If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Bollywood seems to be a devoted adherent, and adapte, of its four southern counterparts. While Aamir Khan’s ‘Ghajini’, Ajay Devgn-Tabu starrer ‘Drishyam’, ‘Singham’ or, for and earlier generation, the Vinod Khanna mafia-flick ‘Dayavan’ are known to be Hindi remakes of successful films down south, the process is much older, wider, and complex.
Bollywood landmarks like ‘Shakti’, ‘Ram aur Shyam’, ‘Bombay to Goa’, ‘Masoom’, ‘Andha Kanoon’, ‘Naya Din Nai Raat’, ‘Dil Tera Diwana’ or more starring the likes of Prithviraj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar, Balraj Sahni, Meena Kumari, Shammi Kapoor, Sunil Dutt, Mala Sinha, Feroz Khan, Rajesh Khanna, Sanjeev Kumar, Jeetendra, Anil Kapoor – all have been remakes of Tamil, Malalayam, Kannada, or Telugu films.
These adaptations includes the only film to feature Dilip Kumar and Dev Anand together, films presenting Dilip Kumar and Meena Kumari in their rare non-tragic outings, the first to feature Amitabh Bachchan in a lead role, the debuts of Zeenat Aman and the (junior) Sridevi and Urmila Matondkar besides Padmini, and Vyjanthimala.
And the adaptation process, dating back to the first full year of Independent India, does not just represent Bollywood latching onto a successful formula from another tradition, but has more varied reasons – wider reach, recouping losses, as launch vehicles and so on, besides the key aspect that milieus may change, but some depictions of various facets of the human condition remain universal.
A Tamil film industry titan began the trend.
The first Hindi film to be inspired from a southern movie was swashbuckler ‘Chandralekha’ (1948), based on legendary Tamil filmmaker and Gemini Studios founder S.S. Vasan’s eponymous film of the same year.
However, the adaptation was done by Vasan himself after his dream project, which was five years in the making, saw numerous ups and downs, including a tiff with the director which led to Vasan taking on this task himself, did not recoup its costs.
Vasan, who had pledged all his funds to realise his dream, then decided to remake it in Hindi, with a rejigged cast and changed character names, while going on to shoot several scenes, while a two Urdu and Hindi writers were roped in for the dialogue and the lyrics. The result was beyond expectations.
As film historian Madabhushi Rangadorai, aka Randor Guy, wrote in 2008: “Sixty years ago the biggest box office hit of Tamil cinema was released. When made by the same studio in Hindi, it was so great a success that it opened up the theatres of the North to films made in the South.”
Vasan’s next directorial was ‘Nishan’ (1949), the Hindi version of another swashbuckler, based on a Hollywood film while other directors handled the Tamil and Telugu versions.
However, while both these starred southern actors, his first tryst with Bollywood actors was in ‘Mr Sampath’ (1952), where the suave Motilal played the conman of the title with such elan that it is difficult for viewers not to root for him as he creates havoc in the lives of all he comes into contact with. The film was loosely based on R.K. Narayan’s novel and Gemini Studios’ own ‘Miss Malini’ (1947) as Motilal convinced Vasan to change the principal protagonist to male.
Vasan would go on to straddle both Hindi and Tamil cinematic worlds for the next two decades, and in the Bollywood, accomplish casting feats no one could ever replicate, or at least, not do so for many decades.
His ‘Insaniyat’ (1955), another swashbuckler based on N T Rama starring Rao’s Telugu hit ‘Palletoori Pilla’ (1950), brought Dilip Kumar and Dev Anand for the first and only time. Then, ‘Paigham’ (1959), which Vasan remade in Tamil as ‘Irumbu Thirai’ the next year, saw Dilip Kumar and Raaj Kumar share screen space for the first time until they reunited over three decades later in Subhash Ghai’s ‘Saudagar’ (1991).
There were many other adaptations, right from the 1950s onwards, across genres spanning family tearjerkers to comedy, noirish crime to mythological fantasy, and horror too. Tamil and Telugu account for the bulk, Malayalam and Kannada are not far behind.
Let’s see a handful of them, beginning with Malayalam.
Much before ‘Hera Pheri’ (2000), based on ‘Ramji Rao Speaking’ (1989), ‘Garam Masala’ (2005) , based on ‘Boeing Boeing’ (1985) or ‘Bhool Bhulaiyaa’ (2007), based on ‘Manichitrathazhu’ (1993), there was ‘Aap Ki Kasam’ (1974), the Rajesh Khanna-Mumtaz starrer chronicling the pernicious and fatal effect of suspicion on relationships. A hit due to its songs like ‘Jai Jai Shiv Shankar’ and the pensive and belatedly contrite ‘Zindagi Ke Safar Mein Jo Guzar Jate Maqam’, it was based on ‘Vazhve Mayam’ (1970), starring Sathyan, though the ending differed.
Then, there is ‘Julie’ (1975), which is not only the first to feature Anglo-Indians beyond caricature, but also deals with the issues of unwed motherhood, inter-religious marriage, while surmounting all the prejudice with one of the finest portrayals of a reasonable authority figure. Based on ‘Chattakari’ (1974), the Hindi version, also directed by K.S. Sethumadhavan, saw Lakshmi reprise the lead role while Mohan Sharma, Adoor Bhasi, Sukumari and Sankaradi were replaced by Vikram, Om Prakash, Nadira, and Utpal Dutt. The Hindi version also saw Sridevi, who played the title character’s younger sister, in her first significant Bollywood appearance.
And while ‘Masoom’ (1983) is based on Erich Segal’s novel “Man, Woman and Child”, it also owes to ‘Olangal’ (1982), where Amol Palekar played the role done by Naseeruddin Shah.
From Kannada, there was ‘Gopi’ (1970), which sees Dilip Kumar ham it up outrageously as a village bumpkin, based on simultaneously shot ‘Chinnada Gombe’ and Tamil ‘Muradan Muthu’ (1964), Dharmendra’s sports thriller ‘Main Intaquam Loonga’ (1982), based on ‘Thayige Thakka Maga’ (1978) starring Dr Rajkumar, and then to round it off, Sunny Deol in ‘Arjun Pandit’ (1999), unofficially based on ‘Om’ (1995), which had starred Shiva Rajkumar, the eldest son of the Kannada thespian.
The Telugu film industry is behind some of Bollywood’s best-known classics – apart from ‘Ek Duuje Ke Liye’ (1981), the seminal North-South romance of Bollywood K. Balachander directed the Hindi remake of his ‘Maro Charitra’ (1978), with Kamal Haasan and Madhavi reprising their roles, while Saritha was replaced by Rati Agnihotri as the star-crossed lovers were shown as Tamil and Punjabi, against Tamil and Telugu in the original.
But even before this, there was ‘Bahut Din Huwe’ (1954), a costumed drama, starring Madhubala and directed by Vasan, based on the ‘Bala Nagamma’ (1942) he had produced, ‘Miss Mary’ (1957), a comedy starring Meena Kumari, Gemini Ganesan and Kishore Kumar by L.V. Prasad based on his ‘Mariamma’ (1955) which had starred N.T. Rama Rao, and ‘Gharana’ (1961), the usual Bollywood family drama of tensions caused by malicious tongues, starring Raaj Kumar, Rajendra Kumar and Asha Parekh, based on ‘Shanthi Nivasam’ (1960), again remade in Hindi as ‘Ghar Ghar Ki Kahani’ (1988).
Then, Jeetendra’s spy thriller ‘Farz’ (1967) is based on ‘Gudachari 116’ (1966), twins-separated at birth-cum-family melodrama ‘Ram Aur Shyam’ (1967) was remade by Tapi Chanakya from his ‘Ramudu Bheemudu’ (1964) with Dilip Kumar, Waheeda Rehman, and Mumtaz, replacing N.T. Rama Rao, Jamuna, and L. Vijayalakshmi, and Sunil Dutt-Nutan reincarnation drama ‘Milan’ (1967), refashioned from ‘Mooga Manasulu’ (1963), with Jamuna playing the same role in both.
Psychological drama ‘Khilona” (1970), produced by L.V. Prasad was a remake of ‘Punarjanma’ where Akkineni Nageswara Rao played the role made famous by Sanjeev Kumar, mythological dramas ‘Lok Parlok’ (1979) and ‘Pataal Bhairavi’ (1985) based on ‘Yamagola’ and ‘Patala Bhairavi’ (1951) and then, political satire ‘Aaj Kaa M.L.A Ram Avtar’ (1984) with Rajesh Khanna doing for north Indian politics what Dasari Narayana Rao did for the south in ‘MLA Yedukondalu’ (1983).
And finally Tamil. This accounts for the most – be it ‘Aadmi’ (1968) based on ‘Aalayamani’ (1962), where Dilip Kumar reprises Sivaji Ganesan’s role of a man betrayed due to his physical handicap, and before that crime caper ‘Azaad’ (1955), one of the only two of Dilip Saab’s screen appearances as a Muslim (the other being Salim in ‘Mughal-e-Azam’), remade from ‘Malaikkallan’ (1954) by its own director.
Then there is Shammi Kapoor’s ‘Dil Tera Diwana’ (1962), based on ‘Sabaash Meena’ (1958), O.P. Ralhan’s stylish and refreshingly different comic crime thriller ‘Hulchul’ (1971), based on ‘Anubavam Pudhumai’ (1967), ‘Naya Din Nai Raat’ (1974), where Sanjeev Kumar did nine different roles but then Sivaji Ganesan had done it in ‘Navarathri’ (1964) and Akkineni Nageswara Rao in ‘Navaratri’ (1966).
While ‘Bombay to Goa’ (1972), based on ‘Madras to Pondicherry’ (1966) marked the onset of Amitabh Bachchan, ‘Andhaa Kanoon’ (1983), based on ‘Sattam Oru Iruttarai’ (1981), and ‘Aakhree Raasta’ (1986), based on ‘Oru Kaidhiyin Diary’ (1985), show him transitioning from an “angry young man” to an “angry old man”.
There are many more but special attention must be paid to one film, C.V. Sridhar’s ‘Kadhalikka Neramillai’ (1964), which has inspired two of Bollywood’s funniest movies over three decades apart.
While ‘Pyar Kiye Jaa’ (1966), with that immortal scene of Om Prakash and Mehmood, was Sridhar’s own remake, ‘Haseena Maan Jaayegi’ (1999) has some differences but some key elements stay the same, ie the antics of Kishore Kumar and Govinda, respectively.
–By Vikas Datta