From Shershaah to Jersey: Bollywood is hiring south directors, is it just to save cash?
Sidharth Malhotra’s Shershaah, a new war drama that traces the life of Kargil War hero Captain Vikram Batra, marks the Hindi debut of Tamil filmmaker Vishnu Varadhan. Known for helming popular movies such as Pattiyal, Billa and Arrambam; Vishnu has joined a growing list of southern filmmakers who are making inroads into Bollywood. But why has Bollywood turned towards south Indian directors so enthusiastically in recent years? As more southern films are earmarked to be remade in Hindi, the original filmmakers are retained to direct them.
In the case of Vishnu Varadhan, he wasn’t completely alien to Bollywood as he has lived in Mumbai for more than five years. In a pre-release chat with Deccan Herald during the promotions of Shershaah, he said that he was completely familiar with the Bollywood setup. He added that the opportunity to direct Shershaah came easily to him because he was involved in the scripting process with writer Sandeep Srivastava from the beginning. He said he even knows how to read, write and speak Hindi fluently.
Talking about how he landed the opportunity to direct the film, he said it happened through the research process. It was writer Sandeep Srivastava who approached Vishnu to get a director’s perspective on the subject. As Vishnu started collaborating with Sandeep, producer Shabbir Boxwala suggested that he direct the film.
Trade analyst Trinath pointed out that Hindi remakes of southern films are being made with the original directors because producers can save a lot of money. “When producers acquire remake rights of south films, they’re trying to rope in the original director as well because they don’t have to spend big on signing a new director. It actually saves the producer a lot of money. Also, it’d make more sense to have the same director handle his own film than have someone new take over the reins.”
He said the best example is Tamil romantic comedy Oh My Kadavule. The film’s original director Aswath Marimuthu is helming the project’s Telugu and Hindi remakes. “The producers feel it’s safe because no other director would know about the project the way Aswath does,” Trinath added.
Gawtam Tinnanuri, who is making his Bollywood debut with Jersey, said it was Shahid Kapoor who wanted him on board. In an interview to Indian Express, Gawtam said: “Ten days after Jersey got released, I met Shahid Kapoor. Kabir Singh had not been released yet. He watched Jersey. He liked it very much and expressed his interest to work in the remake. At that time, I had no idea whether this project would happen or who would produce it. I was not even sure whether I will get to direct the Hindi remake. Later, I sent him a message appreciating his performance in Kabir Singh. He called me back and told me that the Jersey Hindi remake was happening.”
Telugu crime thriller HIT is also being remade in Hindi with its original director Sailesh Kolanu. The remake, which will go on the floors later this year, will star Rajkummar Rao in the lead.
Tamil filmmaker Atlee directing Shah Rukh Khan in his big Bollywood debut is one of the biggest highlights of this trend where more south filmmakers are being signed by Bollywood. Atlee had said in a media interaction that he sees any opportunity to work in Bollywood only as a way to reach wider audiences and establish himself as a pan-Indian filmmaker.