The Hindi film industry is now closely watching whether Ajay Devgn can repeat the box office success with Bholaa.
Last Updated: 03.58 AM, Mar 07, 2023
Bollywood was overjoyed when superstar Shah Rukh Khan's comeback film Pathaan emerged as one of the highest-grossing movies in the history of Hindi cinema. But, that joy was short-lived. The film industry has again been forced into introspection with back-to-back failures of two big-ticket movies — Shehzada and Selfiee. Earlier, the question was whether the movie-going audience in the Hindi-speaking belt would respond to Hindi films the same way they have recently to the dubbed versions of south Indian films. That question was put to rest with the success of Pathaan.
The latest predicament of the industry is how to handle remake projects. Unlike before the majority of the remakes in Hindi are not working. It's one of the new realities that the industry should learn to live with in the post-pandemic market. "Remake is always a challenge. Drishyam 2 was a remake and it did well in Hindi. You can't generalise. There is no forumula," said producer G. Dhananjayan.
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The advent of streaming services and their growing popularity with Indian households have increased the odds against the success of remake films. The newly cultivated habit of the audiences consuming films of other languages with help of subtilities makes the job of the filmmakers more difficult. Even well-made movies such as Vikram Vedha fail to appeal to the majority of the sensibilities of the theatre-going audiences.
"You never know. I still don't know. Was it the original consumed a lot through the pandemic, you know, because the content was going insane? People were watching everything and anything. Everyone had watched the film (the Tamil original of Vikram Vedha). You never really know what to attribute it to," Bollywood superstar Hrithik Roshan said while reflecting on the commercial failure of the Hindi remake of Vikram Vedha during an interview with Galatta Plus.
And it seems not just the filmmakers in the Hindi film industry but everyone is becoming aware of this crucial factor while considering projects for remakes. "Tamil cinema is very careful. Not many are rushing for the remakes. The success of a remake depends on how much it appeals to other language audiences. For example, if Romancham is not seen by Tamil audiences, it may work. Even Malikappuram for that matter. It all depends on whether the audience in other parts of the country could relate to the content," Dhananjayan added.
According to some industry sources, the Hindi film industry is undergoing a self-correction, adapting to the drastic new realities that were ushered in by the pandemic and the onslaught of the OTT platforms. "Most of these remakes, even Vikram Vedha, were finalised before Covid. I think the filmmakers won't repeat this," said Deepak, who manages AndhraBoxOffice.com.
Kartik Aaryan-starrer Shehzada, for example, bit the dust at the box office. Written and directed by Rohit Dhawan, the film was the remake of the Telugu hit Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo. When the film was still in production, Telugu star Allu Arjun's Pushpa: The Rise was released in December 2021 and became a phenomenal hit across the Hindi belt. Arjun's status transformed from a Telugu star whose Hindi dubbed movies topped the list of most-watched movies on television to a newly-minted king of the box office. And this transition almost happened overnight. So much so that Manish Shah of Goldmines Telefilms decided the time was ripe to release the Hindi dubbed version of Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo in cinemas, instead of beaming the film into televisions through satellite.
However, Manish's move spooked the producers of Shehzada. After multiple rounds of negotiations, Manish changed his mind and dropped the idea of releasing the film in theatres. And yet that didn't help the case of Shehzada. And one could attribute it to the popularity of its original. Or the lousy quality of the remake.
The reception of Bollywood star Akshay Kumar's Selfiee at the box office was a shocker. Despite the movie getting positive reviews, it failed to get the attention of the movie-watching audience. The film was the remake of the Malayalam hit Driving Licence. And it ended up as one of the biggest commercial disasters in Akshay's career.
"Shehzada and Selfiee are two examples. But, before these two films, there was Drishyam 2. Rather than painting them with the same brushes and generalising that south remakes are history and shouldn't be done any more, I think we should really see how they are being made. The adaptation, the storytelling style for these remakes, I think that's what needs to add a lot of value and make these films more cinematic," said Akshaye Rathi, a well-known film distributor and exhibitor.
Drishyam 2 was the remake of the Malayalam hit of the same name. Starring Mohanlal in the lead role, the film was helmed by Jeethu Joseph. The Malayalam original was directly released on Amazon Prime Video during the lockdown period in 2021. However, it was not made available in Hindi.
"Drishyam 2 is better proof that if done right we can continue to do well. The efforts that are put in, the conviction with which a film is adapted, its cinematic, entertainment and engaging value come into play," added Akshaye.
When the Hindi remake of Drishyam 2 — starring Ajay Devgn, Akshaye Khanna, Tabu, and Shriya Saran — was released in cinemas in November 2022, it exceeded everyone's expectations. It was a big commercial hit taking in a net collection of over Rs 240 crore from its ticket sales in India alone.
The stakeholders believe that the filmmakers should go back to the roots of sincere and solid storytelling, and cater to the needs of every section of the audience, instead of just targeting the urban population. "Look at all the films that have worked in the post-pandemic. We have hardly had an urban hit. Either the films work across the length and breadth of the country or they don't work at all. I think the only mid-segment exception was Jugjugg Jeeyo. I think it was a bit of an urban semi-hit. Sooryavanshi, Gangubai Kathiawadi, Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2, RRR, KGF 2 or Pathaan all of them worked everywhere. We need to start thinking of the audience in the wider spectrum and make films that have wider appeal," Akshaye observed.
The industry is now closely watching whether Ajay Devgn can repeat the box office success with Bholaa. The upcoming film is the remake of the Tamil hit Kaithi and it's getting ready to arrive in cinemas on March 30. Besides playing the lead role, Ajay has also helmed it. There are also high expectations from Gumraah, which is the remake of the Tamil hit Thadam.
"I give it (Kaithi) a great chance," said Akshaye. "I think Murad Khetani is one of the sharpest minds in the industry. And you know he's the man who delivered the remake of Arjun Reddy as Kabir Singh and he also did Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2. He has a very good understanding of the pulse of the audience. He's a very pragmatic and tactical producer who can think of the wider audience. That's why I give it a great chance."