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New gold from the old

With good remakes of popular Bollywood classics doing well with audiences, the Hindi film industry is increasingly bringing back to new life great yesteryear films by adding flair to the stories. Himani Chandna Gurtoo writes.

india Updated: Apr 29, 2012 21:07 IST
Himani Chandna Gurtoo

The ongoing royalty tussle between scriptwriters Salim-Javed and film producer Amit Mehra for the 1970s Bollywood hit film Zanzeer’s remake is yet another flag in the race for increasingly successful Hindi film remakes. Mehra’s father, Prakash, made the original Zanzeer. For film audiences, a good story retold with some extra flair is finding growing appeal, and if there is any refreshing deviation, as happened with the remake of the original Don, audiences are more than happy to respond.


The Don remake, starring Shah Rukh Khan (SRK), was slick and created a new twist to the old plot, winning consumer approval. Don 2 followed and a further sequel is planned.

The successes of Sharat Chandra Chatterjee’s classic Devdas’ remakes in the SRK-starring Devdas and a more contemporary Dev D, also showed that Indian audiences are happy to revisit classic oldies retold well. The Hritik Roshan-starring Agneepath remake’s success, while the original Amitabh Bachchan-starrer was not so successful, points to an audience willing to see a superior remake for its own value. http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2012/4/30_04_biz-04.jpg

“Remakes tell us the classics which would remain untold otherwise. I may not connect to the original version of Devdas as I enjoy watching SRK more than Dilip Kumar,” said Delhi college student, Parineeta Batra.

She has a point, as the success of Dev D indicated. India’s youth enjoyed the film thoroughly.

“I wait for the remakes. Classic stories of yesterday blended with modern technology drag me to the theatre,” said Abhishek Verma, 33, a software engineer and a movie buff.

“Be it noisy front stall audiences in single-screen theatres or the classy weekend crowds at multiplexes, remakes are entertainment backed by unforgettable stories,” said Siddharth Roy Kapoor, CEO, UTV.

With successful remakes to draw confidence from, the film industry is looking at the opportunity far more seriously today. Besides, remakes reduce marketing costs as the old name provides brand familiarity. “Remakes backed by classic stories assure break-even earning much before the launch,” said Viacom18 Motion Pictures COO, Vikram Malhotra. His company bought the rights for cult comedy, Chashme Buddoor, two years ago, for an estimated Rs 50 lakh.

Remakes have been common in India, but most of it was just unauthorised lifting of ideas or stories, with not much of legal frameworks in place. The entry of corporates into the film industry has brought order and method into the remaking scenario. “Corporate production houses not only introduced methods to secure legal frameworks first but also paved the way for due diligence, deal valuation and giving credits to original owners,” said Malhotra.

“Remake rights have developed the market. Remakes have also gained popularity with corporate production houses having conservative risk appetites. Many multinational and national studios are listed entities using half of public money through IPOs. Their innovations, if disastrous, could adversely affect their equity and share prices,” said Ashish Pherwani, associate director, Ernst and Young.

However, he added, “Producers are now being offered good deals for remake rights. There is huge demand from the Tamil and Telugu film industry, which have bought rights for Bodyguard and Three Idiots.”

While Bollywood remakes of south Indian films have been happening, remaking Bollywood films for Bollywood releases is a more recent growing trend.

However, just because a classic Hindi film was a huge success, remaking it doesn’t automatically mean success. Audiences do not hesitate to reject a poor remake. Like they did the superhit classic Sholay’s remake, Aag by Ram Gopal Verma. Or the remake of cult original Karz in which Rishi Kapoor played the lead. Its disastrous remake, Karzz, with Himmesh Reshamiya in the lead role, failed. Audiences did not respond to Umrao Jaan’s remake either.

“A badly made film is rejected without much fuss. Content is still king, original or remade," said Amod Mehra, film trade analyst.

Failures notwithstanding, the number of remakes in the pipeline are many, including Satte Pe Satta, Seeta Aur Geeta, Angoor, Khel Khel Mein, Golmaal and Baiju Bawra, to name a few, the rights for which have been sold at between Rs 50 lakh and Rs 2 crore. http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2012/4/30_04_biz-05.jpg