We saw Disney’s ‘The Lion King’ being remade and released a month ago. In one simple line – I am yet to run into one person who has loved the original and has loved this one too. In fact, personally I felt the new Lion King is a glorious insult delivered to the original classic. There is another fact too which we cannot overlook, the new Lion King has done well in India.
However, I have now found this a very interesting debate point. Why do filmmakers remake classics?
The first point is simple; they want to make money. Don’t get fooled by that polished marketing communication which is sent down to us from sharp PR and media consulting firms. There are points which are so often repeated that they make staring at flat walls more interesting. We are told the classic has got dated and it needs a fresh treatment. Fresh treatment is generally remixing a song in the movie and then killing its originality. Fresh treatment is also at times reworking on key moments and dialogues because while you are remaking it, the director is bitten by the bug of showing us his perspective. It is worse when a director deletes key moments.
‘The Lion King’ (2019) had so many of the above-mentioned weaknesses. In the enthusiasm of making Scar looking far slimier and more menacing, his gleeful evil persona got compromised. Scar was almost too polished in the new one. The old Scar was fascinating because he had no issues in being open about his jealousies and insecurities. Look at the way Zazu’s morning report was butchered in the new one.
There are many examples in Bollywood too when makers not just killed the original, they completely turned its basic attitude and presentation on its head and did not even ever bother to apologize.
About a year ago Karan Johar gave us ‘Dhadak’; a synthetic soulless upmarket version of the raw Marathi classic called ‘Sairaat’. The latter worked because of its raw earthy presentation and its couple was a real small town couple. The movie had at times a pace like an art film and yet despite being a 3-hour odd long film, it held you by the collar because its moments were easy to identify with. The movie became a superhit and a cult. It was based on honour killing; an issue that was hitting our thinking as Indians.
Then Karan Johar decided to butcher it. Look at the pattern. While the movie was being made, we were regularly fed, “Oh we are remaking ‘Sairaat’. The Marathi classic deserves a bigger stage – the Bollywood audience.” Exactly on the day of the release we were told this movie should be judged as stand-alone and not to compare with ‘Sairaat’. Most of us could not figure if the director was being cute or cunning.
The movie was a 5-star hotel conversion of a street side popular eating joint, where everything becomes polished and popular but the freshness of the joint and deliciousness of the food is lost. The hero and heroine lived in 7-star Rajasthan resort surroundings. The villains looked like ‘90s B-grade ones. The biggest weakness was of course the selection of a leading lady who was not a patch of an actress on the original performer. Then came a criminal climax where the whole meaning and purpose of the movie was thrown into the dustbin. ‘Sairaat’s climax could leave you sleepless for weeks. ‘Dhadak’s climax was more like the opening scene of a “Maa kasam badla loonga” (I swear on my mother I shall take revenge) kind of movie. Karan Johar was in fact celebrating one year of ‘Dhadak’ on social media recently.
There are better made remakes too. To be fair to Karan Johar, my most favourite remake remains ‘Agneepath’ (2012). For a brilliant rendition of the same tale again and the way Kancha Cheena’s character and Vijay’s character were represented to us. That movie also did one big injustice to the original right, by striking gold at the box office.
Let’s not talk about the Don remakes where a superstar showed us that in that attempt to be a wannabe great, how bad he looked in comparison.
The point about remakes cannot be complete without taking the final judgement makers; the audiences into the picture. Some of these movies have really rocked at the box office. Some have not done so great contrary to what the producer’s PR machinery will tell you. In the end the original ends up looking more classy and purer in comparison once the fan frenzy around a new release is dead and you discover that most of these remakes can barely be watched again. Maybe that is poetic justice. Also the bottom line.
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