biggest example here of a surefire plot that kept being redone was director Chanakya’s Ram Aur Shyam (Dilip Kumar), a formula of dissimilar and separated twins exchanging places, that worked all the way, though with decreasing levels of success, till Dil Hi To Hai (Jackie Shroff), after reprises featuring Hema Malini (Seeta Aur Geeta), Sridevi (Chaalbaaz) and Anil Kapoor (Kishen Kanhaiya).

Time-tested stories from history, mythology, literature and fables as well as film classics have thus been always re-interpreted by filmmakers wanting to creatively add their own touches, right from the silent era, like multiple versions of Raja Harishchandra (India’s first feature film), Alam Ara (our first talkie), Sati Savitri, Heer Ranjha, Devdas, Umrao Jaan and so on.

And in an era where rights were not considered important enough, we had over a dozen sly reworks of past Hindi films — like Waqt and Zanjeer, mixed and palmed off by the latter film’s writers Salim-Javed as Yaadon Ki Baraat (which also became a huge hit), besides their recycling Sheikh Mukhtar’s Do Ustad as the hit Haath Ki Safai.

Lekh Tandon’s Professor was rehashed abominably as Dil Tera Aashiq and Raj Kapoor’s Sangam as both Yeh Majhdaar and Dulhan Banoo Main Teri, Yash Chopra’s Trishul was ‘reborn’ as Uttar Dakshin and Vansh, Subhash Ghai’s Kalicharan as Jhutha Sach, Subodh Mukerji’s musical blockbuster Shagird as Shreemaan Aashique, and even Ravi Tandon’s Khel Khel Mein, which was ingeniously reprised by Abbas-Mustan as Khiladi. Do we hear more remakes being planned? Keep your ears skinned, folks. Where’s the fun in being original anyway?

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