They once gave major fillips to many Bollywood star’ careers, including Salman Khan (Wanted, 2009), Ajay Devgn (Singham, 2011) and Akshay Kumar (Rowdy Rathore, 2012). But, lately, Hindi remakes of southern-Indian language films have been failing miserably. From Vikram Vedha, Jersey and Cuttputli last year to Shehzada (remake of 2020 Telugu film Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo), and Selfiee (remake of 2019 Malayalam film, Driving Licence), this year, the remakes have failed to stir up audience’s excitement or meet the box office expectations.
Amid all this, one wonders is there a fatigue setting in? Are audiences wanting more or original stories rather than being fed same old formula remakes where if they’ve seen the original, the Hindi remake doesn’t excite them much?
Trade experts such as Taran Adarsh, Komal Nahata do not believe in generalising the situation and point out the shoddy work behind the recent failures.
“If in the span of 1.5 years, three remakes failed to perform at the box office, we also have examples like Drishyam 2 that clicked with the audiences. So, it all boils down to how the remake is made. When we talk of Selfiee and Shehzaada, they were bad remakes. It’s that simple. Having seen both the original films, I felt these particular remakes were shoddy. The wow factor was missing,” opines Adarsh.
Explaining the reason behind the failure of individual movies, Nahata says, “Vikram Vedha didn’t work because everyone had seen the dubbed version of the film on Youtube and channels, during lockdown. With Selfiee, it was Akshay Kumar’s overexposure in films that were worth two penny. People did not give it the seriousness it deserved. While Shehzaada was just a poorly made remake. In the original film, Allu Arjun had the right kind of attitude that the script demanded. Kartik Aaryan does not boast of attitude. He is a good actor but that style is what the film was missing.”
Trade experts also point how audiences aren’t against the idea of watching remakes because this has been happening in the industry for years now. “Even in 80s, from Jitendra and Dharmendra to Amitabh Bachchan and Dilip Kumar, everyone did remakes and they were very successful,” many assert.
However, producer Ashwin Warde, the man behind Kabir Singh (2019), (a remake of 2017 Telugu film Arjun Reddy), says it’s the easy access to original versions of the films on OTT and YouTube that takes away the excitement to watch a remake – which sometimes are frame to frame adaptations, lacking anything original.
“Today, thanks to the streaming platforms, the exposure to films from Soiuth is very wide. Most of these films also have a dubbed Hindi version. So, when people have excessively consumed the original versions already, why would they be interested in watching another version of it, that too probably a year later,” he wonders.
Trade expert Atul Mohan also weighs in and mentions how post Covid-19 crisis, audiences have become smarter in spending money on entertainment. “If they’ve already watched the original online, they will mostly refrain from wasting time and money in watching the remake thinking ‘kya hi naya hoga isme’. That’s because, going to theatres is an expensive affair and after Covid, people want to spend money on films that would give them a fresh experience or something new,” he shares.
While there is a list of Hindi remakes, lined up for release in the coming months (Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan, Bholaa and Gumrah), it’s hard to say which film will work, and which will fall flat at the box office. The result will be positive, Warde assures, when the producer starts to reinvent their choices, even in terms of choosing the right film to remake.
“Fatigue isn’t in the audience; it’s in the minds of the producers. We have to add something unique in the adapted versions to retain its freshness quotient. We need to ensure it can be adapted differently; frame-to-frame remakes are not going to work now.”
The problem of blindly copying the South film is also discussed by producer Ramesh Taurani. “Har movie ko uski audience k hissab se banana padta hai. You cannot copy paste everything and expect the film to work,” he says, adding that Bollywood needs to get the difference between remakes and adaptations, right.
One question that remains unanswered is when there is so much talent present in the industry, why are makers sticking to remakes and not opting for original stories. Director Farhad Samji says, “I’ve never heard a writer, producer or director say that, ‘Ab ek remake banate hain, ya koi original story par kaam karte hain’. We work on good ideas. Sometimes that are original, while other times they are inspired from South.”
But the reason behind this failure may be the wrong execution, he points out. “If you are making a comedy film, it’s important to cast an artiste, who can do justice with the character. You can’t just take anyone thinking the film has worked down South, and it will do the same here,” Samji wraps up.