Khiladi 786, starring Akshay Kumar, is an “original” film—of that we have no doubt. It is not a remake of a brainless but high-earning Tamil or Telugu film. It is not a sequel to other films that have starred Kumar and have the word “Khiladi” in the title, including Khiladi, Main Khiladi Tu Anari and International Khiladi. But the movie does attempt to hint at a franchise, if not of a string of movies with a similar theme (such as Dhoom or Golmaal), than of movies starring Kumar and with “Khiladi” in the title. Desperate times call for desperate measures, presumably.
It’s hard to decide which is more unappealing: a fake franchise, such as this one, or a real franchise, such as the never-ending Murder and Raaz movies, or a franchise in the making (Dabangg). By the time Salman Khan has had his fill of Chulbul Pandey—a character he didn’t create but went on to claim entirely for himself—we will probably have time-travelled through the ages into Pandey’s previous births.
If there isn’t a franchise or a sequel, there is the remake of a recent hit or a retread of a popular classic. Not of the Saheb Biwi aur Gangster variety, which neatly reworked the original Abrar Alvi film Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam, or Farhan Akhtar’s Don, a sleek retooling of the 1978 original. Trepidation mounts with every passing day of David Dhawan’s version of Sai Paranjpye’s Chashme Buddoor. The very thought of what Dhawan will do to the gentle comedy gets stuck somewhere at the top of the throat, causing immense discomfort. Perhaps we should reserve judgement, since Paranjpye has written the script for Dhawan’s version. It might just turn out to be the best comedy by Dhawan since his hilarious Govinda starrers from the 1990s. Stranger things have happened.
There’s a whole new generation of film-goers who were at various stages of conception or in their diapers when the original movies were released. They don’t share the nostalgia of older viewers for the charms of the original films—for them, the remake is a whole new experience. Just what this experience is depends on the quality of the remake: Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag and Satish Kaushik’s Karzzzz probably sent younger fans to seek out the vastly better originals.
Remakes are common the world over, with Hollywood being especially adept at rummaging through its vaults and pulling out stories and scripts that can be given a new lease of life with the help of enhanced budgets and technological advances. The practice can either be viewed as an opportunity to bring a new and original perspective on a revered title (such as Todd Haynes’ Far From Heaven, which imaginatively revisits Douglas Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows) or an exercise in putting fresh product on the conveyer belt to feed the never-ending hunger of the multiplex. While some film-makers struggle—and sometimes succeed—to present some fresh and original ideas to viewers, others simply find it easier to pick out their favourite DVDs and put money on the table for a remake. If the remake works, it can spawn a sequel, or even a franchise. Who’s to remember where it all started—and who’s to say where it will all end?
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