Monday, 6 April 2020

Making Sequels, Remaking Classics

Updated: January 6, 2011 2:22 pm

There was a time when this star-producer-director was counted amongst trend-setters, even now he continues to make pronouncements to that effect: making films on newspaper headlines and on contemporary themes. It is, however, a different matter that they all turn out to be clones of one another. At times even the sets and situations resemble one sees in his previous ventures, though they get pulled down after the schedules are over. Similarity is accidental, and so is the thought process. His detractors called him badhua (pimp) behind his back because of his obsession of introducing new heroines to his films. It is, unfortunate, that only two, and the earliest ones at that, achieved any kind of star status – in the only two hits out of 20 he has made during the past four decades: Zeenat Aman and Tina Munim. All the 10 newcomers he introduced have generally disappeared from the scene.

            The incorrigible optimist, the aging star who refuses to stop, was the first romantic heart throb of Bollywood, better known to the world as Dev Anand. Critics have dubbed his films as ‘senile’ cinema. Most of his contemporaries are dead and gone but he even at the age of 88, manages to box the villains to dust in his very very ‘contemporary’ films. His sympathisers just throw up their hands, saying well if he is burning his own money what can any one do. Many often questioned his source of finance for his dead ducks. And if anyone asks him about him, he just looks skywards, and produces his famous toothless smile. He has been now ready, looking for distributors, for his new classic Chargesheet, ready for theatrical release for the past many months.

            In the past he has run down film makers for re-making old hits, re-mixing hit songs, and even making some sort of sequels. But now suddenly, emerging from a bout of amnesia, he has announced his decision to make a sequel to his only genuine directorial hit, Hare Rama Hare Krishna. To be tentatively called Hare Rama Hare Krishna—Aaj, he will soon start an All India hunt for an 18-19 year old, and the story line has been redrafted to be in conformity with contemporary times and trends. “My story will not be a remake but an adaptation of Hare Rama Hare Krishna. Since it is set in 2011, I am looking for a girl who can look very modern and become a cult figure like Zeenat.” Let’s hope the search does not become too tiring for his aging legs because it wasn’t too long ago that he had announced a film called Beauty Queen but the hunt across the globe did not result in getting the right face. If asked, his reply would be, no it is not abandoned, only put on the back burner. Hats off to this un-aging-phenomenon’s undying spirit.

            Sequels and remakes are the new formula now being patented by idea-starved Bollywood writers and film makers. It has been a fairly common practice in American cinema. Reportedly, more than 25 sequels are slated for release during the remaining half of the year. But unlike sequels in Hollywood that normally take off from where the previous one ended with the same cast and characters, it is not sacrosanct in Bollywood where neither the story nor the characters, not even the cast is the same. The narrative just takes off from anywhere and lands anywhere mostly in crude intended slapsticks or murder, mystery stories, with the possible exception of Don 2, Bheja Fry, Double Dhamal or the Munnabhai franchise. Even the Yashraj film factory is a culprit in that direction.

            The Dhoom sequels have nothing to do with one another though it is quite plausible to take narratives further with slight variations. Reportedly, there are more than 70 sequels currently in different stages of production. With half the year already gone, it won’t be surprising if many of these titans follow in quick succession and some even clashing for box office. In the queue are Dhoom 3, Golmaal 4, Dostana 2, Race.

            Mention of race reminds one of another one remakes. Many celebrated stars and film makers, including the likes of Dev Anand, that at least classics should not be subjected to tampering. Not long ago, he threatened to take Pritish Nandy to court if he attempted another version of Guide. Similar sentiments have been expressed against touching Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam, for instance. It would certainly be fatal, yet Karan Johar is remaking Agneepath with a changed script and different actors. The same is being done with Satte Pe Satta. Fardeen Khan has shown inclinations to remake Qurbani. Now how can one do that? How can any other actor recreate the magic of stars and film makers who made them possible? Ram Gopal Varma bit the dust when he made a parody of Sholay.

            Film maker Ritesh Sidwani has rightly observed: “Remaking is not about bettering an idea. It is about presenting exactly the same thing but with some new flavour…And that new flavour has to be just as palatable as the previous one. So while you maintain originality, your creativity is in reworking it and yet generating the same levels of excitement about the film.” In one sense, there is nothing new about the business of remakes. The grapevine has always been loud about what old family drama is being remixed with the action of another past hit. But there, as Sidwani has opined, there is the element of reworking, adapting and moderising but that, unless it is a Hollywood kind of franchise cinema, has seldom worked. The only notable exception has been the remake of Amitabh Bachchan starrer Don with Shah Rukh and technology making the difference.

            But as one has said time and time again before, Bollywood suffers from a herd mentality, and has seldom learnt from the past blunders.

By Suresh Kohli

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