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Who needs movie remixes?

Big names are reworking hits of the past. A few of these filmmakers might actually end up hitting box office pay dirt, writes Saibal Chatterjee.

india Updated: Mar 20, 2006 19:43 IST

The remake bandwagon is spilling over with hopeful travellers. Interestingly, however, none of the personages that are hitching a ride is a B-grade wannabe with his sights set on churning out a quickie and making a fast buck.

With names like Yash Chopra, Ram Gopal Varma, Farhan Akhtar, JP Dutta, Feroz Khan, David Dhawan and Rituparno Ghosh engaged in reworking hits of the past for a new generation, one thing that the sceptics need not be worried about is intrinsic quality.

But the worries are multiplying. Tens of crores of rupees will be sunk into these films. Will the makers of these ‘tributes’ come out swimming?

Yash Chopra, the biggest of them all, has decided to reclaim that big fat romantic film, Kabhi Kabhie (1976), from the recesses of movie folklore and give it a new sheen. The move flies in the face of the publicity catch line that described Kabhie Kabhie as “a film that happens sometimes”. What time frame should ‘sometimes’ be construed to mean? Is 30 years good enough?

Even Rituparno Ghosh, who has hitherto worked only with original narrative material, is now drawing inspiration from Goldie Anand’s timeless Guide (1965). A film that clicked big time over 40 years ago and fetched actor Dev Anand his only Filmfare Award does not probably need a makeover because its sweeping drama and its memorable music still live on in our midst. Ghosh, of course, has been at pains to emphasise that his upcoming film isn’t a remake at all. It is only ‘inspired’ by a part of the original story.

Yash Chopra has decided to reclaim that big fat romantic film, KabhieKabhie (1976), from the recesses of movie folklore and give it a new sheen. 

It is, however, not just romantic dramas and emotional sagas that are on the Bollywood makeover table. Potboilers also seem to be fair game. Feroz Khan is remaking his 1980 action thriller Qurbani, Farhan Akhtar is reconstructing the Amitabh Bachchan starrer Don (1978) with Shah Rukh Khan in the lead and David Dhawan is in the midst of a new version of Manmohan Desai’s comic caper

Amar Akbar Anthony

(1977) with a crop of new comedians.

Just as famously, Ram Gopal Varma is relocating Veeru, Jai, Thakur and Gabbar Singh from dusty Ramgarh to neon-lit Mumbai in his much-publicised version of Ramesh Sippy’s Sholay (1975). JP Dutta is close to wrapping up Umrao Jaan, which, he claims with some justification, isn’t strictly a remake of Muzaffar Ali’s off-mainstream 1981 musical drama.

The question is: does anybody really need this plethora of remakes? True, a few of these respected filmmakers might actually end up hitting box office pay dirt. Who knows, their efforts might even yield memorable movies. The concern is that the audience that these films are purportedly targeting has moved on. This is the era of blockbusters like Black and Rang De Basanti, films that dared to defy the norms of commercial Hindi cinema and yet came up trumps.

That apart, these films aren’t really old enough to require a reinterpretation. They are still rather fresh in our memories. Yes, filmgoers who grew up on Sholay, Kabhi Kabhie and Amar Akbar Anthony might be attracted by the sense of nostalgia that these films are likely to generate but that may not be enough to justify their making.

Today’s movie buff, a creature of the multiplexes, may have seen these films several times over already on satellite television and, therefore, could well be assailed by an overwhelming feeling of déjà vu.

If Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas and the Vidhu Vinod Chopra-produced Parineeta clicked, it was primarily because the original versions were made nearly half a century ago and they had dropped out of the commercial orbit, if not the public consciousness. Bimal Roy had made Parineeta in 1953 and Devdas in 1955.

Films like Sholay and Amar Akbar Anthony are too close to us for comfort. Any attempt to trifle with storylines that still survive in the collective memory of moviegoers is fraught with risk. Twenty-five years isn’t, after all, a particularly long time in the life of a blockbuster. All these movie remakes might, therefore, end up having the same effect as the exploitative musical remixes that are foisted upon us these days. That is hardly the sort of comparison that the likes of Yash Chopra, Ram Gopal Varma and Farhan Akhtar would want their work to attract!

First Published: Mar 20, 2006 19:43 IST