The Hindi film industry is over-saturated with films across genres. It truly is difficult to whip up an idea that would truly be called original. Someone else might have already thought about what you are thinking now. The debate on artistic originality has been going on for centuries. But among these artists, there are some who have perfected the art of taking an original and making it into something that has the qualities of the real work while maintaining their own individuality and authenticity. Here are, according to me, some of the best Bollywood remakes:
1. Drishyam (2015) – Drishyam (Malayalam)
Although some may contest my opinion on this matter (looking at the controversies that the original one created in Kerela), I must say that the original Drishyam had a lot more depth than the Hindi remake. That is not to belittle the remake for it truly does justice to most of the aspects of the character and the controlled performance of Ajay Devgn and brilliant portrayal by Tabu only stand to raise the bar for other Bollywood films in a similar genre. But the main qualm that I have with this remake, as well as Kamal Hassan’s Tamil remake, is that in both, the protagonist is depicted as a hero. In the original, the status of the anti-hero was the most we can give to the man if we do not label him a straight-forward villain.
This dual dynamic between the simple uneducated man absorbed in cinema and the shrewd psychological criminal mastermind was what I found was missing from the remake. The psychopathic transformations are what gave the original character much more depth. But the remakes decided to whitewash and water down that duality aspect. This gives us a remake that is inferior, yet very good in its own right.
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2. Hera Pheri (2000) – Ramji Rao Speaking (Malayalam)
Some would be quite surprised to know that Hera Pheri is actually a frame-by-frame remake of a 1989 Malayali film, Ramji Rao Speaking. There isn’t much of a difference between the two, given that it’s lifted scene by scene, barring songs and minor situational changes to suit the Bollywood audience (since Hera Pheri is a situational comedy). But one major change in the transition is of Akshay Kumar’s character. In the original, this character was more of a support to Suni Shetty’s character, which was the actual lead. In the Hindi version, Akshay is the main focus of the film as his role has been enhanced. Thanks to his star status, I guess, to pull in and cater widely to the mainstream audiences. Both the movies are equally good, but obviously, the original has a slight edge. The humour, the jokes, the characters, the situations are proof of the comedic genius of the 1989 movie, which was clearly way ahead of its time.
3. Black (2005) – The Miracle Worker
Anyone who has seen Black would be able to identify the obvious similarities to the real-life story of Helen Keller. Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s mainstream offering is a remake of The Miracle Worker, which gives a biographical account of Helen and Anne Sullivan, her tutor. Among the best Bollywood remakes, Black, I’d say, was better than the original. The performances in both the films are equally spectacular but the bitter-sweet chemistry between Amitabh Bachchan and Rani Mukherjee (owing to the former suffering from Alzheimer’s) elevates the Black to another level. The relationship between the original duo is also heart-touching but this bit of fiction added an extra flair to this tad-bit better remake.
4. Ek Ruka Hua Faisla (1986) – 12 Angry Men
Now, this was a tough call to make – a choice between these two, that is. There is no doubt that both these are classics in their own right and the remake is an exact frame-by-frame remake of the original. Even the acting is so similar that it often feels that the movie has only been translated into Hindi and no other changes were made. The only difference I see (and I am nitpicking here) is a subtle change in the demeanour of our protagonist. In the original, we see a man who is docile but firm initially and slowly seems to gain more confidence as the deliberations go on.
In one of the finest Bollywood remakes, our lead character is a bit firmer and a bit less coy than the original. This move was perhaps made to cement him as the man fighting for justice but it totally goes against the little man with the brains metaphor that is achieved brilliantly in the original film.
5. Shaurya (2008) – A Few Good Men
Shaurya is inspired by Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson starrer – A Few Good Men. The major themes and courtroom battles that are depicted in the remake directly take from the original. But one cannot discredit the remake on those grounds for the sophistication and the exuberating tension of the storyline was present throughout the film. One could say that the remake does proper justice to the original. Both the movies are equal in my books but if I had to choose one as the superior, it would be the original simply because of the way it handled its atmosphere through deft cinematography. Moreover, Nicholson’s experienced and controlled portrayal was a tad bit better than the character portrayal of the remake, which has given it the edge over its second version.
I would like to think that both movies have created a win-win situation for each other. If you have watched one, you should watch the other because the tonal shift in the movies is too great to be ignored, thus the personalities of the movies also differ from each other. Although you witness the same story, you’ll feel as if you are watching an entirely different film.
6. Ghajini (2008) – Memento
We all know that Christopher Nolan is one of the best directors of all time. And when he created Memento, it was utterly visionary. Ghajini tries to follow in those footsteps and is able to accomplish a lot. But still, it lacks in some parts. Ghajini‘s major drawback? It questions the intelligence of its audiences. I can find no other reason why the interesting chronological puzzle of Memento would be abandoned by its remake. Moreover, Ghajini is more of a straight-forward action film with psychological thriller elements. And it shines in those parts. The action is crisp, responsive, fast and explosive. The camerawork during the action scenes is quite innovative as well.
On the other hand, Memento is primarily a psychological thriller with elements of action added to it. This is the main difference between the two and this is where Memento succeeds over Ghajini. But the remake is nothing to scoff at either. The acting by the leads is some of the most compelling and passionate performances I have seen on film. The pacing sometimes feels a bit off but the storytelling and supporting characters more than make up for it.
7. Jo Jeeta Wahi Sikandar (1992) – Breaking Away
The movies are both coming-of-age tales, centred around cycle race battles. But the two movies are clearly very different from each other. I felt that the original had a much deeper story to tell as it dealt with many of the problems that are faced by young adults. The cycling was the backdrop on which the main themes of maturity and responsibility were based. The original isn’t simply a battle on cycles for a girl or for honour; it was a battle against time, a fight against growing up. It was much more innocent and at the same time more mature than its remake. What felt missing in the remake was this touch of innocence and maturity blended together to create the perfect balance. The harmony was much more pronounced in the original than in the remake. But the remake definitely has its merits as well.
It is more of a sports centred film and the same time, an uplifting, inspiring film. Jo Jeeta Wahi Sikandar was instrumental in ushering similar other movies and proved that simple yet inspiring films could draw in crowds. I think films like Bhaag Milkha Bhaag owe a lot to this movie as its spiritual predecessor.
8. Baazigar (1993) – A Kiss Before Dying
The idea is so mainstream Bollywood, I bet not many know this one was a remake. But a classic American noir film was the inspiration that Abbas-Mustan needed to craft this blockbuster of a film. And Baazigar is popularly considered better than the original, primarily because of an additional backstory for our murderous protagonist which serves as a reference point for his psychopathic behaviours while invoking sympathy from viewers. The performances are top notch, the proceedings searingly engaging. Shah Rukh Khan distinguished himself from his contemporaries with this film (alongwith Darr). The complex emotions of the anti-hero are played out to perfection.
Baazigar also paved the way to stardom for actresses Kajol and Shilpa Shetty. Another driving factor for this film was its clear three-act division which is pretty rare in movies these days. The way they went on about it was also quite innovative for its time.
9. Sarkar (2005) – The Godfather
It’s pointless comparing Sarkar and The Godfather because both these movies differ vastly from each other. Yet, at their core, the movies are essentially the same. Now, if you ask me which one was better, I’d possibly agree on the latter. There are several reasons for that. The first being the atmosphere that was created and maintained throughout the film. The Italian mafia tone added an extra layer to the family crime drama. And I must say, Al Pacino did a way better job than Abhishek Bachchan, as the latter would himself agree that he was inspired by his particular performance and tried to incorporate it into his being.
On the upside, for the remake, it is quite remarkable how they absorbed the father-son dynamic into a political scenario, hinting at a prevalent problem with our political system. All in all, both films are great and the remake features some of the best performances ever delivered by the father-son duo.
There we are! These Bollywood remakes are what I think totally worth your time even if you have already watched the originals. Be sure to tell us about the remakes that you appreciated and the original elements that drew you in. Leave us your thoughts in the comments below or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Deepjyoti Roy