Remake of old Hindi movies: Is it a success formula?
My answer is a thumping yes. Let us not be in the illusion, as it currently seems from media reports, that only in last couple of years we suddenly saw a deluge of remakes. Remakes of classics have always been a successful part of proven Bollywood business formulas. Now, let’s do some inductive logic. The law of averages will prove that remakes have more chances of becoming successful at the box office.
Dil Hai Ke Manta Nahin, a remake of Chori Chori was a huge hit. Hum Apke Hain Kaun, a remake of Nadiya Ke Paar broke all Bolllywood records. Same was the fate of movies like Raja Hindustani (Jab Jab Phool Khile), Khiladi (Khel Khel Mein), Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (Woh Saat Din), Devdas (Devdas), and Chalbaaz (Seeta Aur Geeta). The fact remains that all these remade movies reaped a rich harvest at the box office. In many cases the remakes proving to be bigger hits than the original. The only new factor now is that they have started retaining the old titles. As in the cases of Devdas, Parineeta, Sholay, Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam and Don.
Some reasons why remakes work?
a) What worked once has more chances of working again… It’s a safe bet. All the movies that have been remade are movies, which were having a very strong storyline. So, that means even before one starts making the remake one knows that that the basics are all at place. Moreover, you save the money for scouting a new story. Example: Nadiya Ke Paar, Victoria No. 203 (copyrights)So the job of the director is now to give the story a contemporary touch. So, the new Don has a home in Kuala Lumpur and sports a Beretta 98FS Limited Edition gun.
b) A remake appeals to many generations and for different reasons. The older generation watches it out of curiosity and with a little bit of cynicism just to reinforce their belief in the stars they once worshipped and the movies they liked. The younger generation wants to experiment so they want a sleeker, trimmer and fitter version of the old movie that they also liked as a kid. So the trick is to choose a topic, which has universal appeal, and a movie which can be customized.
c) The remakes create hype in popular media. And that hype is enough to give it a good opening at the box office. And in the age of multiplexes with more than 550 screens and 12,000 cinema halls to play with, a good opening means a hit movie. For example, the worldwide collections for Don in the first week only summed up to Rs 75 crores, which includes exploitation of all rights for the film. A premier Ad Agency created the look for Gabbar Singh.
Multiplexes have changed the game and remakes have more chances to thrive in this business environment. Add to this brand merchandising, music rights and the Krrish masks, you have got a hit in your hands. For remakes it’s a sone pe suhaga situation, a) there is curiosity all around b) there are big stars essaying the roles and c) there are debates in media about which one is better.
Let me tell you this, now the fate of the Bollywood movie is decided in the first weekend of its release. And remakes exploit the rule to the fullest. The hype and stars give them good initial collection. For example, even a Hollywood movie like Casino Royale grossed Rs 14 crores in the initial weekend.
I can very well foresee that in pure financial terms Ram Gopal Verma’s Sholay will be a hit even before it hits the screens. The curiosity factor is so huge that for the initial week the collections will be more than 80 per cent all across. And that will be enough to sail the movie through. Same can also be said about Bhansali’s Sahib, Biwi Aur Ghulam.
Now let us not talk about critics’ choice here, for example, the critics might have given Bhagam Bhag thumbs down but still its collection now stands at a whooping 23 crores. Reason? Post Dhoom 2 and Vivah no big releases happened. So, the audience watched Bhagam Bhag because they had no option.
Bollywood’s journey from business to “smart business,” India’s journey from cinema halls to multiplexes, has made remakes a success formula. But can remakes go hand in hand with artistic excellence. Well, for that you have to watch Martin Scorsese’s latest fare The Departed - a remake of a Hong Kong gangster drama called Infernal Affairs.
Originality and Bollywood have always been strange bedfellows. It is just that now the act of copying from an old movie or giving it a new look has got a more glamorous façade. The act of remaking an old movie has been institutionalized. It is now considered cool with words like “perspective” and “tribute” becoming synonyms for plagiarism. Business has just a little to do with originality of screenplay and clever camera angles. And remakes make perfect business sense.