A war of words broke out between the fans of Vijay's Ghilli and Mahesh Babu's Okkadu recently.
Tamil superstar Vijay's blockbuster movie Ghilli turned 19 on April 16. And many fans commemorated the movie's anniversary by claiming it was one of the rare examples, where "the remake is better than the original." And this view has been prevalent since the release of Ghilli. However, seemingly till now, this view remained firmly in the realm of private thoughts. In the age of social media, there is no place for private thoughts. This public claim stirred the emotions of the fans of the original movie Okkadu, starring Mahesh Babu. And it has led to an all-out fan war on social media with fans of both movies arguing as to why their favourite movie is better than the other.
Now, that this topic is out in open. I have a confession to make. I was also one among those who believed Ghilli was better than Okkadu. I was just 16 when I first saw Ghilli in cinemas in the summer of 2004. I didn't watch Okkadu when it came out a year before. I vividly remember the first introduction to the movie. My friend showed me an advertisement in a newspaper. The ad celebrated the success of Okkadu, which had been running in over 100 theatres even after completing 100 days in then-united Andhra Pradesh. Okkadu was a massive blockbuster of 2003.
And a year later, I watched Ghilli in a packed theatre in Bengaluru. It was an afternoon during a weekday, but the show was house full. The energy in the cinema was fully charged. I believe most of them in that theatre that afternoon were repeat viewers like my friends. That day I was persuaded by my friends to watch that movie as they were trying to induct me into their little 'Ghilli boys fan club.' And by the end of the movie, I needed no more persuasion. I became a loyal member of the club, ready to defend the movie against any critics. Thank god there were no social media at the time, otherwise, I would have spent all of my summers trolling anyone who dares to call Ghilli less than anything spectacular.
I'm no longer a teenager and am more evolved as a cinephile than I was 19 years ago. I can now evaluate a movie in terms of visual style, thematic content, editing rhythm and acting, instead of just talking about how good were the dance numbers and fight sequences. Even as a much-evolved cinephile, I understand why most of the fans of Tamil movies believe that "Ghilli is better than Okkadu." It is because it is one of the best movies in Vijay's career. It is among the few movies of Vijay that have stood the test of time and appealed to my evolved sensibilities in movies.
Ghilli feels still fresh and makes me nostalgic. I can vividly recall the excitement I felt when it was released on DVD and the joy of ritually watching it with my friends and family. It's no wonder why people are raving about the remake, as it captures the essence of the original while adding its own unique touch. I can understand why some may even argue that the remake is better than the original.
When I finally watched Okkadu on television, constantly intruded by ad breaks, I was not impressed. The pace of Mahesh Babu-starrer felt like a tortoise inching towards a climax compared to the edge-of-the-seat, white-knuckle ride that was Ghilli.
When I reflect on it now, filmmaker Gunasekhar's vision for Okkadu was totally different from where Dharani was coming from. Gunasekhar set out to tell a story of a bunch of youngsters who hung around the streets all day long, looking for fights to alleviate boredom. It was like a college buddy comedy but was set against the narrow lanes of Hyderabad. Gunasekhar and his cinematographer Sekhar V. Joseph brought a fresh perspective to the visuals of Hyderabad in Okkadu. With their unique approach, they captured the city's vibrant colours, textures, and tones, providing a fresh and exciting look at this bustling metropolis. And editor A. Sreekar Prasad, a master of his craft, skillfully allowed ample space for the characters to evolve and grow at a natural pace in Okkadu. For example, Mahesh Babu's character, Ajay Varma, undergoes a remarkable transformation from a seemingly ordinary young man to a heroic figure.
Dharani, however, whipped up an action-packed thriller that tells the adventures of Vijay's Velu, who is already living a larger-than-life.
And Okkadu has a more realistic and grounded approach, while Ghilli is a typical masala entertainer. Okkadu's narrative is driven by the protagonist's determination to save the girl, while Ghilli is more focused on showcasing the hero's heroic deeds. However, Ghilli's screenplay is tight and keeps the audience engaged throughout, with well-choreographed action sequences and catchy songs.
The tensive father-son relationship is one of the main reasons why Ghilli is so appealing. In the original Okkadu, Ajay and his father enjoy a positive and healthy relationship. And it denies Ajay another dragon to slay before he could secure the future of his love interest. In Ghilli, Velu is a rebel, who goes against the wishes of his uptight father, who's never proud of his accomplishments. As a teenager, who was clearly going through some sort of rebellious phase at the time, I could identify with Velu's situation at home more than Ajay's. At the time, it felt too far-fetched to see a father's character who seemed so supportive of his son. Ashish Vidyarthi's Sivasubramaniam does everything in his power to discourage his son from becoming who he wants to be. Now that sounded more realistic at the time.
And that father-son conflict added an extra layer creating more challenges for Velu to overcome. This dimension added the hiding of Trisha's Dhanalakshmi in Velu's house more daunting, taxing and edgy.
Maybe a teenager, who saw Okkadu in theatres in Nizam in 2003, had a different experience than mine. And my experience cannot invalidates his.
For the 90s kids, Okkadu and Ghilli will be more than just big blockbusters. The memory of these movies is more deeper and personal that cannot be measured by any existing device that's used to settle the movie debates. Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference, and both movies have stood the test of time and proved themselves worthy of all the love and admiration they have been getting even after nearly two decades.