Kabir Singh to Coolie No 1: Bollywood, stop the remakes, give us something new
Remake – a term that is more popular than nepotism in Bollywood. A fad that began in the late 2000s, and is growing stronger by the day in the Hindi film industry. If a handful of filmmakers have found a hit formula in the Hindi remake of successful South films, others are not hesitating from touching Hindi cult classics. Such is the obsession with rehashes, that a handful of remakes are making their way to the big screen every single year. While most of these are scene-to-scene copies of the original, others get lost in translation.
However, this is hardly a deterrent for production houses that are continuously making grand announcements about their big “remake” projects. After a sloppy try at recreating the Marathi film Sairat as the sub-par Dhadak, Karan Johar is now excited to bring Vijay Deverakonda’s Dear Comrade to Bollywood fans. Inspired by the massive box-office success of Kabir Singh (another Hindi remake of Vijay Deverakonda’s Telugu film Arjun Reddy), Karan is keen to churn out another Hindi rehash of a Telugu film, and hit the bull’s eye at the ticket windows. After all, we just saw the magic that Kabir Singh created at the box office.
A MONEY-MINTING BUSINESS
Because that is what most remakes are now – a box office success story. With a readymade script and well-developed characters in hand, directors are only left with the easy task of finding the perfect replacements for the star cast. Case in point – Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s Kabir Singh. For anyone who has seen the original, Kabir Singh is a frame-to-frame reflection of Arjun Reddy. Every scene is a direct lift from the original, without even a basic change in the treatment of the screenplay.
So what is it that worked in favour of Shahid Kapoor’s Kabir Singh? First, the fact that it was made in Hindi, and therefore was accessible to a larger, pan-India audience. Second, with Arjun Reddy landing on Amazon Prime only recently, the original was out of the reach of movie buffs who don’t understand Telugu. Third, the love story between Kabir (Shahid Kapoor) and Preeti (Kiara Advani) resonated with many, thus making it the biggest grosser of 2019 so far.
Filmmakers have found their hit formula in remakes, and are not reluctant in over-exploiting this so-called golden goose. With Wanted, Ghajini, Rowdy Rathore, Simmba smashing box-office records in the past, remakes are where the money is.
BUT WHAT ABOUT ORIGINALITY?
At a time when most filmmakers are trying to push the envelope and bring something new to the table with each of their projects, a handful are happy serving and re-serving old wine in a new bottle. Steering away from original content, these makers are happy taking the easy route of remakes. So do directors have nothing new to say? Are there no new stories?
Cinema has always been considered an expression of creativity. Films either provide people with an escape to fantasy or hold up a mirror to society. And to bring both these aspects to the big screen, makers need a vision, a new idea that is out of the box. That makes people sit and take notice of the content on the 70mm. And that is exactly what is missing in remakes.
LOST IN TRANSLATION
While some are shamelessly happy putting Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V to good use, others are so busy giving a glossy twist to regional cinema that everything is getting lost in translation. When Shashank Khaitan picked up Nagraj Manjule’s Marathi film Sairat (2016) for a remake, it did raise quite a few eyebrows. Because imagining Majule’s rural Romeo and Juliet saga with simmering casteist tensions in Karan Johar-esque cinema seemed a bit odd.
And the makers didn’t disappoint their naysayers. In their attempt to make it a Bollywood film, KJo and Shashank presented a highly sanitised and glossy version of Manjule’s film, thus almost eliminating the glaring reality of caste system that formed the backbone of Sairat. While the original had a gaping chasm between the lead actors’ castes, in Dhadak, the difference between the girl and the boy’s caste is all but nonexistent. The caste gap was not as wide. And in its absence, Janhvi Kapoor and Ishaan Khatter’s Dhadak turned out to be a normal watered-down love story.
REHASHES IN WORLD OF INTERNET IS A LOUSY IDEA
For the longest time, filmmakers have justified remakes in the name of reach. They have seen the potential in the subject and making it “reach” a larger audience has been the goal. But in the era of Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hotstar, and all your other OTT platforms, where content is just a voice command away, remakes seem like a lousy idea. Because every hit film makes it to these Digital platforms within months of release, and that too with subtitles. Then there are dubbed films from the South on your television channels every afternoon. So why spend Rs 400 on a Hindi remake of a regional film that is readily available online or on TV?
It’s high time that Bollywood satiates the ever growing appetite of cinephiles with interesting content and not mere rehashes, and make them fall in love with the world of cinema once again. Filmmakers need to take a look at the National Awards’ winners list, if nothing else appeals to them – the biggest feature film awards this year from Bollywood have all gone to original scripts: Badhaai Ho, Andhadhun and Pad Man.