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Everyone has noticed that remakes, reboots, sequels, prequels, etc. are a trend in filmmaking these days. Not just here in India but across the world and especially in Hollywood where the summer blockbuster catalogue reads like a nostalgic festival of classic films being updated for a new audience. This leads to the fairly moot but worthy question, should classic films be remade? Can they recapture those moments, scenes and dialogues that made them immortal in the eyes of an audience?

I say moot because, let’s face it, this is already happening and this article isn’t going to get people to change their minds. Remember that Hollywood and indeed Bollywood has been remaking films for eons. Less well known films, films from other languages (Bollywood has frequently remade plenty of Hollywood films over the years) and films from bygone eras. However, this wave of remakes are different. They are ‘official’ in that rights are paid for them and they seek to use the name and brand of the original to help promote.

As I have written before, branding is a huge part of filmmaking now. Film stars have a significant brand but when you can combine that with another big pre-existing brand, like a remake or a reboot, the commercial value can appreciate quickly. Now of course there will be plenty who will argue that films are not just commerce, they are art and whether art can ever be remade or redone. That argument though needs to be viewed not only from the art point of view, like with everything in film, it has to be seen from the audience point of view as well.

Successful remakes are those that can still capture the essence of the original but successfully translate that to an audience of today. Whoever that audience maybe. “Wanted”, the film which kickstarted Salman Khan’s rise was a successful interpretation of a successful South Indian film to a Hindi audience. “Beauty and the Beast”, which just released was nothing but a live action adaptation of the 90’s cartoon. Same songs, same story, same feel. Everything. A new audience watched and loved it with fresh eyes. There are many other examples but when I am speaking of a remake here, I am strictly speaking of a film retelling the same tale as the original. Not a reboot with a different story.

Indian film has pulled from the same story for many years. “Romeo and Juliet” is a dozen Hindi films and by and large they have all been successful. Take “Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak” as a break out film in the late 80’s and “Ishqzaade” in this decade. Both heavily influenced by the Shakespearean tragedy. Both successful, both relatable to their audience of the time.

Of course, though there is still a place for the original. With the release of the new “Hero”, the value of the old one does not diminish. In fact, in certain cases, like with “Karz” and “Karzzz”, the original finds more shine. Audiences remain nostalgic for films they grew up on and will come to watch them if the opportunity is right but film remains a medium for the young. It is these audiences that are increasingly patronizing theatres and filmmakers that think of remakes think of telling these classic cinematic tales to this new audience in their tone and language.

Undoubtedly there will be missteps. Some remakes which should not have been. The clamour to find material to tap into a large cinema brand is immense at this point and if filmmakers are not careful, our summers and festive periods will be filled with poorly thought remakes which no one wants to see. However, if filmmakers can get the content right, a remake brings nostalgia, excitement and anticipation to stories, characters and situations that audiences long to see more of. A classic tale retold to a new audience with the same ambition as before. To entertain.

Classic films will never fade. They can be remade and retold but will always remain a classic. Whether the remade tale gets to ever be in that bracket is up to the filmmakers making it. If they match the previous’ ambition and honesty, they too in years to come, maybe considered a classic.

– By Rahul Puri, MD of Mukta Arts Ltd. on behalf of Mukta A2 Cinemas

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