How many times have you watched a Tamil film, and uttered a gasp of amusement and felt mild embarrassment, when you notice a scene — (or sometimes, the entire plot) — ripped off a Hollywood outing? Most of these suppposed ‘inspired versions’ — let’s not term them remakes — escape all legalities, as they slip under the radar of international filmmakers... and it’s left to audiences to bemoan our industry’s creative inadequacies.
However, it suddenly seems to be changing now — budding filmmakers in Kollywood walking the extra (albeit a tiring) mile, to officially buy the rights to remake foreign films, including South Korean and French movies.
Nalan Kumarasamy’s Kadhalum Kadanthu Pogum, an authentic remake of South Korean film My Dear Desperado, Manikandan’s upcoming Hollywood remake, and Rajesh M. Selva’s remake of French film Nuit Blanche (Thoongavanam), are just a few recent examples. How does one go about about it, though?
Manikandan, currently basking in the success of his Aandavan Kattalai, says it’s a very organic process — “One has to first find out the production house which owns rights and then contact them. Sometimes you hear from them, sometimes you don’t — the process starts from there. It is a very subjective thing and might vary depending upon the filmmaker. It is hard to lay down rules for the proceedings,” he elaborates.
He further notes that abroad, one may not be aware of Tamil cinema, because of which, international recognition might come in handy fo rsmooth proceedings — “Kaaka Muttai’s fame helped me. My short film, Wind, also earned me a name on the international circuit,” he admits, adding, “But, some blatantly say no. That’s understandable because even I won’t sell the rights of Kaaka Muttai to anyone!”
Talking about the cost, he explains, “On an average, you can acquire the rights of the South Korean film for a sum of Rs 50 lakh. However, when we approached a foreign indie director to remake an English flick, he asked for Rs 1.5 crore!”
On the other hand, the remake of My Dear Desperado called for a face-to-face interaction. Says Nalan Kumarasamy, “I handed over the process to a team called The Workshop, that curates films for international film fests. A person from the group went to South Korea to get the work done. Filmmakers are pretty welcoming most of the time to sell the rights. Actually, for them, it is not a market — but extra money. So, it is actually easy to talk them into selling the rights.”
However, remaking Asian films are relatively hard due to the language barrier. Nirupama, one of the founders of The Workshop, elucidates, “You have to cut through that hurdle somehow since the process involves a lot of negotiation.”
Also, they don’t know about us — the same way we don’t know the difference between Mandarin and Cantonese — for us, it’s just Chinese! Likewise, when you say you are from India, they think we all make glittery films with big heroes. Hence, they ask for exorbitant sums. You have to explain to them about Tamil film industry and our markets, in order to bargain,” Nirupama explains.
When probed about those Tamil remakes that have released without crediting the original, she explains, “If the filmmaker is not bound by any clause, he is free to do so. Most foreign directors insist on having their name.”
As an exception to all these rules, Sathuram 2, directed by Sumanth Radhakrishnan, credited the Hollywood film, Saw, but with no official paperwork. “I tried contacting the production house, but didn’t get a reply. Then when my music director met someone from Hollywood, he asked us to credit the film and said that these days you can’t do anything more than that,” claims Sumanth....