Kabir Singh, Simmba have restarted the trend of South Indian remakes in Bollywood, after Wanted in 2009
Leading film trade analysts weigh in on the traditional Bollywood trend of South Indian remakes, made popular by stars like Jeetendra and Aamir Khan.
The top grossing Indian film of 2019 so far is Shahid Kapoor and Kiara Advani-starrer romance drama Kabir Singh, an official remake of Telugu mega-blockbuster Arjun Reddy. Kabir Singh pulled in a peachy worldwide theatrical revenue of over Rs 370 crore, making it the highest earning solo film for Shahid. The original version, Arjun Reddy, starring Vijay Deverakonda, garnered a total of Rs 50 crore worldwide, recovering more than 400 percent of the investment, and catapulted Vijay to stardom. Now, his latest release Dear Comrade, one of the widely publicised films in recent times, has already been sold to Karan Johar's Dharma Productions.
Simmba, an official remake of Telugu blockbuster Temper, and Baaghi 2, which was adapted from Telugu mystery thriller Kshanam, were part of the top 10 highest grossers of 2018 in Bollywood. In fact, Simmba was one of the four Hindi films to amass a global total of Rs 400 crore and above last year.
Firstpost talks to renowned trade analysts and entertainment industry trackers to explore how South remakes become solid money-spinners in Bollywood, and why the Hindi filmdom is betting big on South Indian cinema.
Trade analyst Taran Adarsh tells Firstpost, "This trend started in the 1960s when a couple of South Indian filmmakers remade their movies in Hindi. It was a very successful trend at that point of time. In the '80s, Jeetendra re-started the trend, and it got a bigger boost when films started to succeed at the box office, and actors from the South also forayed into Bollywood. Sridevi was relaunched in a South Indian remake, Himmatwala. And then, a lot of actors like Amitabh Bachchan and Rajesh Khanna engaged in South Indian remakes. Then, it was quite popularised by Salman Khan when he did Wanted (remake of Telugu film Pokiri). In fact, Aamir Khan's Ghajini (Tamil remake of Ghajini) was the first Indian film to gross Rs 100 crore domestically."
Trade analyst Girish Johar says, "I wouldn't say it's a new trend. Traditionally too, Bollywood has been churning out a lot of South Indian remakes. Suddenly, there was a downtrend when a lot of original storytellers arrived at the scene. Now, Kabir Singh has rekindled the trend and makers are looking out for good stories from the South. But, there is a regular exchange of films between both the industries. Pink remake is now gearing up for release in Tamil as Nerkonda Paarvai. I think it's a very healthy and positive trend to reach out to wider audiences across languages."
Talking about the blockbuster success of Kabir Singh at the ticket window, Adarsh says, "Kabir Singh has done phenomenal business, braving rains, World Cup cricket, and a string of new releases. It only goes to prove that people have embraced the content. When you remake a South Indian film in Hindi, the advantage is that it's a tried-and-tested formula. While the heart and the soul remain the same, filmmakers just need to tweak a little to suit the sensibilities of audiences. South Indian films are primarily entertainment-driven, and the focus is universal acceptance. Baahubali 2: The Conclusion grossed Rs 510 crore (net) at Hindi box office alone, and it was an eye-opener."
Indian entertainment industry tracker Ramesh Bala observes, "In the northern and western territories of India, single-screen owners and exhibitors complain about the lack of content since the mushrooming of new-age storytellers in Bollywood majorly caters to multiplex audiences. However, in Tamil and Telugu, where the presence of single screens dominate the industry, most movies are made for the consumption of mass audiences. It's one of the main reasons why South remakes continue to mint money at the Bollywood box office."
Salman Khan's Kick, an official remake of Telugu film Kick, was the first film for the actor to sail past Rs 400 crore in worldwide ticket sales. After release, Aamir Khan's Ghajini turned out to be the highest grossing Indian film of all time in 2008, before 3 Idiots outperformed the AR Murugadoss-directed movie in 2009. From Hera Pheri to Bhool Bhulaiyaa and Rowdy Rathore, Akshay Kumar has been part of nearly 15 remakes of South Indian films in Bollywood in his career.
"I believe South Indian cinema has more larger-than-life screen depiction of characters than Bollywood. Films like Simmba too featured larger-than-life storytelling, and it's widely appreciated by audiences here. Akshay Kumar, in particular, has mastered adapting South films and he has now lined up Ikka (remake of Kaththi), Bachchan Pandey (remake of Veeram), and Laxmmi Bomb (remake of Kanchana). His Holiday: A Soldier Is Never Off Duty and Gabbar is Back were also South Indian remakes. He has a knack of choosing stories that would be accepted by North audiences," said Girish Johar.
Other South Indian films that will be remade in Hindi include Tamil blockbuster Vikram Vedha, which starred Madhavan and Vijay Sethupathi as a cop and a gangster respectively. The Bollywood grapevine is already abuzz with reports that Aamir Khan and Saif Ali Khan are in talks to be part of the film. Top Bollywood studios are also negotiating the rights to Nani's Telugu sports drama Jersey. Sanjay Dutt's upcoming release Prasthanam, and director Milan Luthria's remake of Telugu film RX 100 are some of the forthcoming South movies getting remade in Bollywood.
Trade guru Taran Adarsh says he is hopeful about both. “It's too early to comment on the box-office prospects of either Laal Singh Chaddha or Raksha Bandhan. The advance bookings have not been too strong and the two films are dependent on word of mouth."
Speaking about it, while promoting Raksha Bandhan, the actor added, "We cannot disagree with the fact that dowry is very much there in India. It's in the layers."