Indian hits seem to be Hollywood spin-offs. What’s happened to originality?

It was in 1993 that director duo Abbas-Mustan released their Baazigar, starring Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol.

A remake of one of the lesser-known Hollywood films, A Kiss Before Dying, starring Matt Dillon, the film went on to become a blockbuster and catapulted Shah Rukh Khan to fame.

Since then, several desi films inspired by Hollywood have been released, and this has been perceived as a growing trend especially in the last five years. Filmmakers don’t seem to have any inhibitions about copying scripts from the West.

According to Viji (who penned the dialogues for Mozhi and directed Vellithirai),

“There have been thousands of films made in Tamil, but very few are original and worth talking about.”

Though it may shock film buffs, it is the truth. How it happens, you may wonder.

Perhaps because no one from Hollywood is aware that a script is being copied and made into a regional language film in India. If only they knew, they would be suing filmmakers from all over the country.

The mother of all remakes would be the recent blockbuster Pokkiri, which was first made in Telugu and later in Tamil.

Director Puri Jagannath, who was part of the Telugu film, calmly claims the script belongs to him. But the truth is it is a remake of the Al Pacino and Johnny Depp-starrer Donnie Brasco. Al Pacino’s role was reduced to a gangster’s side kick, and the acting legend would have a massive heart failure if he ever saw the Indian version.

Then there was Gautam Menon’s Pachaikili Muthucharam, a frame by frame remake of the Clive Owen-starrer Derailed.

None of the above mentioned filmmakers had any qualms about remaking Hollywood films, and no one bothers to give credit to the English films they are remaking.

Says G. Ramesh, cinematographer, “I have seen various cinematographers watching DVDs and picking up shots for the films they are working on. It is completely unethical, and one wonders how they can live with it in the years to come”.

It is well-known that director Murugadoss remade the Guy Pearce-starrer Memento as Ghajini starring Surya. The film is also being made in Hindi with Aamir Khan in the lead, and the filmmaker does not have the rights to the story.

Says a source close to the director, “We watched the film Memento several times, and tried to figure out how we could pen the screenplay to match the taste of the audience in Tamil Nadu.”

In the midst of those who have no ethics and lift scripts from the West, there are several dedicated directors who strive towards honouring cinema. There is Ashutosh Gowariker who made Lagaan, Swades and Jodha Akbar. Down South, some of the biggest hits of 2007 which had original scripts are Ameer’s Paruthiveeran and Venkat Prabhu’s Chennai 28.

Ameer is baffled at how people can lift story ideas from others, and laments,

“There is nothing wrong in being influenced by American films, but they have to be remade with the Tamil audience and culture in mind. The Ajith-starrer Ullasam was completely hilarious, as it was illogical. The problem is no one thinks about signing up a hero for a script. It’s the other way round; they work on a script with a hero in mind. As a result, the quality of films becomes mediocre.”

If everyone thought Anniyan made by highly acclaimed director Shankar was brilliant, here comes the shocker – the story was lifted from the Sidney Sheldon bestseller Tell me your dreams.

Sadly enough, such incidents are affecting the next generation filmmakers, as they are not able to find good mentors in the Tamil film industry.

It does not stop with lifting story ideas from Western films, but extends to the music scene as well. In the recent past, popular Hindi music director Pritam Chakravarthy has been legally pulled up for lifting tunes for his new hit Race. However, some people just don’t get the point. Do they?

popular remakes

Closer –

Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna

City of Gods – Pudupettai

The Untouchables – Kaakha Kaakha

Amorres Peros – Ayutha Ezhuthu

A perfect murder – Humraaz