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Remakes are pale shadows of originals, why make them? (Column: Bollywood Spotlight)

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By Subhash K. Jha
Do you love “Mother India”/”Mughal-e-Azam”/”Anand”/”Amar Prem”/”Deewaar”, etc, etc? Then please do not wish for their remakes. It amounts to inappropriate touching.

I have never come across a remake that has been even remotely flattering to the original. Except maybe Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s “Devdas” which was not really remake of Bimal Roy’s “Devdas” but a ravishing, revisionist take on Saratchandra Chatterjee’s novel.

But “Devdas” is not my concern right now. Wretchedly unflattering remakes have begun to bother me with renewed vigour ever since I saw “Kaatrin Mozhi”, the Tamil remake of 2017’s game-changing feminist rom-com “Tumhari Sulu”. I sat through the touching, sincere but hollow and self-conscious remake with just one thought in my head: Why?

Why do we need another “Tumhari Sulu” so soon after the first? Is the story’s transposition to the South a sign of artistic enterprise or just a symptom of the laziness that has crept into a certain kind of genre-specific cinema which cannibalises extraneous content pretending to enhance it in ways that never happen?

Except for the fact that the cultural reference is altered, “Katrin Mozhi” is no different from “Tumhari Sulu” in spirit and flavour. Even the individual episodes from the original plot have been wrenched out of their context and put there for no other purpose except to look cutely wannabe. Like the original, “Katrin Mozhi” starts with the feisty housewife participating in an egg-and-spoon race in her son’s school while her “devoted” husband cheers on.

Here I must pause to say the husband, Balu, is played way too eagerly by actor Vidhaarth. While Manav Kaul in the original was supportive, Vidhaarth is seen toppling over with spousal servility. It almost feels like this husband is overdoing it to hide an extra-marital affair which would come out in a sequel, perhaps?

For now, South Indian Sulu goes through all the motions of the original, like a perfect mime to a rhyme that never needed an echo. Viji, the Southern Sulu, is just as big an over-reacher as Sulu. And her twin sisters mock her efforts just as viciously. Nope, nothing has changed. Why should it, when the fodder provided by the original serves the purpose.

Perhaps, those who haven’t seen “Tumhari Sulu” would enjoy Jyothika’s amped-up aunty antics. She plays the domesticated busybee like an exact twin to Vidya Balan. A plumper, more excitable Sulu who prefers sambar to poha. But my thought at the end of “Katrin Mozhi”: Maar diya jaye ke chhod diya jaye bol tere saath kya Sulu kya jaye?

Only deft handling by extremely competent makers could infuse life into remakes. Martin Scorcese successfully remade the 1962 classic “Cape Fear”. He got his first best director Oscar for a remake, “The Departed”.

I end with Javed Akhtar’s words of wisdom on remakes: “I can understand Basu Chatterjee fuming over the remakes of his films. He or Sai Paranjpye have made classics, so why fool around with them? On the other hand, some other films have reason to be remade. With time, some classics could be given a new interpretation. A filmmaker may give the subject a more technologically advanced twist. No harm in that.

“But I feel certain classics are sacrosanct and inviolable. You can’t remake ‘Sholay’, ‘Mughal-e-Azam’ or ‘Gone With The Wind’ or ‘Ben Hur’. No one should dare to tamper with these classics.”

Let these classics remain as testimony to unrepeatable greatness.

(Subhash K. Jha can be contacted at [email protected])


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