The story of Archi and Parshya’s love as told in Nagraj Manjule’s hard-hitting Marathi film Sairat made it a universally acclaimed film. It was made with first-time actors who had no background in movies in a rustic Maharashtrian set-up.
The movie went on to become a sleeper hit and grabbed the attention of critics and audiences alike.
As different as chalk and cheese, Nagraj’s barebones budget, real-to-life movie is to be remade by the king of glitz, Karan Johar as Dhadak. It will also be a launch vehicle for star kids Ishaan Khatter and Janhvi Kapoor. The fear now is that the film, which will be directed by Shashank Khaitan may become an upper-class, polished, ‘Bollywoodised’ version of the original gritty movie. Shashank has remained pretty tight-lipped about the entire affair, despite the fact that a few glamorous first-look posters of the film have released. “I can only tell you that I am shifting the action to Rajasthan, and that while the premise is similar to Sairat, it will have its own plotline,” was all he was able to promise.
While Shashank’s words throw no light on how the film will ultimately turn out to be like, history tells an unfortunate tale when it comes to the adaptation of regional cinema into Bollywood blockbusters. From the trailer and teasers of the upcoming Salman Khan starrer Tiger Zinda Hai, which is to release this December, it looks to be another beefed up, larger-than-life Bollywood action drama — a far cry from the Malayalam thriller, Take Off, that it is allegedly inspired from.
Even the original story of Devdas by Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay was adapted into a critically acclaimed film starring Soumitra Chatterjee and Uttam Kumar. The remade film, a Shah Rukh Khan starrer, with its melodrama, glamorous sets and costumes was just another example of Bollywoodisation, despite its being a hit.
The adaptation of the Malayali film Manichitrathazhu into Bhool Bhulaiyaa was much the same — though the Bollywood version became a hit, it lost much of its original elements of horror.
“It has nothing to do with whether a film is a hit or a flop, it is to do with sensibilities and when it comes to that, mainstream Bollywood films are all about making money. Glamour and glitz are just a part and parcel of that,” explains director Avinash Das.
“Unfortunately, mainstream Bollywood movies don’t really have that much originality anymore. Ideas are usually based on someone else’s story and the execution of it also follows predictable patterns. And then, this is a Karan movie. He is someone who is known for the grandeur of his films. Sanjay Leela Bhansali is another such director, though he does it in a completely different way,” he adds.
Director Karan Anshuman explains that mainstream Bollywood has to target the mass of the entire country. In doing so, they have to cater to the lowest common denominator, and the flavour of the film also begins to reflect that.
“The problem with targeting a large audience is that, the larger the audience, the more you have to dumb down the content. Of course, there comes a film, once in a while, that’s so well made that it touches you no matter what the content. Sairat is an example of just that. But for the most part, regional, and indie films have a lot more freedom to explore nuances, since they target a niche audience,” he says.
Bejoy Nambiar disagrees, as the filmmaker adds that it is really the individual directors and production houses that take such decisions, and not Bollywood at large. “It’s very difficult to make such a blanket statement when it comes to remakes. Each director or producer looks at a film from a certain perspective and makes it from that perspective. So, to say that all Bollywood films create a glamorised version of their regional counterparts would be wrong,” he shrugs.
Avinash too concedes that there are movies, even in the Hindi film industry that have been able to keep it low-key. “Just as there is an indie industry with other languages, there is one even in Hindi. And it is from this faction that many low-key but hard-hitting films come out. Newton, which became India’s entry in the Oscars, is one such example. Ashwini Iyer Tiwari’s films also fall in this category.
However, these have a niche in themselves. It is mainstream Bollywood that goes grandiose in most of its productions,” he explains.
Director Mohit Suri says that two elements need to remain the same when creating an adaptation — whether it Bollywoodised or not. “The essence of the film, and its narrative need to remain the same, no matter where you are adapting it from. If these elements are in place, then the rest too, falls into place,” he signs off....