Despite the low hit rate, remakes don’t seem to be going out of style
It is a season of remakes in Kollywood. Last Friday’s release, Sundar C.’s Muthina Kathirikai, is a remake of Malayalam sleeper hit Vellimoonga. Actor Madhavan has announced the remake of Dulquer’s Malayalam hit Charlie, to be directed by Vijay. Nivin Pauly is doing his second film in Tamil, tentatively titled Santa Maria, a remake of Kannada hit Ulidavaru Kandante. Sibiraj is bringing this year’s Telugu suspense thriller Kshanam to Tamil while Santhanam is in talks to procure the rights for Malayalam superhit Two Countries. Last week, Rockline Venkatesh, producer of Lingaa, bought the remake rights of Marathi classic Sairat in south Indian languages, including Tamil. Udhayanidhi Stalin is in the process of purchasing remake rights of Telugu hit Nenu Sailaja. Actress Samantha is said to be making a Tamil/Telugu bilingual after procuring the rights for Kannada hit, U Turn.
More than 50 Tamil remake rights from various languages, mostly Malayalam, Telugu, Kannada, Hindi and Korean, have been purchased by directors and producers in Kollywood, who are waiting for either a saleable hero or a financier to kick-start the project.
In the last two years, the remakes that have worked to a certain extent are Kamal Haasan’s Papanasam ( Drishyam) and Jyothika’s comeback film, 36 Vayadhinile ( How Old Are You). Both films were helmed by directors who made the original. Last year, G.V. Prakash’s debut film as actor, the horror-comedy Darling, a remake of Telugu Prema Katha Chitram too became a hit . And this year, Udhayanidhi Stalin’s Manithan,a remake of Jolly LLB, has also done well at the box office.
Madhavan, who is reprising Dulquer’s role in Charlie says, “I signed the film only after I watched the original. I feel the film has elements that will work in Tamil too. We are still working on the script.”
However, a member of Tamil Film Producers Council says, “I have bought remake rights of two Malayalam hits, but I’ve decided to keep it on hold as one is a female-oriented subject and the other has little nativity. It’s not as though remakes are all hits anyway. Aarathu Sinam ( Memories), Bangalore Naatkal ( Bangalore Days), Enakkul Oruvan ( Lucia) and two little-known Telugu movie remakes have turned out to be duds.”
The hit ratio of remake films is very low—one out of every 10 remakes—with no recent hit as big as Chandramukhi (Kannada film Apthamitra) or Nanban ( 3 Idiots).
Director and actor Sundar C. says, “Scene-by-scene remakes from other languages will not work in Tamil. Remakes that have become hits have been adapted to suit Tamil nativity. For example, my Muthina Kathirikai is a remake of Vellimoonga. In the original, there is a lot of politics so director Venkat toned it down as political satires have never worked in Tamil cinema.”
In the 1970s and 1980s, 30 per cent of all Tamil films were remakes from other languages.
Suresh Balaji, son of legendary producer K. Balaji, says,“My father has made around 50 films, and almost all of them were remakes. Those days, a Hindi film was screened only in Madras city, and nobody in the smaller towns got an opportunity to see the original. He was very particular that the Tamil version retain the essence of the original and made very few changes. He believed a commercial hit in a particular language had universal appeal.”
Recently, a film like Drishyam in Malayalam worked in all south Indian languages. But it sparked several comparisons on social media. Sushant Prasad, a Tamil film producer, says, “A remake has to be made very carefully today as there will always be comparisons with the original. I wanted to remake the Nivin Pauly-Nazriya starrer Ohm Shanthi Oshaana in Tamil, but later gave it up, because it was a female-centric film and I knew it would be a commercially tough proposition.”
Mohan Raja, known for his successful remakes in Tamil, is not making a remake anytime soon after the massive success of Thani Oruvan, an original script.
Concludes his brother Jayam Ravi,“I have made many remakes and have nothing against them. But today’s Tamil audiences watch all language movies with subtitles, so I want to do something fresh and original to catch their attention.”