Old is Gold? A Take on Revivals in Bollywood

By: Rhea Sabherwal

Old content being revived in Bollywood can be categorized into two major types – 1) Old Hindi movies being remade (for example, Pati Patni Aur Voh, Coolie No. 1 etc.) and 2) New Hindi movies being adapted from existing movies of other languages (for example, Kabir Singh, Bang Bang). The overarching formula though, stays the same for both categories, i.e. serve old wine in a new glass.

Remakes are happening not just in movies but in songs too. Saki Saki, The Wakhra Song, Urvashi etc. are all old songs that have been revived. Some people within the industry do not stand for this. For example, Vishal Dadlani has very strong views about songs being ‘remade’ and he took to twitter to let everyone know that.  He wrote, “Warning: I WILL sue anyone making remixes of Vishal and Shekhar songs. I’ll even move court against the films and musicians. After Saaki Saaki, I hear upcoming bas***disations include Dus Bahaane, Deedar De, Sajnaji Vaari, Desi Girl and more. Make you own songs, vultures!” One can’t help but think that he does make a valid point. Just taking up an old song and then changing a few things here and there isn’t really the best way to go about making songs. The same applies for movies. But the main reason everyone seems to be indulging in this practice is because it’s working!

There are many examples of remade movies being successful. Kabir Singh, the remake of 2017 Telugu movie Arjun Reddy, and while I see absolutely no reason as to why that movie had to be remade, considering it promotes nothing but toxic masculinity and age-old misogyny, it did emerge as a huge success at the box office. Overall, we see that a majority of the remakes do fare well amongst the audiences. Pati Patni Aur Voh, Rowdy Rathore, Bhool Bhulaiya, Singham – are just a few from the long list.

Perhaps the only silver lining in all this is that while the idea of using content that has already been successful seems foolproof, it isn’t really so. The old Hindi phrase that says “Nakal main bhi akal chahiye” (which loosely translates to – ‘even copying requires intelligence’) fits the bill for this scenario. Remakes of Karz and Himmatwala have tanked at the box office, which goes on to show us that the Hindi film audience is not going to let filmmakers force lazy content upon them. The discourse about ‘content is king’ has been going on for a while and even this remake trend in Bollywood has reiterated that. Whether its old content being revived, or new content being made, the fact of the matter is that audiences demand good content.

My take on it? I’m not a fan of this remake trend in Bollywood. While I am myself guilty of loving remade songs, there have been very few remade movies that I have liked enough to say that “this was a good idea”. Maybe I come from an old school of thought, but I do believe that classics should be left alone to remain the way they are. If we all agree that these classics are ‘timeless’ then what’s the need to remake them to suit ‘modern times’? Apart from classics being remade, when a movie like Arjun Reddy is remade (into Kabir Singh), it strengthens my idea that there are definitely some movies that I think don’t even deserve to be released once, let alone twice. But I can also not ignore the fact that there is a certain charm in watching something you have already loved to be bought back to life. After all that is why most of these remade movies work. All in all, there’s no arguing over the fact that the current mantra most people in Bollywood seem to be following is – release, remake and repeat. But if old really is gold, then can we please stop being served ‘gold-plated’ cinema?

To read more by our in-house Bollywood Addict, click here.