Bollywood mantra: rehash, remake, repeat

Remakes and sequels are the rage as original content increasingly becomes rare in big-ticket commercial Bollywood

Vinayak Chakravorty May 24, 2019 14:30:33 IST
Bollywood mantra: rehash, remake, repeat
  • Remakes and sequels are increasingly order of the day in Bollywood

  • Several recent big-ticket announcements either remakes or sequels

  • Majority of last year's top 10 either remakes or sequels


This week, Farah Khan and Rohit Shetty confirmed their collaboration to remake Raj N. Sippy’s cult dramedy of 1982, Satte Pe Satta.

This comes in the wake of the online trailer launch of Shahid Kapoor’s latest comeback bid, Kabir Singh. The romantic drama is a remake of the Telugu blockbuster Arjun Reddy, which in turn looked like a modernday update of Devdas. Kabir Singh is about a hard-cussing, alcoholic, drug-addict surgeon who is driven to numerous random flings, including an actress, thanks to a hyperactive tendency of lust after losing in love. The film promises to be as loud as the Telugu original.

Bollywood mantra rehash remake repeat

Shahid Kapoor in Kabir Singh

In the theatres, Tiger Shroff continues struggling to stack up decent numbers for Student Of The Year 2, a tired sequel rehashing every teenybopper cliché that worked from Bobby and Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar, to Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Main Hoon Na and, of course, Student Of The Year.

All this, even as Salman Khan gears up to release his Eid 2019 biggie Bharat, a remake of the Korean melodrama, Ode To My Father, and Aamir Khan gets busy with Lal Singh Chaddha, an official remake of the Hollywood hit, Forrest Gump.

It is no coincidence that the five most widely-discussed films in Bollywood right now are far from original fare. A quick scan of what big-ticket Bollywood is up to lately, after all, is not heartening for fans of originality. Just when you thought an urban multiplex-driven small-film wave was pushing Hindi cinema towards new ideas, the old-school commercial biggies seems to be making it loud and clear that they are in no a mood to think fresh. When big money has to be made real quick, original content is not a priority. Remakes, sequels and formula repeats are emerging as the safe way to garner the crores in Hindi mainstream’s age of rehash, and the industry is falling back on old films and songs even for titles. We had Junglee, Kalank, Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga and De De Pyar De lately. Dreamgirl, Khamoshi, Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas and Radha Kyun Gori Main Kyun Kaala are lined up.

The fact that originality of content or treatment isn’t the primacy right now is obvious if you look at Bollywood’s domestic top 10 earners of 2018 on the trade website As many as six of the 10 can be slotted either as a sequel, a remake, or simply an effort reaffirming stereotypes. Race 3, 2.0 (Hindi version) and Baaghi 2 were sequels with little or no imagination. Simmba was a remake of the Telugu hit, Temper. Sanju and Padmaavat, the two biggest hits of 2018, along with Thugs Of Hindostan, reloaded clichés ranging from the regressive to the ludicrous, in a throwback to the abysmal eighties.

The answer to why this is happening probably lies in the eighties. For the first time since that decade, Bollywood is witnessing the hint of a segregated audience. Back in the eighties, the rise of national television weaned away the content-driven middle-class viewer. Those were the glory days of Doordarshan when shows regaled sensibly, and offbeat filmmakers including Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani, Ketan Mehta and Kundan Shah took to creating small-screen content. Bollywood commercial cinema was left with no option but to reach out to the lowest common denominator. Remakes of southern potboilers, high on gimmicks ranging from the vulgar to the vacuous rather than cohesive plots, became a lucrative option. Numerous hits of the era including Himmatwala, Andhaa Kaanoon, Inquilaab, Mawaali, Justice Chaudhary and Tohfa represent the trend.

A similar movement is happening now. Filmmakers known for their unconventional bursts — including Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane, Zoya Akhtar, Hansal Mehta and Imtiaz Ali — are often looking at the digital space to narrate new stories. This is happening in sync with the growth of the small-budget multiplex movie, which continues serving offbeat tales for the refined audience. Vintage commercial Bollywood is increasingly left searching for a different USP, and originality is not a criterion.

Not being original, however, is nothing new to commercial Bollywood. Copies of Hollywood and regional films often went unnoticed in past decades owing to the absence of organised copyright laws. Back then, the trend was fashionably dubbed ‘being inspired’.

There is, however, a difference between yesterday’s inspirations and today’s official remakes. Ramesh Sippy’s Sholay broke records bearing shades of Khotay Sikkay, both films having found inspiration in The Magnificent Seven and Seven Samurai. Mehboob Khan remade his earlier film Aurat into the timeless Mother India. Yet these remakes, among many other such hits, were giving a fresh socio-cultural context to the borrowed storylines, which made them relevant.

New-age Bollywood, dictated by stringent legal guidelines, has to shell out hefty sums for remake rights. In turn, many filmmakers consider it their entitlement to make frame-to-frame copies. Rendering an Indian context doesn’t necessarily find precedence. So, Sujoy Ghosh’s Badla may have been a gripping suspense drama, but many felt the film — a remake of the Spanish thriller, The Invisible Guest — looked outlandish in execution. Similarly, the Salman Khan-produced Notebook, a remake of the Korean drama, The Teacher’s Diary, failed to find an audience connect.

Many in Bollywood feel stars insist on remakes because tested material lets them prove their acting skills. “Stars often go for remakes because they find a great story somewhere that challenges them, which may or may not be the case with original scripts coming their way,” says producer Tanuj Garg. “The industry, however, needs to know that if money is the sole reason for a remake or sequel, it will fail,” adds Garg, who has worked on original fare such as Tumhari Sulu and Lootera, as well as sequels like Shootout At Wadala and Once Upon A Time In Mumbai Dobaara.

If the remake rage is on, so is sequel mania. Total Dhamaal and Student Of The Year 2, released earlier this year, will be followed by Dabangg 3, Hera Pheri 3, Housefull 4, ABCD 3 and Sadak 2.

Few sequels, however, can claim to be driven by reasons other than money. An exception would be the Tanu Weds Manu franchise, which defined the new-age smalltown film. “We made the Tanu Weds Manu sequel because the characters demanded that the story be taken forward,” says series writer-director Aanand L. Rai. “The decision for a sequel must rest on the story.”

It’s not a decision Bollywood often takes prudently. Rather, filmland’s mantra is clear-cut: Once is nice, twice or more is nicer.



Big-ticket remakes Bollywood has lined up over the next months

BHARAT: Salman Khan’s Eid 2019 release is a remake of the South Korean melodrama, Ode To My Father.

KABIR SINGH: Shahid Kapoor stars in the latest Devdas update, remade from the Telugu hit, Arjun Reddy.

COOLIE NO. 1: David Dhawan casts son Varun Dhawan in the remake of his 1995 superhit starring Govinda.

RAMBO: Tiger Shroff is gearing up to wear Sylvester Stallone’s boots in the Siddharth Anand remake.

PATI PATNI AUR WOH: Kartik Aryan, Bhumi Pednekar, Ananya Pandey star in the remake of BR Chopra’s 1978 hit.

LAL SINGH CHADDHA: Aamir Khan’s next, an official remake of the Tom Hanks-starrer Forrest Gump, is slated for Christmas 2020.

Updated Date:

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