Anyone with aspirations needs inspiration but we live in times when DVDs are sent to stars not scripts
When I watched ‘Cyrano De Bergerac’ at a film festival in Madras in the company of renowned actors and directors I knew there would be an Indian version shortly. Those were the days when even VHS tapes were scarce. The largest collection belonged to Kamal. If he respected your cinematic sensibilities you could be invited for a viewing but an attempt to borrow was anathema. Anyway the film, based on a famous play and starring Gerard Depardieu is about a swashbuckler who’s self-conscious about his long nose and feels his love will go unrequited. When the girl he loves gets infatuated with a dasher he helps him by pouring his emotions in poems soaked in love. Depardieu was even nominated for an Oscar which is rare because the role is non-English speaking. K. Balachander made ‘Duet’ and used Prabhu’s girth instead of an ungainly nose. The only notable things about the film were Rahman’s score, Vairamuthu’s lyrics and Prakash Raj’s Tamil debut. I’d sure many people did not even realize that the film was ‘inspired’ because access to foreign language films was rare.
Times have changed. The world has shrunk and for a film fanatic there’s a torrent (pun intended) of films available if you’re hooked to the information highway. Inspiration is easily accessible but can no longer be surreptitiously replicated. These are times when even if the film is original in thought you suspect you probably haven’t watched the original. Two such films in recent years are ‘Vicky Donor’ and ‘Pizza’. They are ingenious works and I hope they remain so. The dampener is when you are raving about a film to everyone in earshot and an assistant to a renowned director points out that it’s a remake. This happened with ‘Drishyam’ and I was crestfallen. I immediately watched the Korean film ‘Perfect Number’ based on a Japanese novel and was relieved. There are a couple of similarities but ‘Drishyam’ is better conceived and executed keeping the milieu in mind. The emotions and motives are believable. You can see that the director has bounced the script off many people to plug illogical holes. I feel the film should not be remade. It should have been subtitled and released everywhere. The Tamil remake will only result in an acrimonious war of words between fans of Mohanlal and Kamal. Believe me for these two gifted actors the role is just another day at the office.
Any form of art needs inspiration. It’s always based on something you’ve read, heard, seen or experienced. The best of films are inspired. Could Coppola have made ‘Godfather’ if not for Mario Puzo’s masterpiece? The film has inspired a generation of filmmakers and continues to do so. The best adaptation I feel is ‘Thevar Magan’. Kamal did not reprise scenes but based the film on the crucial emotional core of a reluctant son ascending a throne full of thorns. There was of course Mani Ratnam’s brilliantly adapted ‘Nayagan’. Mani pays his humble hallelujah in most of his films right from ‘Mouna Raagam’. Revathi dangling from a light post and singing in the rain is a tribute to Gene Kelly’s musical. ‘Anjali’ had the kids riding their bicycle into the orange sky a la ‘ET’. A song in ‘Dhalapathi’ has Rajni donning samurai gear. Kurosawa is of course a perennial inspiration. Can you imagine ‘Sholay,’ rated by many as the best Indian film ever without ‘Seven Samurai? There are a couple of crucial scenes straight out of Sergio Leone’s ‘Once Upon A Time In The West’ too. Back to Mani a crucial hospital scene in ‘Alai Payudhey’ where Shalini is battling death is straight out of ‘Sliding Doors’ right down to the camera angle. ‘Ayudha Yezhuthu’ is of course ‘Amores Perros’. Now none of this takes anything away from Mani’s reputation as one of our finest filmmakers. It’s just stray scenes meant to flatter the filmmakers he admires. He’s never denied it and at least he lends a touch of class in the execution.
Anyone with aspirations needs inspiration but we live in times when DVDs are sent to stars not scripts. Pluck the fruits. You don’t have to uproot the tree.
It’s the one day you wake up before the alarm sets off. You know the humour is going to be dry and the laughter forced. It’s accepted that the awards are mildly manipulated and politically correct and mostly predictable. The award winners are going to clutch the prized statuette, thank family and friends and squeeze their tear ducts open while the losers force a smile because they know the world is watching. It’s the one day stars reluctantly leave the constellation and condescend on terra firma. We do it because whether we admit it or not we are starstruck. It’s going to be one long year before I set the alarm again.