Amitabh Bachchan in a still from the film Ram Gopal Varma ki Aag. Video: Sholay revisited?
The most-hyped remake ever made in Bollywood has had to bite the dust — Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag, which could very well be renamed Ram Gopal Varma Ki Daag because of the audience response.
However, this is not the first time that a Bollywood remake has bombed. Ramu’s own Shiva (2006), a remake of James, which in turn was a remake of his earlier Shiva (1990), turned out to be a dud. Ananth Mahadevan’s remake of Brij Sadnah’s Victoria No. 203, too, isn’t doing very well and the makers of the film may not even recover the money.
Umrao Jaan also did not work. The only remake that has had some success is Farhan Akhtar’s Don, which hit the theatres last year. However, it didn’t do as well as expected. Does this mean Indian audiences are averse to remakes?
There is no denying that the box-office results aren’t impressive. RGV Ki Aag had an opening of 20-25 per cent contrary to expectation. Victoria… has had a 15 per cent opening at the BO. Don’s net domestic gross was Rs. 50.04 crore and it was declared to be a hit.
The situation becomes clear when Mahadevan says, “I would never ever make a remake.” There are various reasons for this but the most important is the mindset of the audience. It has also got a lot to do with the perspective of the filmmaker.
“The moment you tag a film as a remake, the audience’s mindset changes and comparisons with the original are instantly made,” says Mahadevan. Trade expert Komal Nahta adds, “Everybody, including the media, goes ga-ga over it and that’s where the problem arises.”
You also need a star who can match the actor in the original film scene-for-scene. “Don worked because it starred Shah Rukh,” adds Nahta. The promotion also matters, feels trade expert Taran Adarsh. “In the case of Don, the publicity was well-planned,” he says.
However, in cases where filmmakers do not say that the films are remakes, the hype and, thus the pressure, is less. These then have a better chance of doing well. Films such as Seeta Aur Geeta and Chaalbaz (Ram Aur Shyam), as well as Ram Avtar (Sangam), worked.
Some remakes of classics have also worked. Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s remake of Devdas worked as did the version by Bimal Roy in 1955. Parineeta also did good business at the box office.
The stumbling block
“I don’t disapprove of remakes. Why should I?” asks filmmaker-producer Mahesh Bhatt. That remakes are of late not being accepted by the audiences shows that “they are not connected to the soul”, he says.
Nahta adds, “RGV made such tall claims and the result is there for all of us to see. It is not a question of a remake. RGV Ki Aag is not a good film and would have bombed anyway.”
Mahadevan feels that it is a Catch 22 situation. “If you make a frame-by-frame copy, there is a problem. Then, at times, people criticise you if you try to give your interpretation,” he says.
Filmmaker Suneel Darshan, however, isn’t against remakes. “Why must we copy foreign cinema? We don’t need to go out of India for inspiration. Our veteran filmmakers have made so many classics,” he says.
It remains to be seen how many remakes we get to see in the days to come. There are plans to make some. Let’s wait and watch.
(Inputs from Vajir Singh)