The Great Indian Remake Frenzy, Remakes, Drishyam


This has been a year of remakes. In fact, remakes have so become the norm once a movie is successful. And in that regard, Malayalam films must take the crown as being in the league of the most remade. Let's take Drishyam for example. This Jeethu Joseph-directed Mohanlal starrer must easily be the most remade film in the recent past with its Hindi version with Ajay Devgn and Tamil with Kamal Haasan having released this year. The film is also remade in Kannada and Telugu.


The formula is simple. Pick a winning horse and remake it right away in the local vernacular. Let's do a quick round up of films up for a remake. Bangalore Days, which was a massive hit in its Malayalam avatar itself with film-goers all across the country, irrespective of language is going to be remade, starting with a Tamil version. Then there's Premam, yet another Malayalam hit, being remade in Telugu and by the looks of it, other languages too. The massive hit Thani Oruvan is being optioned for remakes too.


But the question here is, what warrants the remake of a film?


The idea of remaking a film from other languages is not new to Tamil cinema. In fact, most early remakes in Tamil were based on successful Hindi films during the 70s and the 80s, and most of these films did quite well in the local setting too. This was back at a time when the audience did not have the kind of reach and access they do today. So, it made sense to remake a film into different local languages. But today, in the age of subtitles, what sense does it make to keep remaking the same film into multiple languages?


When a film like Bangalore Days was released across the country with subtitles, doesn't it make more sense to enjoy the film as it was originally made? The film had such an impact that it's already gone beyond the Malayali audience. It's the same case with films like Thattathin Marayathu and Oru Vadakkan Selfie, two other movies that are up to be remade. Essentially, if you look at it, we as an audience are essentially seeing the same film again and again at a time and place where these resources can be used to welcome new filmmakers, ideas and concepts. It's not difficult to understand the business behind backing a winning horse, but there really needs to be an understanding that when doing remakes, there are a few things to watch out for.


One, does the film really warrant a remake? Would the storyline go with the local setting? Would situations and dialogues that worked in the original version get lost in translation? For example, when the Bollywood film Delhi Belly was remade in Tamil, the essence of the original film was lost. The comedy didn't come through and the swearing and yelling that were part of the charm of the original were lost. Besides, it was a frame by frame remake, which makes no sense to warrant a remake.


Would you choose to stick to the original storyline or tweak it for local sensibilities like what happened to the ending of the Ajith starrer Kireedam. While the ending in the Malayalam original had a tragic ending, the Tamil version ends on a slightly more positive note. Do these tweaks in the storyline warrant a remake?


Why would a recently-released film being remade that very same year or the next? While it may be understandable to remake an old film to bring it to a completely new generation of viewers. But what do you say when a dark and sombre film like Chaappa Kurish ends up being remade into something entirely different and smeared with masala like Pulivaal? Or when a Bangalore Days is being remade just a year after its release?


Agreed, remakes are great sometimes when you get another actor take on the same character essayed by another. It was definitely a treat to see Kamal Haasan take on the role that Mohanlal dabbled in with Drishyam. Performance-wise Drishyam to Papanasam was a smart move, but even then, does it warrant the number of remakes it has gone through?


It's not fair to say remakes are entirely a waste. We've had some pretty good remakes like Friends, which held its own ground and charm, much like the Malayalam original or Kaasi, where Vikram took on a blind character that was already brilliantly essayed by Kalabhavan Mani and made it his own. These are only two examples from many remakes that have found their own place.


All we need to realize is that in the industry that releases the most number of films in a year, we need to stop making and remaking a film just because we can. Remake a film that warrants it. Re-tell a story if you think you can bring something of your own to the table, not because it's already a certified hit and a working formula.


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