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Yesterday Once More?

Agneepath opened spectacularly on Thursday, virtually all across the country, getting 2012 finally started in right earnest as far as the trade is concerned. With this remake of the 1990 cult classic looking all set to pretty quickly smash into the 100-crore NBOC club (the first Dharma Productions offering as well as Hrithik Roshan-starrer to do so), are the floodgates about to open for a remaking spree?

All the omens seem to foretell so. Nothing succeeds like success in this business, and given our herd mentality to latch on to anything that works, I’ll be highly surprised if a bevy of filmmakers is not scrounging around for old (and not-so-old) Hindi film titles to remake – officially or otherwise.

They say that history repeats itself. The truth behind that cliché becomes obvious when one looks at the amazing parallels between how our film industry has looked at sequels and now, remakes.

While sequels and franchises have always been a Hollywood staple, our industry was for long reluctant to play the sequel game, especially after failed experiments like Nigahen and Return Of Jewel Thief. However, the year 2006 proved to be a game changer, with as many as four sequels – Lage Raho Munnabhai, Krrish, Dhoom 2 and Phir Hera Pheri – doing well at the box office, thereby flagging off the sequel gravy train. So much so that films are now deliberately left open-ended, and sequels announced even before the release of the first part.

Indeed, this year itself we will see the release of a host of high-profile sequels –Dabangg 2, Housefull 2, Race 2, Raaz 3, Jannat 2, Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai 2 and Kyaa Super Cool Hain Hum – with Dhoom 3, Krrish 2 and Golmaal 4also to follow in the not-too-distant future.

The trend of remaking old Hindi films seems to be following a similar trajectory. With both Umrao Jaan and Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag (the unofficial Sholay remake) both failing to enthuse audiences, the play-it-safe industry hunted for greener pastures – like remakes of hits from South Indian languages. However, with first Farhan Akhtar’s Don and now Agneepath, the industry has woken up to the potential of regurgitating previous Hindi films, and indeed, films like Chashme Badoor, Judwaa and Himmatwala are already in various stages of being made, or readied to be made. EvenBol Bachchan, the much-awaited June release of the blockbuster pair, Rohit Shetty and Ajay Devgn, is an official adaption of the evergreen Utpal Dutt-Amol Palekar classic Golmaal, though not a full-on remake.

Adding further momentum to this trend is the fact that larger-than-life, single-screen friendly, 70s and 80s cinema is back in vogue. And what better source material can there be to feed this demand than 70s and 80s films themselves?

While some will criticise this as a sign of creative bankruptcy, as a trade journal we really see no harm in going with the tried-and-tested. Indeed, one can well argue that it makes more sense to remake Hindi films rather than South Indian or foreign narratives whose vastly different cultural moorings may not translate well to the local idiom.

However, while cult films and iconic characters may make one’s task of introducing a tale and building curiosity around a film easier, the weight of expectations and the inevitable comparisons that they generate can be a double-edged sword. It’s pertinent to note that in both the successful remakes so far – Don and Agneepath – the makers involved (Farhan Akhtar and Karan Johar respectively) had a very strong personal and emotional connect to the original films and hence have taken great pains to ensure that the legacy of their fathers isn’t devalued.

To, well, ‘remake’ an iconic line from Spiderman: with great material comes great

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