Delving in the past to make new Hindi films

Jun 24, 2005 Subhash K. Jha, Jun 24

Mumbai, June 24 (IANS) Just when you thought Bollywood has exhausted every possible formula for success, it decides to surprise you by remaking old classics.

If Pradeep Sarkar's "Parineeta" had already been done in 1953 by Bimal Roy, this week's "Paheli" was made by avant-garde filmmaker Mani Kaul in 1973 with Ravi Menon and Raisa Padamsee playing Shah Rukh Khan and Rani Mukherjee's roles.

These aren't just isolated instances. There are many other filmmakers who are doing what has already been done earlier.

Akbar Khan's "Taj Mahal", chronicling the immortal romance between the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and his lady love Mumtaz, was done in 1963 by director M. Sadiq.

And the 'forbidden' relationship between Mughal emperor Akbar and his Hindu wife Jodhabai, already a part of the mythic "Mughal-e-Azam", is now going to be the fodder for Ashutosh Gowariker's proposed costume drama "Jodha-Akbar" with Hrithik Roshan and probably Aishwarya Rai.

The trend of remaking old Hindi classics started earlier this year when in "Bewafaa" Dharmesh Darshan remade, or shall we say, unmade, B.R. Chopra's bold and unconventional "Gumrah" from the 1960s.

There are many classics being remade this year.

The coming year would have its own share of remakes -- Pritish Nandy Productions plans to remake Guru Dutt's "Sahib, Bibi Aur Ghulam" with Priyanka Chopra playing Meena Kumari's role while J.P. Dutta is making "Umrao Jaan" with Aishwarya Rai in the role that Rekha patented in Muzaffar Ali's courtly musical in the 1970s.

An erstwhile assistant of Sanjay Leela Bhansali is planning to remake Guru Dutt's "Kaagaz Ke Phool" with Amitabh Bachchan while the master himself plans to remake the Gujarati classic "Saraswati Chandra" which Govind Saraiya immortalised in the 1960s.

Why this urge to reclaim time-tested classics?

Says J.P. Dutta: "See, my take on 'Umrao Jaan' will be quite contrary to what Muzaffar Ali did. My dad's (O.P. Dutta) script for 'Umrao Jaan' has been with me for two decades. In fact, my father, who wrote the script, wanted to make it with Nimmi in the lead.

"Having said that, I must say the craving to reclaim the past has to do with the utter aridity of writing talent in the film industry. The quality of films from the past was often extraordinary. Wish we could say the same about today's films."

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