New Delhi: As Tamil cowboy Quick Gun Murugan would have put it: Mind it!
In June next year, audiences will be able to see Bollywood actor Shahid Kapoor play a modern-day love-struck Devdas in the Hindi remake of Telugu blockbuster Arjun Reddy. The 2017 film that made close to ₹ 50 crore is being remade by original director, Sandeep Reddy Vanga. This is only one of a plethora of upcoming Hindi remake of South Indian movies.
Vikram Malhotra, founder and chief executive officer of Abundantia Entertainment, known for films such as Airlift and Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, has bought the rights to Malayalam cult movie Angamaly Diaries, while producer Ajay Kapoor of Kyta Productions is remaking Kannada blockbuster Kirik Party with Kartik Aaryan in the lead. Meanwhile, producer Sajid Nadiadwala is launching actor Suniel Shetty’s son Ahan in a Hindi remake of the Telugu hit RX100.
Bollywood has been inspired since the 1960s by big-ticket, star-driven South Indian films. However, the films now being made into Hindi are those that feature unknown faces and unconventional narratives. The logic behind remaking them is not just that they have found unexpected success in the south, but also that they are likely to prove a hit with a pan-India audience, who are ready for something unique and out-of-the-box.
Thanks to multiplexes that provide space to smaller films, audiences across the country are looking beyond the usual tropes, say filmmakers. The success of an offbeat script in the south is reflective of a broader change across the industry.
“The primary motivation (for remaking Angamaly Diaries) was its strong resonance with the genre-breaking content Abundantia believes in," says Malhotra. “Besides, it has been an iconic sleeper hit." The original film is a crime drama directed by Lijo Jose Pellissery, which depicts rival gangs in a small town in Kerala, features no fewer than 86 debutants and is lauded for its edgy, 11-minute uncut climax.
Malhotra says the South Indian movie industry is pushing the boundaries in terms of concepts and genres, empowering writers and risk-taking.
“It is the multiplex era now," independent trade analyst Sreedhar Pillai points out, adding that South Indian cinema itself has changed, presenting different opportunities for Hindi remakes. While actors such as Jeetendra spawned a host of South Indian remakes like Himmatwala and Justice Chaudhury in the 1980s, these were all mass commercial films. The subjects being remade now are offbeat, often set in small towns and deal with ordinary lives, because the audience itself has changed. While Kirik Party is a youthful campus romance, Arjun Reddy is an intense love story that portrays emotions such as rage and obsession.
“More than language, it is the uncommon treatment of these films," Sandeep Reddy Vanga said. “Also, while the Hindi movie industry was doing well in terms of scripts until five years ago, things have become a little stale now."
Industry experts say the rights to remake a fresh box office success can come for ₹ 4-5 crore, bought either through a premium or by taking the original producer on board as a partner.
But the legacy of the films is strong, given the number of people who know and have watched the original online. Streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video have taken non-Hindi language films, including those featuring new and unfamiliar faces, a long way, with social media buzz backing them further. The Hindi remakes, therefore, have a lot going for them.
“Arjun Reddy (despite being a Telugu film) found a lot of common ground with people in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, Vanga said. “In fact, 70-80% of the viewers who’ve seen the film on the internet are not Telugu speakers. So, the pull is great, as are the expectations from the Hindi film now."