than just remakes!
more than 75 years of cinema, it is quite natural
that there is a scarcity for original ideas. It
is difficult to keep finding new ideas and concepts
day in and day out that keep the audience interested.
Everything has a period of saturation or stagnation,
after which it terminally declines or revives
to grow exponentially again. Cinema at the moment
seems to be going through such a phase of saturation.
Almost all the conceivable ideas that can be made
into movies have been tried over the past half
a century or so. Consequentially, as an audience,
we have stopped getting surprised in theaters.
The only surprises that we are looking for are
in the peripheral elements – the presentation,
the make up, the graphics, the songs etc. This
does not mean that there are no original good
movies coming out these days, but the majority
of the products are ones that confirm to a pattern
that we are accustomed to. That there is a paucity
of original ideas is an open secret. Predictability
can kill the joy of watching cinema. But, that
does not mean that a poorly crafted storyline
interesting to watch, however novel or original
That’s when the remake craze began. Lets say
that the real remake frenzy set in around 5 years
back. There were remakes even before, but the frequency
has risen rather dramatically over a recent period.
Priyadarshan should be credited for single handedly
proving that remaking can be a safe and even profitable
bet. Remaking most of the Mohanlal hits of the late
80s and early 90s, he showed the way for many a film
maker and producer. But, with the frequency of remakes
increasing, the error frequency is also on the rise.
Earlier, we used to have around one or two remakes
a year, of superhit films from other languages and
almost all of them used to repeat the success wherever
they were remade. But, nowadays, we are able to see
that remakes of superhits can also turn out to be
superduds in other markets.
Last Friday was a classic example: Shortkut was a
remake of Udhayananu Tharam, almost a cult hit in
Malayalam. But, the reviews that the Hindi remake
received makes it look like an ill advised adventure.
It should also be remembered that the same movie was
remade in Tamil last year as Vellithirai. It could
not repeat the success of the Malayalam original,
but it was not a dud either. Somewhere or the other,
the trick of keeping the winning formula in tact has
been lost in the crowd of remakes.
But, somehow, one feels that it is too much of ‘in
tacting’ the winning formula that has been working
against remakes at many times. There is a lot of talk
about retaining the essence or the soul of the original
when remaking a movie. While the intention is spot
on, it should be remembered that it is not the same
audience who will be watching the movie. Necessary
changes and alterations can be and should be made.
More than being faithful to the original, it is necessary
to be conscientious to the original and not let it
down by producing a faithful adaptation which does
not cut ice with the audience.
Lets take for instance, the case of Chandramukhi.
Separated from its original by almost 12 years, director
P. Vasu made a few changes to give Superstar enough
space to free his arms for his fans, gave Vadivelu
a bit of freedom to work with and landed up with a
remake that did not let down the original. But, the
same director got it wrong in Kuselan. He was remaking
another superhit. Here, many felt that he tried to
do a bit too much fiddling around, the balance was
not struck and the essence of the original was lost.
Remakes can behave both ways. There are times when
a completely faithful, maybe a scene to scene remake
recaptures the magic of the original, like many Priyadarshan
movies over the last few years. But, the same director
will also be able to testify that scene to scene remaking
does not always work. Last year’s Mere Baap
Ki Shaadi and Yeh Tera Ghar Yeh Mera Ghar and Kyonki
which came quite a few years were not even a shade
on their originals. It is common to see that it is
difficult to strike a balance between faithfulness
and necessary changes when a film is being remade
from another language.
But, this problem of balance is seldom seen in the
case of remakes of yesteryear classics from the same
language. The 2006 Don in Hindi and the 2007 Billa
of Tamil are classic cases. They were in a way faithful
to the original, but they made sweeping changes to
the film’s setting, technique, dialogues and
presentation to give new age products that were lapped
up by the audiences. Other such instances in Tamil
cinema include Naan Avanillai.
One more thing to be remembered while remakes are
being attempted is that, most of the time, it is a
different actor presenting the central character.
Every actor has his own dynamics and limitations.
For example, it is not possible for Rajinikanth to
play a role the same way as it was done by Mohanlal,
or the vice versa. There have to be subtle changes
to accommodate all such factors. Only then will a
remake be complete.
At the outset, a remake might look like an easy job
and sometimes, it is made out to be exactly that.
But, a remake has more to it than what meets the eye
and ears and if a remake is good, the person behind
it deserves as much credit as the one who made the
Let me finish off hoping that the biggest remake in
Tamil for 2009, Unnaipol Oruvan, gets the balance
right. Remaking a movie such as A Wednesday in a completely
different setting is not easy and let’s wish
Kamal and co. the very best.
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