Imagine the suit your father wore for his wedding. Now imagine your big day and then imagine yourself in that very suit. No matter how good the fabric, the cut, the design and no matter how much you love your father and regardless of the return of high fashion of that time, there is no way in hell you would wear that suit.
But, what would happen if in spite of everything you did end up wearing that suit? Yes, daddy looked dapper and there isn't a single day that you don't thank the stars for those genes but it's not the same thing. I look at remakes in a similar manner. No matter how desperately you wanted to be Amitabh Bachchan and say 'Don ko pakadna mushkil hi nahin namumkin hai' you know that there's only one Don and he said that line long before everyone else. I have often wondered what prompts a remake? Hindi films have been shamelessly remaking their own and anything that is half way good for the longest time in the name of inspiration. While a somewhat fan of the original, Farhan Akhtar felt that the old Don (1978) wasn't snazzy enough and so he undertook the arduous task of presenting a new Don (2006) that the present generation of audiences could enjoy. There might not be anything wrong if a filmmaker chooses to come up with his or her version of something but remake isn't the answer to that. Besides adding a really interesting twist in the end all Akhtar did to his daddy's script was to give Don a few thought-in-English-but-spoken-in-Hindi lines along with relentless product placement. If he really wanted to present his vision he would have just kept what he bought to the platter, like the diabolical twist in the end, and presented a new dish.
Heightened inspiration, odes or reference, as they are being termed now, remakes are known by many names. Whatever the code name one thing is for sure that most of them are a result of creative bankruptcy or like in the case of Boney Kapoor filmmaking logic 101- if it worked once it'll work once more. This whole remake business might have become official now with rights being bought and original writers being credited but this practice is as old as the hills in commercial Hindi cinema or else how does Jab Jab Phool Khile (1965) become Raja Hindustani (1996) and no one has a problem with it. This custom has spawned a whole generation of filmmakers who don't believing in thinking anything new. Rohit Shetty sweetly recasts Aaj Ki Taaza Khabar (1973) or Khatta-Meetha (1981) into the Golmaal template and when he's not busy doing that he transforms Durai Singham (2010) into Bajirao Singham (2011). Sajid Khan's Heyy Babyy has some Three Men and a Baby and Housefull has a generous peppering of the Rajesh Khanna-Nanda-Om Prakash's Joroo Ka Ghulam (1972); his next is Jeetendra's Himmatwala (1983) redux with Ajay Devgn.
It's easier to remake a film today for it's almost a genre unto itself now. Some years ago Dev Anand was approached for the rights of Guide (1962), one of India's greatest films, to be remade as Rahgeer with Akshay Kumar and Vidya Balan. The evergreen actor refused and also added that he didn't anything to hurt the spirit of Vijay Anand, his brother who made the original. But everyone's not Dev Anand. Production houses are working overtime sieving thorough their library looking for some worthy horse to flog again. They are also fine with paying money to Hollywood studios and buying rights to remake films officially but some things just don't change. 20th Century Fox believed they sold the rights to My Cousin Vinny (1992) but Pappu Paas Ho Gaya turned out to be such a remake that the studio was aghast. They rightfully demanded more compensation for the 'remake' but the Indian producer still isn't convinced; last heard the film is ready and awaiting release.
Sometimes remakes do turn out better but that still doesn't free them from being, well…ready to eat dishes served as gourmet fare. How can you take a film seriously where the director's, say Sajid Khan's, biggest contribution is a visit to the numerologist who suggested the horrendous spelling to ensure a hit? An entire generation might think that Shah Rukh Khan is Don or Hum Dono Rangeen is that Dev Anand classic with those great songs but let's not be so sad for when they discover Amitabh Bachchan as the one who liked jungle billis and the million emotions one frame of the monochromatic Hum Dono, they would have found a treasure.
Gautam Chintamani is an award-winning writer/filmmaker with over a decade of experience across print and electronic mediums.
(The views expressed by the author are personal)
From HT Brunch, March 18
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