Play it again, Dev

Director Anurag Kashyap

Director Anurag Kashyap  

Bollywood’s recent obsession with remakes does not augur well for its longevity, writes ABHIMANYU SINGH

The ‘psychedelic’ promos of Anurag Kashyap’s new film Dev D are out. It is apparently “a parody, at least that’s what Anurag Kashyap told us when he visited our department last year,” according to Moinak Biswas, HoD, film studies, Jadavpur University.

A parody is still a remake. Since ‘Dev D’ is not released yet, we cannot really talk about it but it continues the recent trend of remakes in Bollywood.

More than any other art form, cinema has taken up the task of story telling and thereby, identity formation in our times. National identities are formed through the ‘collective unconscious’ of its people. Accordingly, a cursory look at the films that have been remade in Bollywood can throw some interesting results. Devdas of course continues to be remade because ‘the Devdas figure is one of the most enduring cult figures of middle class Indian — negotiating personal choices, urban transition and traditional interdiction,” says Moinak Biswas.

Devdas is also the archetype of the post-colonial Indian male, caught up in a constant existential dilemma. Then there are the two strong female characters in the story who continue to defy patriarchal notions.

Other films remade recently like Don can be read as re-interpretations of the rural-urban divide, made starker by the globalisation process. Umrao Jaan again has a courtesan in the centre, representative of an independent woman in a specific time, context and milieu who continues giving a headache to the ‘order’, which in mainstream terms translates into ‘status quo’.

There are larger issues, of course, involved with each of the films and they merit separate attention.

This trend of remakes can be read as nations trying to re-define their identities by negotiating problematic themes and reproducing national myths to strengthen themselves against the perceived threat through terrorism and insurgency. Moinak Biswas agrees, “it can be. Re-adaptations of old classics do contribute to an affirmation of a sense of community among the viewers through shared memory of literature and traditions captured in literature and film.”

Remakes reflect the threat TV continues to be for cinema, apart from You-Tube, piracy et al. (Accepted that Ghajini, another remake, is the biggest hit after Gadar but none of the two films have taken cinema any further in any sense.

Also, probably Ghajini is such a big hit because it expresses the sense of complete bewilderment that we feel at the moment as a nation regarding who we are and what we stand for, just like Aamir’s character in the film.)

It can be avoided if the whole cinematic machinery undergoes a complete overhaul. That does not quite seem possible, so just listen to ‘ Emosional Atyachar’ and wait for Dev D in the hope that Anurag Kashyap gives us a proper ‘book’ after an excellent Ph.D. thesis, Black Friday (we will politely forget No Smoking.)

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