Ravi K Chandran’s Bhramam starring Prithviraj, Mamta Mohandas and Unni Mukundan has received mixed reviews since its release earlier this month. The official Malayalam remake of the critically acclaimed Andhadhun (Sriram Raghavan-Ayushmann Khurrana), many felt that Bhram could not capture the essence of its source material. Others were of the opinion that the film was a capable enough venture in itself.
Bhramam is only the latest in a tradition of a creative barter system that has existed among the Malayalam and Hindi film industries since at least the 60s.
Odayil Ninnu (1965) was the first Malayalam film to be remade in Hindi (as Babu in 1985), followed by Satyan’s Vazhve Maya (1970), starring Rajesh Khanna, Sanjeev Kumar and Mumtaz as Aap Ki Kasam Was. Chattakkari (1974) succeeded Julie (1975), which retained the heroine of the original, Lakshmi. Similarly Dilip Kumar’s Madhumati (1958) was remade in 1976 in Vandevata, titled Prem Nazir. Again Dilip Kumar’s Ganga Jamuna was remade as Lava (1980) directed by Hariharan and starring Prem Nazir. The 80s also produced some blockbuster movies of Amitabh Bachchan – Amar Akbar Antony (John Jaffer Janardhan), Don (Shobhraj), Zanjeer (Nayattu), Deewar (Naathi Muthal Nathi Vare).
Mammootty’s much-awaited Oru CBI Diary Kurippu, Avnazi and New Delhi were remade as Police Public, Satyameva Jayate and New Delhi respectively. Many of Mohanlal’s superhits were also remade (Rajvinte Maken, Chitram, Kilukkam, Kiridom transformed into Kanwar Lal, Pyaar Hua Chori Chori, Musruhaat, Gardish respectively).
Ever since Priyadarshan turned it into a lucrative Bollywood gig, the remake business started getting more profits. Most of his Bollywood films are either his own or remakes of other successful Malayalam films. Some successful Malayalam films are now being remade in Hindi (Ayyappanum Koshiyum, One, Driving License, Helen, Androy Kunjappan, Forensic, Home) We take a look at some of the Hindi films that work from the Malayalam environment. And those who didn’t.
who got it right
Masoom (1983): Neither Balu Mahendra, who made Olangal (1982), nor Shekhar Kapur, who made it a year later as Masoom, credit the original inspiration, which is the Erich Sehgal novel, Man, Woman and Child. It is still debatable if Kapoor watched the Malayalam film before making his version, but frankly, the similarities are hard to miss. A couple’s happy married life is disrupted by the arrival of the man’s illegitimate son and how the family struggles to come to terms with the setback is the rest of the story. What makes Hindi a better version is its beautiful performances (Shabana Azmi was sublime as the wife) and a narrative that deserves quiet attention. Perhaps the husband would have helped Olangal as a Malayalam actor instead of Amol Palekar (who was awkward due to obvious language issues).
Dus Tola (2007): It is an almost impossible task to remake a story that is deeply tied to a locality and culture. Ponmuttayidunna Tharavu, written by Raghunath Paleri, directed by Sathyan Antikad, is sown in a small village in Kerala, and tells the story of a goldsmith who is deceived in love. It is this blend of naivete and naturalness that enchants you about Ponmuttaidunna Tharavu, which is full of all things ordinary, relatable characters and dialogues that have a powerful rustic humour. And then you have a line-up of awesome actors who bring so much nuance to their characters – Jagathi Sreekumar, Urvashi, Innocent, Karamana Janardhan, Mamukoya, Oduvil Unnikrishnan, KPAC Lalitha. But the Hindi remake that came out decades later is, unsurprisingly, a fascinating tribute to the original. The surroundings are set in a North Indian village and the narrative faithfully sticks to the original. Apart from the original story and setting, what perhaps helps maintain the spirit of the original has to be the stellar cast led by Manoj Bajpayee, who is brilliant as the goldsmith. Even if you have seen the original, ten tola is fascinating.
Hera Pheri (2000): Yet another original that is difficult to copy, but Priyadarshan, who has always been smart with adaptations, effectively retains the spontaneity of the source material. Directed by Siddiqui-Lal, Ramji Rao Speaking, starring Mukesh, Saikumar and Innocent, is about two unemployed youths who stage kidnappings to make money. While the casting (Akshay Kumar, Suniel Shetty) can hardly sound watchful, Priyadarshan skillfully casts its actors, directed by a brilliant Paresh Rawal and Tabu, in a narrative filled with impulsive bursts of humour, a few tearful tickles, And an interesting closure. Hera Pheri made Priyadarshan a household name in Bollywood.
Hulchul (2004): The original, The Godfather, directed by Siddiqui Lal, is a classic comedy set against the backdrop of two warring families, led by an aging patriarchy and matriarch, and a love affair that once again pits families against each other. . One of his better remakes, Priyadarshan gets casting rights – Amrish Puri, Laxmi, Paresh Rawal, Akshaye Khanna, Arshad Warsi. The least important characters are covered well – Arshad Warsi gives a quirky spin to Jagdish’s Mayankatti, so does Paresh Rawal (in Innocent’s shoes). Puri and Laxmi are suitably formidable, while Akshaye Khanna and Kareena Kapoor are apt. The setting, costume, and song sequences are catchy and detailed, but it still doesn’t quite buckle under the weight of its originals and manages to keep you suitably invested.
Hungama (2003): The original, Poochakkoru Mukuthi, directed and written by Priyadarshan, is considered a cult comedy among Malayalam cinematographers. Perhaps it is because Priyadarshan himself takes over as the director that the new version manages to be, on its own, backed by a host of talented actors. Poochakkoru Mukuthi (1984) was a brilliant comedy of errors, riding on a bunch of oddballs. A simple millionaire, his seductive-city-life wife, a rich man as a street singer, a young woman who runs away from home, an ambitious young chap looking for a rich girl to marry. Nearly 20 years later, Priyadarshan re-imagines the setting in a more urban setting, adds necessary tweaks, maintains the oddities of the characters, and manages to keep the narrative captivating.
who got it wrong
Police Public (1990):A remake of the classic investigative thriller, Oru CBI Diary Kurippu (1988), written by SN Swamy, directed by K Madhu, is Esmail Shroff’s Police Public. Despite sticking to the original script, the remake turns into a shoddy imitation. The story is squeezed into a typical Hindi film potboiler, which gets derailed when CBI officer Jagmohan Azad makes a stiff-necked entrance while tagging a German Shepherd with him. Not only is Rajkumar’s Azad a poor substitute for Mammootty’s brilliant Sethurmaiyar, even the supporting cast (despite Naseeruddin Shah stepping in for Sukumaran’s Devdas) fails. The film is neither interesting nor exhilarating.
Why (2005): No, it is not necessary that you will always be able to recreate the magic of your movie. When Priyadarshan decided to remake his Thalavattam (1986), which was in turn an adaptation of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, starring Salman Khan in the lead, the signs were already ominous. Not only was Khan a ridiculous replacement for Mohanlal, notable as a mentally ill Vinod, Priyadarshan equally messed up the rest of the casting. It took away the soul of the film. He took the narrative forward by placing it against an attractive backdrop and inorganic interiors. And then the movie just fell into a heap.
Bhool Bulaiya (2007): First things first. Bhool Bulayya was a commercial success. But that still doesn’t take away the fact that it was a mere shadow of the classic Manichitrathazu (1993), a psychological paranormal thriller, directed by Faasil. The Hindi remake of Priyadarshan was a cosmetic version, further diluted by poor performances, especially by the lead cast. Shobhana, who turns the complex Nagavali/Ganga performance of a lifetime, perishes at the hands of Vidya Balan, who is almost as comical as an Avani/Manjulika-influenced multi-persona. Dr. Sunny (Mohanlal who is adorable) gets punctured in the hands of Akshay Kumar, who struggles to regain Mool’s endearing identity. Exactly the same for supporting actors who are reminiscent of the talents of the original cast. The remake is just as awesome as its title.
The Third Who (1994): When you have Chunky Pandey in place of Mohanlal and Mithun Chakraborty in place of Mammootty in the remake of the classic murder mystery, one should expect mayhem. And despite being a faithful remake of Joshi’s No. 20 Madras Mail (1990), that’s what you get with Teesri Kaun, which revolves around the entanglements of three young men in a murder case. The Third Who is a nostalgic adaptation that doesn’t thrill any of the original’s meta moments. The Pandey-Chakraborty conversation sucks, the jokes don’t hit the house, and the investigation fails to keep us invested.
Word (2005):A remake of Mohan’s Rachna (1983), the story revolves around a writer who encourages his wife to form a relationship with his colleague in order to bring more realism to his story. A disturbingly intense theme, executed well in Malayalam, backed by stellar performances from Bharata Gopi, Srividya and Nedumudi Venu. But the remake that came out two decades later, helmed by Leena Yadav, which stars Sanjay Dutt, Aishwarya Rai and Zayed Khan, turns into a shallow, boring narrative, with too much emphasis on embellishing its actors. This completely misses the seriousness of the subject.
Most of these remakes are famous. The number of memorable remakes is high, mostly because none of them could add anything new or were lost in translation while still respecting the original. Also, when it comes to Malayalam cinema, it can be a challenge to translate comedy, as it is very difficult to recreate the nuances of Malayalam humour. Most of the Priyadarshan remakes (since they are always a decade old) aim to engage the new generation of cine-goers, whereas a film like Bhram aims to bring in a new audience or market. Upcoming remakes also fall into the latter category. It remains to be seen where they fit into this list.