For several years, the southern film industries were considered to be stepping stones to bigger, far more glitzier Bollywood. But in the past few years, the winds have changed. Comali, Aadai, Jersey, Vikram Vedha, Dear Comrade—all these films have remakes lined up in the Hindi film industry, a trend that seems to be been spurred by Arjun Reddy’s hit remake Kabir Singh. So, has the gap between the north and south finally closed? National Award-winning writer Rahul Ravindran of the Telugu film, Chi La Sow says, “There’s been content exchange, right from the 50s.
But somewhere in the mid-90s, our paths diverged.” With considerable legitimisation of remakes and transparency provided by social media platforms, the exchange has now become more trackable. “Earlier, people used to watch films at festivals and ‘break coconuts’ saying I’m taking this story. But now one can’t do that,” says Parthiban, whose Oththa Seruppu Size 7 is now in talks for a Hindi remake. Social media has also fastened the turnaround time, says Pushkar of Vikram Vedha. “Earlier, when a film had a good buzz here, trade people would talk to their counterparts there saying they should check it out. And this takes a couple of weeks. However now, the buzz begins with social media and translates to mainstream press quickly and that gets noted.”
All this interest doesn’t necessarily mean that more films are being remade. Pradeep Ranganathan, whose Comali is being remade in Hindi with Arjun Kapoor, says the situation has only changed marginally. “More people are now watching Tamil films there, we are watching more of their films and all of this is very prominent. But it doesn’t mean creators get to crossover as often as we think.” Pushkar observes that while remakes for several films might be announced, not many actually end up being made.“Let’s put this way. If the inquiry comes from them, the remake moves in a certain direction. If an actor or a big production house is interested, not just individual producers, then it happens smoothly. But, if you try to take your content to Bollywood, it is an uphill task.”
There’s also an effective case to be made where stories cross over, but creators don’t. The reason is that usually unless it is an established filmmaker, the story rights are held by the producer. Thus, it becomes a matter of choice for the producers who buy the film. “After Jersey’s release when I heard there was interest in a Hindi remake, I was ecstatic. I wasn’t expecting them to ask me to helm it. It was shown to Shahid Kapoor and he was more interested in meeting me and talking to me. But maybe, they felt that the story was personal and thus, asked me to helm the remake,” says director Gowtham Tinnanuri. However, Pushkar adds that the producers can’t be faulted.
“This happens in all industries. The priority will be to localise it and they need to be convinced that the director can get the local flavour right,” he says. There’s no denying the newly-invigorated fascination Bollywood has for content from the South. “It is safe ground. It has worked in a language, there are higher chances that it will work in another language, if done well,” says Rahul. But it is the film’s quality that decides its fate. “Bollywood is open to newer talent.
The buzz will get us interest. But it ends there, as the film’s content and the quality is what finally seals the deal. If you’re just going to tell a story, people won’t come to the theatres anymore. It all depends on the quality of the film. As long as you spend what the script demands, and make a quality film, it will reach far and wide,” points out Parthiban.