Should remakes be permitted?

Since the advent of Indian cinema, filmmakers have followed a policy of experimentation. After years of experimenting with new films and scripts, taking inspiration from Hollywood movies, and coming up with sequels, ‘remake’ seems to be becoming the latest buzz word among the Indian filmmakers.

The classic, based on Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s novel Devdas has been made into film 9 times, in Bengali, Hindi, Telugu and Tamil. The first film adaptation of the novel was released in 1928 as a silent film. In the year 2002, the third Bollywood version and the first color version of the story in Hindi was released, directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali with Shahrukh Khan in the lead role. The 50-crore budget superhit was acclaimed by the viewers all over, and won 10 Filmfare Awards, 4 Star Screen Awards and 6 IIFA Awards.

The year 2006 witnessed the remake of two blockbuster movies. Farhan Akhtar’s Don was a big hit. Shahrukh Khan portrayed the character of Don, originally played by Amitabh Bachchan in the hit 1978 version. While many critics argued that SRK didn’t fit into the Chora ganga kinaare wala image as perfectly as Big B, the movie grossed huge collections at the box office, making Rs. 50 crores in India and Rs. 32 crores overseas. The soundtrack won many hearts, and twenty years down the line, made people dance once more to the tunes of “Khaike Pan Banaraswala”.

However, the same could not be said in case of the over hyped Umrao Jaan, which proved to be a disaster, facing strong condemnation of the critics. Starring Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan, the J.P. Dutta movie turned out to be an awful attempt to remake the 1981 commercial hit. Rekha, who played the courtesan Umrao Jaan in the original movie was appreciated for her incredible performance, winning her a National Award. The songs “In aankhon ki masti” and “Dil cheez kya hai” sung by Asha Bhosle are considered the classics of filmi music, and continue to have a mesmerizing effect on the listener even after two decades. On the other hand, the music of the 2006 remake failed even to make its presence felt. When questioned about the flop of his film, J.P. Dutta defended the remake strategy saying “If Romeo and Juliet can be made 10-15 times, and nobody questions it, so why the hullabaloo over this?”

Ram Gopal Verma ki Aag is undoubtedly the saddest remake ever and was reportedly the worst movie of the year 2007. Flaunting to recreate the biggest masterpiece in the history of Indian cinema, Ram Gopal Verma left no stone unturned to insult the legendary characters portrayed by the actors of Sippy’s Sholay. The Jai and Veeru, known for their friendship were replaced by Heero and Raj, who messed up the characters big time. Nisha Kothari who plays the auto-wali Ghunghroo (Basanti in Sholay) walks around in skin tight skimpy clothes, proving that she is perhaps the most terrible actress in the world. Prashant Raj who plays Raj is expressionless throughout the movie, degrading the level-headed Jai. Heero is definately one of the worst performances ever delivered by Ajay Devgan; the suicide-scene in particular brought a disgrace to the brilliant acting of Dharmendra. There is no scope for emotions in the movie, while the viewers got deeply touched by the original one. Music and choreography is pathetic, adding to the movie’s atrociousness, putting the viewers in a dilemma as to whether they could be watching soft porn. In a nutshell, the movie failed to deliver what viewers expect from a good movie, let alone a remake of the evergreen Sholay.

While many filmmakers claim to be remaking classics for today’s generation, the actual reason may be linked to the lack of creativity and ideas surfacing in the film industry. With a notion that if the original classic succeeded in creating a huge fan following, the remake will be also be a superhit, they instead humiliate themselves by gaining the ‘copy- cat’ title in the eyes of youth. The producers too believe in playing safe, and remakes appear to be a beneficial option to them, unbothered about the risk that they may be making a mockery of the original work of art. In the midst of the sole objective of making maximum money, they often fail to realize that these movies are class apart and remaking them is like opening a Pandora box.

The plans of Pritish Nandy Communications to remake Vijay Anand’s Guide were strongly objected by Dev Anand who claimed exclusive rights to the script as well as the R.K Narayan’s novel The Guide. Opposing the idea of remaking classics, Dev Anand declared, “Even my Company has taken a conscious decision not to remake Guide as I sincerely believe that ‘classics’ cannot be remade”.

If the trend of remaking continues in the film industry, the classics may lose their significance. Someone who has watched Ram Gopal Verma ki Aag prior to Sholay may get a wrong picture of the latter and lose interest in watching it. The classics occupy a special place in the hearts of the movie lovers, and recreating them is demonstrating to the world that one lacks the basic requirements of filmmaking – innovation and creativity.

Kanika Bedi