Recently three powerful filmmakers of Bollywood, viz., Karan Johar, Rohit Shetty and Subhash Ghai got together to announce their latest collaborative venture titled Ram Lakhan– the remake of Subhash Ghai’s 1989 super-hit film-Ram Lakhan. This has come as a surprise and makes one wonder why would these three well-established bigwigs of the industry with all the money and resources at their disposal choose a ‘remake’ rather than come-up with an original story! And that too of a movie whose stars are still associated strongly with the original film. Even in the recently concluded finale of the popular TV show, Indian Idol Junior, Anil Kapoor made his entry dancing to the title song of this film-‘My name is Lakhan…’
A funny point about this remake is that while the original starring Anil Kapoor and Jackie Shroff was made at the time when both these actors were young and in their early thirties, the remake will have a forty-plus Hrithik Roshan and Abhishek Bachchan !! Why would these two actors who are big stars in their own rights even want to be part of this remake?
Which brings us again to the question- Why are our filmmakers hell-bent on making remakes of our own old films when there are so many new stories to be told? Is it the attraction of getting the story of a ready-made hit formula in a platter? Is it the fear of taking up a new story and risk a box-office disaster thereby bringing down their credibility as powerful film-makers of the industry? Is it the complete paucity of new ideas and scripts? Or is it a combination of all three???
And the worst part is the justification they offer by using deadly words like ‘tribute to the original director or actor’ and ‘to give a contemporary twist to the original story to suit the changing audience taste’. The latter phrase somehow seems to give them the right to tweak story-line wherever they want, add or remove characters that they feel should be changed, alter the setting or background and sometimes even characters of the story, add senseless sub-plots and even item-numbers … and in the whole process end up removing the very essence or soul of the film.
When Farhan Akhtar decided to remake Amitabh Bachchan’s Don not only did he thoughtlessly twist the story-line but also changed the characters of the inspector (Ifthikar’s role played by Boman Irani) and the ‘gangster’ Don (SRK steps into Big B’s sloes). In fact he even made the gangster mercilessly kill his look-alike thereby completely changing the beauty of the plot..
…If the makers wanted to tamper so much with the original then why call it a remake, title the film Don, include new versions of its popular songs-‘ Khaike paan Banaraswala…’ and ‘Yeh Mera Dil…’ shamelessly copy Amitabh’s unforgettable dialogue ‘Don ko pakadna mushkil hi nahin, namumkin hai’…and pass it on to a whole new generation to make it look like Shah Rukh’s line…!!!
In fact, the story of police taking the help of an ordinary look-alike to help them nab a criminal with the same face had already been made first by Shakti Samanta in China Town in 1962 and then by Subhash Ghai in Kalicharan released in 1976.
Just last week two newcomers- Suraj Pancholi (son of Aditya Pancholi and Zarina Wahab) and Athiya Shetty (Sunil Shetty’s daughter) made their debut in a film titled Hero, which actually is a remake of Subhash Ghai’s 1983 super-hit with the same name –Hero. While the original had turned both Jackie Shroff and Meenakshi Sheshadri into overnight sensations the recent film turned out to be a super-dud. In fact, it looked like the writer-director duo had no clue how to go about this altered remake and both the star-kids looked like they needed a hard lesson on the definition of acting…
Prakash Mehra’s super-hit Zanjeer which changed the course of Amitabh’s career way back in 1970 was unnecessarily remade in-2013 with the same title, with Ram Charan Teja (the Telugu star), Sunjay Dutt, Prakash Raj and Priyanka Chopra playing the roles played by Amitabh Bachchan, Pran, Ajit and Jaya Bhaduri respectively. The film was a super-flop and like the original it also altered the course of the hero Ram Charan’s career but in an opposite way- he may probably think a hundred times before he signs a Hindi film.
Shaukeen when it was released in 1980 had a theme somewhat ‘bold’ for its time. Three old men- Ashok Kumar, A K Hangal and Utpal Dutt escape to Goa to have some naughty fun at their age and try to get close to their young landlady Rati Agnihotri who already has a boyfriend Mithun Chakravorty. The film did not have one distasteful or vulgar scene –after all the cast had three dignified veterans playing the main roles. But three decades later, the new director in spite of having natural actors like Annu Kapoor and Anupam Kher, turned the 2014 remake titled The Shaukeens, into a very cheap film with crass dialogues which took away the ‘fun’ element of the story and to complicate matters, added a sub-plot of Akshay Kumar playing himself – a superstar. The mixing of both these stories just did not gel and the result was a disaster.
Last year, the remake of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s 1980 classic Khubsoorat, which had the director weave magic in every scene, was distorted heavily in the 2014 version going by the same name.In the remake, the whole setting was changed from a simple middle-class family to a royal family mansion and Sonam concentrated so much on her wardrobe and accessories that her character remained just that- Sonam Kapoor. She forgot to act… And Ratna Pathak was a very poor shadow of mother Dina Pathak…
When an acclaimed director like J P Dutta in 2006 decided to remake director Muzaffar Ali’s 1981 classic Umrao Jaan, both the critics and the audience found it tiresome to sit through the 189 minute-remake saga which was too long and boring. Unfortunately, though Aishwarya Rai looked gorgeous, she could not emotionally match up to Rekha’s depth and understanding of the character and could not convey the pain of the character. While Khayyam’s music had elevated the original film to a divine level, songs of the remake were forgotten immediately.
Wonder what made Subhash Ghai give a nod to another one of his classic films Karz (1980) being remade as Karzzzz… in 2008 because sitting through the remake starring Himesh Reshamiya stepping into the shoes of Rishi Kapoor was nothing short of a nightmare. On the other hand director Farah Khan slyly lifted the story of Karz, added the climax of Madhumati and served it as her own dish in Om Shanti Om. She made the heroine also play a double role!!!
Om Shanti Om
Perhaps one of the most inexcusable remakes was Ram Gopal Verma’s pathetic remake of the 1975 classic Sholay. Titled Ram Gopal Verma Ki Aag (2007), it had Amitabh Bachchan playing the role of Gabbar and the other known names in the cast were Mohanlal, Ajay Devgn and Sushmita Sen. The Delhi High Court even fined the irresponsible film-maker for the deliberate act of ‘copyright infringement’. Why on earth did Amitabh agree to be part of such a horrible film and that too in the villain’s role remains an unsolved mystery till date.
Ram Gopal Verma Ki Aag
K Raghavendra Rao’s 1983 film Himmatwala with Jeetendra and Sridevi was unnecessarily remade in 2013 with the same title and took a big beating at the box-office with both the audience and critics coming down very heavily on it. Imagine a non-dancer like Ajay Devgn trying to step into ‘Jumping Jack’ Jeetu’s shoes…the result had to be a disaster…
Karan Johar decided to remake his father’s 1990 action film Agneepath starring Amitabh Bachchan and Danny Denzongpa in 2012, and cast Hrithik Roshan and Sanjay Dutt in the respective roles. He removed Mithun’s lovable character and instead added one more evil character ,Rishi Kapoor plus an item number by Katrina Kaif and turned the remake into a sordid saga of blood and gore thus deviating a lot from the original.
The 1976 musical blockbuster Chitchor endeared itself to the audience and critics for its unique storyline, well-etched out characters, natural acting and Yesudas’s outstanding songs. When it was remade in 2003 as Main Prem Ki Deewani Hoon with Hrithik Roshan, Kareena Kapoor and Abhishek Bachchan, the effect was very diluted, the characters extremely artificial and the songs hardly worth remembering.
Take the case of Do Dooni Chaar released in 1968. This was inspired from Shakespeare’s ‘Comedy of Errors’ cleverly written by Gulzar and the film starred Kishore Kumar and Asit Sen in double roles. In 1982, Gulzar decided to turn director to remake the film. Titled Angoor it had Sanjeev Kumar and Deven Verma in double role. In this case, acting was brilliant both in the original and remake.
A rare film which has met with success every time it was remade is Devdas. The movie, based on the novel Devdas by Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay has been made three times in Bollywood- in 1935 with K L Saigal, in 1955 with Dilip Kumar and in 2002 with Shah Rukh Khan. The kind of success that Saigal’s version received turning him into a cult figure of his time remains a milestone which is yet to be emulated in our industry.
Seeta Aur Geeta with Hema Malini was remade into Chaalbaaz with Sreedevi, Ram Aur Shyam with Dilip Kumar was remade into Kishen Kanhaiya with Anil Kapoor, The Raj Kapoor-Nargis starrer Chori-Chori was remade into Dil Hai Ki Maanta Nahin with Aamir Khan-Pooja Bhatt and Pyaar Toh Hona Hi Tha with Ajay Devgn-Kajol. Though all of them were successful at the box-office, the fact remains that the makers chose the easy route of cashing in on an already existing story format and there was no novelty factor.
The veteran producer–director B R Chopra made his directorial debut with the film Afsana in 1951 with Ashok Kumar playing a double role opposite Veena and Kuldeep Kaur. The film was a runaway hit and established the unique trend of double roles in the Hindi film industry. For reasons best known to himself, Mr Chopra went in for a remake of this gem of a film in 1972. Titled Dastaan, it had our thespian Dilip Kumar reprising Dadamoni’s classic double role opposite Sharmila Tagore and Bindu. Pran’s role in the original was played by Prem Chopra. Sadly, the remake met with lukewarm response at the box-office.
In 1942 came Gyan Mukherjee’s Kismet in which Ashok Kumar plays a thief. The film is so brilliantly made that even after 72 years, it retains its original sheen and it is not difficult to see why the film ran for a full three years when it was released and why it turned Ashok Kumar into a superstar. The songs were also so good especially ‘Dheere dheere…mera bulbul so raha hai…’ and ‘Door hato ae duniya waalon…’. Almost twenty years later came its remake-Boyfriend (1961) starring Shammi Kapoor, Madhubala and Dharmendra, albeit with minor changes in the narrative. In spite of the presence of charismatic stars this remake lacked the chutzpah and entertainment quotient of the original. Even the song ‘Dheere dheere …was copied by playing around with the lyrics and making it a fast-paced number but it is the heart-touching song by Ashok Kumar which is still etched in the memory…
There are rumours that Karan Johar’s next release- Ae Dil Hai Mushkil starring Aishwarya Rai, Ranbir Kapoor , Anushka Sharma and Fawad Khan (guest role) is a remake of the 1977 romantic film Doosra Aadmi starring Raakhee, Rishi Kapoor , Neetu Singh and Shashi Kapoor (guest role). Though the filmmaker has rubbished this idea to the media, going by his track record of remakes in the recent past-(We Are Family, Agneepath, Brothers and Ram Lakhan), one can’t help getting an uncomfortable feeling that there might be some weightage to this rumour…
Rumours are also abuzz that the 1958 classic comedy Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi starring the lovable trio of Kishore Kumar, Ashok Kumar and Anoop Kumar along with the lovely Madhubala is going to be remade with Shah Rukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai. One fervently hopes that SRK is not mad enough to touch this classic and that the rumour never becomes a reality. Kishore Kumar must surely be turning in his grave…
Another frightening rumour which did the rounds in October last year was that Saif Ali Khan under his banner of Illuminati Films was toying with the idea of the remake of Shakti Samanta’s unforgettable Aradhna which gave the industry its first Superstar-Rajesh Khanna. Kareena Kapoor, who admires her mother-in-law Sharmila Tagore and has expressed in many of her interviews that she would love to star in any of her m-i-l’s remakes could be stepping into the dream double role and youngster Siddharth Malhotra could be considered for the role of Rajesh Khanna!!! One fervently hopes better sense prevails and Saif Khan drops the idea… and that this rumour also never becomes a reality…
After the murderous remake of Sai Paranjpe’s cult film Chashme Baddoor in 2013, yet another one of her prized films- Katha– is in the news for a proposed remake version.
From time to time many old films are considered for remakes- Andaz Apna Apna, Do Aur Do Paanch, Abhiman, Satte Pe Satta, Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam, Amar Akbar Anthony, etc. but for now the idea has either been dropped or postponed.
A particular film clicks in a particular era due to a combination of various factors and not just because of the story alone. Trying to recapture the same emotions of a film is a very difficult task and however brilliant the actors are, they will end up interpreting the character in their own way thereby giving way to comparisons and also changing the character’s very persona.
Isn’t the audience capable of enjoying the old films and the old songs for what they stood for with the original actors/singers? Instead of wasting time on remakes the same amount of money can be invested in organizing retrospective film festivals where we will not only get the opportunity to remember, appreciate and enjoy our old films and the actors, actresses, directors and music but also make the younger generation aware of our cinematic legacy and the rich repertoire of our film history.
Our fascination for remakes may end up locking us in a retrospective loop forever making remakes and remakes of remakes… This will stall innovation and creativity with no individuality or identity to mark our era. After celebrating a hundred years of this wonderful industry, what is the point in remaking most of our classics in the next hundred years and serving the same thing?
With no dearth of acting talent in the industry and scores of stories waiting to be told, shouldn’t the writers and directors exercise their creativity to come up with novel themes instead of taking recourse to remakes?