Hollywood is constantly getting criticised for remaking foreign films, accused of ‘dumbing them down’ for American audiences. But they’re not the only culprits. Manuel Blauab explores Bollywood’s obsession with remaking films from the West.
If you enjoy Spanish and South Korean movies you might have encountered that strange feeling of seeing the plot of more than one of those films re-enacted with American actors. Take the example of Vanilla Sky with Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz, who played the same character in the original one, Open Your Eyes, by the director Alejandro Amenábar, or the recently not so well received Oldboy directed by Spike Lee (which holds a rather embarrassing 42% on Rotten Tomatoes).
Hollywood can do this basically because of its huge internal market where films can be released locally and make profit after two weeks on screen, and of course, those who have a bigger budget can go offshore and broaden the box office. Another reason why Hollywood insists on the remakes is because a great number of Americans are very fond of their own culture and would rather see a story tamed by the Californian studios in order to see it on the silver screen.
But let’s take the ferry and cross the Pacific Ocean, (OK, maybe just a plane) and land in India where they are also very fond of their own culture. It is in this scenario where we can find a large list of well-known and loved Bollywood films which put the emphasis on music and dance, but look curiously and lawsuit-ly close to Hollywood originals.
- 1. Hari Puttar: A Comedy of Terrors
Sorry to disappoint you, but this movie has nothing to do with a certain beloved boy wizard and more with former child star Macaulay Culkin. Hari Puttar is about a ten-year-old boy, Hari, who has recently moved to the UK from India and was left alone with his brother after their parents decided to take a vacation. The brothers soon have to deal with two burglars who want to steal a special formula.
It is curious, however, that the film, released in 2008, received a lawsuit from Warner Bros because for its similarity with Harry Potter’s title.
- 2. Kaante
What does the poster reminds you of? And no, it’s not Ocean’s Eleven. It’s Reservoir Dogs, but it also has a touch of The Usual Suspects. The plot follows six bank robbers in Los Angeles planning the best hit ever (granted, there is a resemblance to Ocean’s), but one of them is an undercover cop, as the tagline says: Six honest intentions. One perfect betrayal. When asked to give his opinion on Kaante, Tarantino said it was the rip-off that he liked the most. And the director of the Indian version said that “When I heard Quentin Tarantino had said good things about my Kaante, I thought people were pulling my leg. Then someone e-mailed me the interview. And I was impressed. After being ripped by critics for remaking Reservoir Dogs, I’m being praised to the skies by the guy who not only made the original but also some of the finest contemporary American films.” –http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/
- 3. Zinda
Zinda is known as the Indian Oldboy, released in 2006 and reported by the producers of Oldboy but no law suit ever took place and everyone continued with their lives. Maybe this is one of the most interesting cases, where the plot is basically the same along with the characters and scenes to the point of being an actual copycat film, unlike the other titles in this list which at least tried to include other elements.
- 4. Ek Ruka Hua Faisla
“You are out order! This whole article is out of order!” Well, actually, Ek Ruka Hua Faisla isn’t based on And Justice For All, but the 1957 masterpiece 12 Angry Men directed by Sidney Lumet and starring Henry Fonda.
- 5. Cachi 420
If you are trying to guess, good luck with that. Cachi 420 is about an actor who, after a nasty divorce, decides to disguise himself as a nanny in order to spend time with his daughter who lives with his ex-wife and her new boyfriend. Yes, that’s right- it’s the Bollywood Mrs Doubtfire.
In case you’re wondering if there are more Bollywood movies similar to Hollywood ones, just google the magic words “bollywood plagiarism” and you will get a longer list.
But art is not supposed to be perfect and may there is not a single pure original idea in anything that exists. What really matters is that we can sit in front of the screen and enjoy a film despite everything else, and that’s that.
Incidentally: Did you know that the theme song from Spike Lee’s Inside Man, “Chaiyya Chaiyya”, is from a Bollywood film?