With remakes being the flavour of the season, the hysterical Himmatwala is okay to be tampered with, hoping that they would allow gems like Chashme Buddoor be

It was a time when “Ek Dhuje Ke Liye” had taken the Bombay film industry by storm. Jeetendra confessed Kamal Hassan sent shivers down his spine. While K. Balachander and Kamal got busy recycling all their old hits, the Telugu filmmakers found an ally in Jeetu. Strangely, it was a time when ‘Madrasi’ films were sneered upon. They were purportedly loud and garish. Ironically, while the sensitive ‘Sadma’(Moonram Pirai) flopped the hysterical ‘Himmatwala’(Ooriki Monagadu) was a runaway success. Nothing in the latter was changed to suit the supposed sensitivity of audiences in North India. The costumes were outlandish, the sets loud and the acting over the top. It was the typical tale of revenge and the hero taming the shrew, a formula that has seldom failed.

The remaking of ‘Himmatwala’ exactly three decades after its release, mirrors the paucity of original ideas. And for Gods’ sake why ‘Himmatwala’? Well I think it’s better than trying to rework the magic of that charming comedy, ‘Chashme Buddoor’. Honestly, I don’t mind Sajid Khan’s version of ‘Himmatwala’. He at least chose a film that suited his limited filmmaking abilities. You’re left wondering if it takes more guts to make such a film or to watch it. But then what else can you expect from a director who idolises Joginder? Remember ‘Ranga Khush’? The reprisal is as regressive as the original. Hindi cinema is at the crossroads. On the one side, you have Abhishek Kapoor’s brilliant ‘Kai Po Che’ and on the other you have the tripe churned out by the Sajids and the Vikram Bhats. Thank God ‘Himmatwala’ has sunk at the box-office or we’d have had to look forward to ‘Tohfa’. I dread the fact that if ‘Chashme Buddoor’ succeeds there’ll be directors eying the gems made by Hrishikesh Mukerjee and Basu Chatterjee.

The timing of a film’s release has always been crucial. Previously, March and April were anathema because of impending exams. Now producers have to deal with this cricketing behemoth called IPL. The extravaganza extends to two whole months and eats into the two evening shows on weekends. This has sent the release plans of many a film awry. The flipside is that ‘Simpalag Ondh Love Story’, irrespective of all this continues to rake it in. So are these mere excuses? Not really according to the manager of a theatre that plays only Kannada films. A typical love story was released in his theatre in February. The film garnered great reviews but the hall wore a deserted look. “Family audiences keep away from films during this time because they’re busy monitoring their children’s exam preparations,” says the man, who’s managing the theatre for four decades.

There are a lot of things to contend with these days. A film with lesser stars will have to wait for a time when the release does not clash with that of a superstar. Strangely some stars themselves are responsible for deserted cinema halls. Two superstars, instead of slugging it out in theatres are competing on primetime TV. While ‘Kannadadha Kotiyadhipathi’ has kept family audiences glued Sudeeps ‘Big Boss’ is trying to woo them away. The TRPs of the former has fallen. Shouldn’t stars venture into the idiot box when their box-office sheen is on the wane like Amitabh? They complain of extraneous forces like the IPL, but form their own celebrity league. Aren’t they acting against their own interests? I remember Puneet laughing nervously when I told him that his show is going to eat into the collections of his just released film, ‘Anna Bond’. Stars are losing their sheen because they’re more accessible. They’ve lost their omnipotence because they’re omnipresent. When they’re not selling a product they’re promoting a film. Some don’t mind washing dirty linen on air. The aura lay in the mystery that inaccessibility induced. Now while Shivraj Kumar coaxes you to buy gold, Puneet advises you to pledge it. The constellation has deserted the cinematic stratosphere. They crowd our living room, accessible at the click of our finger.