Why is Bollywood obsessed with remakes?

Oct 22, 2006 Arpana

New Delhi, Oct 22 (IANS) With Farhan Akhtar's highly publicised remake of the hugely successful "Don" finally hitting theatres, it seems there will be a deluge of remakes in Bollywood in the near future.

More and more directors are toying with the idea of doing remakes of old classics and cult movies.

The remakes in queue are - Ramgopal Varma's "Sholay", J.P. Dutta's "Umrao Jaan", Rituparno Ghosh's "Rahgeer", a remake of Dev Anand-starrer "Guide", Feroz Khan's "Qurbani", Raj Sippy's "Satte Pe Satta" and Sudhir Mishra is set to do a remake of his own thriller "Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin" in English.

Bollywood's track record of remaking old classics has been rather promising. Bimal Roy's take on P.C. Barua's "Devdas" was a huge hit and established Dilip Kumar as "Tragedy King".

And, Sanjay Leela Bhansali's take on Roy's "Devdas" - a visual extravaganza released in 2002 - is considered to be one of the greatest films.

But it was with Vidhu Vinod Chopra's "Parineeta" - a remake of an old classic of the same name - that the trend of doing remakes became a rage. Directed by Pradeep Sarkar, the love story was received well by the younger generation and went on to become the biggest hit of the year.

From the treatment of the subject to the handling of the emotional complexities of the three main protagonists - Saif Ali Khan, Vidya Balan and Sanjay Dutt - everything was done with panache by the first-time director.

"I have been fascinated with 'Parineeta' the novel since the age of 10. I have made the film now because I was waiting for the right team. Pradeep Sarkar and Shantanu Moitra, the music composer are Bengalis and they have brought an authentic feel to the film. It's a film I am proud of. It is as good as 'Gone With The Wind'," Chopra was quoted as saying when the film was released.

War film expert Dutta echoes the same feelings about his upcoming film "Umrao Jaan" starring Aishwarya Rai in the title role.

"The story of Umrao Jaan touched me; that's why I am making this film," he said.

"Parineeta's" success encouraged many filmmakers to re-tell old tales with new techniques and styles. Farhan Akhtar is one of them.

"It's the one Amitabh Bachchan flick that has stayed with me since my childhood. I think of all the cool films he did in the 1970s, 'Don' was the coolest. Of course, 'Deewaar' and 'Sholay' are superior films. But 'Don' is cooler and funkier and stands out. It is a re-interpretation of one of my favourite films. It was a film that I thought of making after "Dil Chahta Hai", but opted for the more original 'Lakshya'," said Farhan.

Farhan's "Don" is a gadget-friendly hi-tech film and he has changed the milieu as well - if the original was shot with Amitabh Bachchan in Mumbai, the new version starring Shah Rukh Khan was filmed in Malaysia.

"We had to keep in mind the technological advancement since (the original) 'Don' was released. For instance, mobile phones play a big part in my 'Don'," added Farhan.

Varma has taken his "Sholay" to the city from the tough terrains of the Chambal valley; and Dutta is re-telling Umrao Jaan's trials and tribulations in flashback.

There are two schools of thought - one feels that it is a sheer waste of time and energy to re-tell a story, while others argue that old classics must be remade for the sake of younger generations who cannot relate to old hits.

"The objective of these filmmakers is to get modern generations interested. For instance, I want to remake 'Chaudhvin Ka Chand' - a classic that our modern generation can't relate to. They can't think of watching a black-and-white film. So, why not remake it with necessary changes. When the coloured version of 'Mughal-e-Azam' was released it was a huge hit," Deven Khote, head of UTV Post, told IANS.

Khote, who belongs to the second school of thought, said that he will not refuse a filmmaker just because he is remaking a film.

"My point is if you can make a screenplay of a book why not a film?" reasoned Khote.

Vishnu Makhijani, a seasoned journalist and a movie buff, doesn't agree with Khote.

Commenting on J.P. Dutta's "Umrao Jaan", he said: "The basic question is of sensibilities - does J.P. Dutta have the sensibilities of Muzaffar Ali? Certainly not. He is a product of the rough and tumble of Bollywood where sensibilities just don't exist. Muzaffar Ali, on the other hand, is a product of a rich Luckhnavi culture where human feelings mattered over everything else."

"Then, Rekha is a product of a traditional Indian background and that is why she was so convincing as a nautch girl. Aishwarya, for all her talents, is essentially a product of a western system, so to think she would be convincing as Umrao Jaan is akin to expecting Julie Andrews to play Basanti in 'Sholay'," he added.

"Above all, which composer or lyricist can hope to better 'In aankhon ki masti'? Can anyone else capture the pain and ethos of this work better?" he asked.

Ram Gopal Varma carved a niche for himself in the Hindi film industry by remaking his Tamil movie "Shiva". Priyadarshan followed the trend with "Viraasat", a remake of his Tamil film "Thevar Magan" and recently, Mani Ratnam scaled new heights of success with "Yuva".

The story of remakes doesn't end here. Hollywood has finally been inspired by a Bollywood film and is all set to make a remake.

According to media reports, 20th Century Fox is doing a remake of the superhit "Munnabhai M.B.B.S." and Mira Nair will direct the venture.

Titled "Gangsta MD" it is to be re-adapted by screenwriter Jason Filardi, who last worked on the Steve Martin film "Bringing Down The House".

The verdict on Farhan's film will be out shortly. Its fate will decide if remakes are really worth obsessing over.

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DON - The Chase Begins Again


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