Is Bollywood facing intellectual bankruptcy?

MUMBAI: In the year gone by, most successful films have either been sequels (Lage Raho Munnabhai, Krrish, Phir Hera Pheri) or remakes (Don). The box office success, wide audience viewership and acclaim received by these films has surely added a new dimension to Indian cinema but is this also a case of intellectual bankruptcy or merely an ode to the past?

A point put forth by writer – director Vinay Shukla was that remakes are not recent phenomena. “Dada Saheb Phalke remade Raja Harishchnadra in 1971. This film was also made 15 more times by other film makers. Bhakt Pralhad was remade 17 times using the same film title. Mehboob Khan remade Aurat as Mother India. Satyajit Ray made Aparajito as sequel to Pather Panchali. Certainly they faced least intellectually bankruptcy,” stated Shukla.

So then why is there a sudden need for remakes and sequels?

The reasons are as follows: (1) To repeat commercial success; (2) To reinterpret the film story and (3) To improve narration.

Dhoom and Dhoom:2 scriptwriter Vijay Krishna Acharya is of the opinion that writing a sequel is a tough job. “Remaking films and making sequels is due to bankruptcy as well as an urge to revisit the past. There are emotional as well egoistic reasons attached to it. They do not guarantee success; they are the negotiating power with the audience to make the audience have more fun than before.”

While writing Dhoom:2 what Acharya consciously kept in mind was the audiences’ expectation from the film. “After watching bikes in Dhoom the audience would have expected cars, jet skis or choppers in Dhoom:2. But we had to fulfill all this and at the same time move beyond, so we gave them a love story of two thieves who are left free by the cop. This may sound sleazy, but what’s the harm if you can pull it off?”

Director Sudhir Mishra is of the opinion that the Indian film industry has indeed faced bankruptcy in recent times. There is nothing new and radical happening in the industry; 2006 has simply been a very lucrative year. “Most films are remakes in essence because films keep telling the same story time and again. Democratization of talent is the need of the hour. Young film makers should be given a chance because they have fresh story ideas. People who have already made many films cannot bring in a fresh perspective beyond a certain time. Also if you keep revisiting your past then you are not challenging yourself enough.”

Director Kunal Kohli believes that the choice of what to make lies in the hands of the director and it depends on what inspires him or her. “Probably in 25 years from now Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s remake of Devdas will also be kept alongside K L Saigal and Bimal Roy’s Devdas and will be called a classic,” said Kohli.

He further went on to state that “commerce is taking over the industry but it is a film maker’s choice not to let commercial terms dictate. Film making is a show business and the show will come first, commerce is just a part of it.”