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From A Fish Called Wanda to Breathless: Unpopular Hollywood adaptations in Malayalam cinema

Did you know these Mollywood hits were adapted plots?

Megha Mukundan
Aug 28, 2021
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Kakkakuyil, Vandanam, Chandralekha and Mayanadhi are some of the movies that stay close to Malayalis as their precious assets. What if we say that these movies have similarities to other films made before them? Yes, their stories were adapted.

Though many of these movies are not mentioned as official remakes, their plots are quite similar to the movies like A Fish Called Wanda, Stakeout, While You Were Sleeping and Breathless. The movies are presented to Malayali audiences with many regional and signature elements of the makers and all of them have turned out to be classics in Malayalam cinema. There are also reports that Aashiq Abu’s Mayanadhi was adapted from the French classic Breathless.

Here is an interesting list of Mollywood hits that were unpopular Hollywood adaptations.

A Fish Called Wanda - Kakkakkuyil


Written by John Cleese and Charles Crichton, A Fish Called Wanda is a crime comedy that released in 1988. The Crichton directorial narrates the story of a girl who intends to kill people for making money. The plot is filled with many comedy sequences and twists along with the development of the main story. The film won many awards then, including the Award for Best Original Screenplay.

While discussing the Malayalam movie Kakkakuyil, helmed by Priyadarshan, it could be noticed that the plot and scenes are inspired from A Fish Called Wanda. The Malayalam version is more emotional and has a regional touch. With the comedy sequences, the inspired scenes resemble the original characters with slight modifications. The role played by Jagathy Sreekumar is an example. The movie’s cast comprises Mohanlal, Mukesh, Nedumudi Venu and Arzoo Govitrikar.

Larger Than Life - Pattabhishekam


Jayaram starrer Pattabhishekam is a rib-tickling comedy that has terrific repeat value. The naughty-elephant friend of the hero has won many hearts and continues to entertain audiences with every viewing.

The storyline of this Anil Kumar and Babu Narayanan directorial is inspired by the 1996 American road comedy Larger Than Life. Helmed by Howard Franklin, the latter revolves around Jack Corcoran (played by Bill Murray), who inherits a huge fortune from his deceased father. Soon he goes distraught as he finds out the fortune is an elephant. 

Dead Poets Society - Life is Beautiful


The 2000s Malayalam drama starring Mohanlal helmed by Fazil can be traced to the 80s classic Dead Poets Society. The role played by Robin Williams as a progressive teacher in the latter is recreated as Mohanlal’s character in the Malayalam movie.

Though Life is Beautiful has different aspects from the original, the core subject remains the same. Many sensitive and family emotions are added to the movie to make it a typical Malayalam drama movie. 

While You Were Sleeping - Chandralekha


Director Priyadarshan adapted the story of the 1995 American romcom, to make his Mohanlal starrer Chandralekha. Adding some signature elements, he remade a 103-minute long movie into a three-hour outing, which is appreciable as it made a killing at the box office. 

There are several other changes made too, as the female protagonist in the English movie is a male character here. In contrast to the pacy storytelling, Priyadarshan takes more time to introduce and establish his characters. He doesn’t compromise on humour, and the movie is known to be one of his best comedy hits in Malayalam so far.

Vandanam - Stakeout


Another Priyadarshan film adapted from Hollywood, the comedy-thriller Vandanam stars Mohanlal. The story is borrowed from the 80s American crime-comedy Stakeout, helmed by John Badham. Priyadarshan remade his Malayalam movie into Telugu too, titled Nirnayam.

Vandanam is about two police officers tracking a jailbreaker and eventually one of them falling in love with the culprit's daughter. Meanwhile, Stakeout portrays two cops who track a convict’s ex-girlfriend. Things take a turn when one of the cops falls in love with her. 

Though some changes are made according to the nature of makers and audience, it is obvious that the central idea is similar. 

Breathless - Mayanadhi


Ever since the millennials’ favourite movie Mayanadhi released, many have argued that the movie is similar to Godard’s French classic Breathless

Breathless, which is a milestone in global cinema, is about a wandering French gangster who has an American girlfriend. Malayalam’s Mathan and Appu resemble the French duo without any doubt. Though Mayanadhi is made in such an exemplary style by Aashiq Abu, the plot structure is very similar to the French movie. 

While the lead pair in Malayalam has a tragic end, with one being shot dead by the police, the Breathless couple Michele and Patricia flee from police leading to the tragic end when the latter is shot dead by the cops.

Despite all these, everyone agrees to the point that Mayanadhi is Malayalam’s finest love story which broke many stereotypes and gifted two everlasting characters to the audience, who stays with them even after the climax.

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