Is it curtains for Hollywood remakes in Bollywood?
Priyanka Khanna, Feb 20 [ Sun, Feb 20, 2005 ]
'Jurm' director Vikram Bhatt has made a reputation with remakes.
- New Delhi, Feb 20 (IANS): Is the Hollywood era in Bollywood waning?
After a string of recent original films took audiences into uncharted territories, Indian audiences seem unwilling to patronise those who tread the beaten path of Hollywood remakes sprinkled with song and dance numbers and gallons of melodrama served up on a new platter.
Warnings from international film producers and high-profile lawsuits have hitherto had little or no impact on the age-old practice of picking up Hollywood plots.
Now, all this seems to be changing.
"Where lawsuits and warnings did not work, the box-office diktat will," said a trade observer.
Take the case of Vikram Bhatt, who made his reputation with remakes like "Fareb" ("Unlawful Entry"), "Ghulam" ("On The Waterfront"), "Kasoor" ("Jagged Edge"), "Raaz" ("What Lies Beneath") and "Awaara Pagal Deewana" ("The Whole Nine Yards").
Then "Elaan" bombed and his latest offering "Jurm" is threatening to go the same way.
Audiences are showing no enthusiasm for the film, starring Bobby Deol, Lara Dutta, Gul Panag and Milind Soman, that released Friday even as they continue to queue up for Sanjay Leela Bhansali's very unique "Black".
Filmmakers like Bhansali, Ram Gopal Varma, Ashutosh Gowarikar, Madhur Bhandarkar, Farhan Akhtar and many more have provided Indian viewers with alternatives for Hollywood-inspired films.
In Bollywood over the years, many films were launched on the whims and fancies of producers who aim at just one thing - to double the returns on investments within a year.
Now the box-office verdict is - no more lifting stories scene-by-scene from Hollywood hits, or borrowing regional languages films or making adaptations of popular Hindi old-timers.
Bollywood insiders speak about scriptwriters who "specialise" in plagiarism - in fact they are ready with their version of a Hollywood movie the day it is released.
In search of material, while some visit film festivals all over the world, others watch old movies on television.
"How do you expect writers to spend months to come up with an original script, only to find that some fly-by-night copycat writer managed to sell his for a high price?" Trade Guide editor Taran Adarsh asks.
According to Anurag Kashyap, scriptwriter of "Shool" and "Satya", writers are paid less than Rs. 100,000 for what is called "developing a story". After it is approved, the writer gets the go ahead.
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"We are paid only 2.5 to 3.5 percent of the budget," says Kashyap.
The Indian film industry requires three new scripts daily to make films at the current rate, says Bollywood financier Bharat Shah.
This is probably the reason for rampant plagiarism.
"Attention is paid to the costume designer, the actor, but not to the writer, the film's backbone," said industry watcher Komal Nata.
Copycats rule the entertainment industry, giving stiff competition to original players by quoting lower rates.
After films, music is the second biggest casualty.
DJs are finding their remix numbers recorded and replayed, event managers are seeing their once-exclusive interiors replicated everywhere and original audio and video shop owners are facing tough competition from sellers of fake tapes.
Plagiarism, or "inspiration" as Bollywood prefers calling it, has apparently always existed.
According to one trade observer, Mehboob Khan's masterpiece "Mother India", in 1957 had shades of Pearl S. Buck's "The Good Earth".
In defence, veteran writer-director Mahesh Bhatt says: "When you take an idea and route it through the Indian heart, it changes entirely. You cannot pin a person down on an idea."
The last word on the subject, however, will lie with the box-office.