Saturday, 6 October 2012

Dont Worry, Barfi!

So, the bubble has burst! After all, Barfi is not an entirely genuine movie. Now, that is a true disappointment to many after all the hype built around it on release. By the way, on a brighter note, it should not take away any credit from this well made movie at all, since, many of the blockbusters/classics of the past, which now enjoy cult status, were, ahem, either inspirations or remakes or copies.

Original in Oblivion, Remake a Rage
The movie which made Humphrey Bogart, “The Maltese Falcon”(1941) – considered a classic now, by Warner Brothers, was in fact the third attempt on the same story, with the same title. The earlier two versions went into oblivion, with one of them even featuring Bette Davis as the leading lady notwithstanding!
When Hitchcock was going great guns in the Hollywood in the fifties, with consecutive hits like “Strangers on a train”(1951), “Dial M for Murder”(1953) and “ Rear Window”(1954), he decided to remake one of his earlier movies, “ The man who knew too much”(1932)- which he made in England- in Hollywood. While the British version was not very successful, the Hollywood version made after 25 years, was a runaway hit.
There have been some other Hollywood remake ventures like this, significant mentions include Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde(1941) and Gaslight(1944)- two critically acclaimed movies, both featuring Ingrid Bergman, already having an earlier forgettable counterparts. There was a Titanic made in 1955 also, however with entirely different story than that of the iconic Titanic of 1998.
In our desi Bollywood, the movie which defined Indian woman to the world, Mehboob Khan’s “Mother India” was basically the remake of the director’s own earlier venture- “Aurat”, with some script changes here and there. However, Aurat was also a successful movie in its time, but Mother India attained a classic fame.
“ A Classic Copy”?
Movie of the Millennium “Sholay”, can be called an improvisation and sophisticated version of an earlier Hindi movie “Mera Gaon Mera Desh”(1971) by Raj Khosla. The concept, an old man hiring a criminal to tame a dacoit who creates nuisance in his village, was further modified in Sholay, with two criminals, the old man being handicapped and the Dacoit more ferocious! And of course, the names of the Dacoits also sound strikingly similar- Jabbar Singh and Gabbar Singh!

Gumnaam was a superhit Hindi movie of 1965, taken straight out of Agatha Christie’s play version of her classic “ And then there were none”(There was a movie made also with that script with the same name in 1944), with prem kahani of Nanda-Manoj Kumar and song and dance added as Indian ornamentation.  Christie was later again copied in Hindi cinema unaccredited (as usual) in B R Chopra’s “Dhund”(1974), a poor adaptation of “An unexpected Guest”, which we have duly forgotten. In Bengali, Premendra Mitra had once made a movie “Chupi chupi aashe” taken from the plot of Christie’s “Mousetrap”.
While there have been quite a few unsuccessful Hindi movies copied from English ones- Benaam from The man who knew too much, Chakravyuha from The Thirty Nine Steps, Ek ruka hua faisla from Twelve Angry Men, Armaan from Casablanca, Kohra from Rebecca and so on and on; two popular, successful and good copies I remember right now are Satte pe Satta from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Parichay from The Sound of Music. Of late, Raaz(2002) seemed to be highly inspired of What lies beneath and Koi Mil Gaya of E.T.

And once you watch Raj Kapoor-Nargis starrer "Chori Chori"(1956), or much later "Dil hai ke maanta nahi"(1991) of the Bhatts, you know where the inspiration came from! Roman Holiday(1953) is still un matched. Chori Chori and DHKMN were successful, but some other copies like Manpasand(1981) from My Fair Lady(1962), Mann(1999) from An Afair to Remember or Yeh Dillagi(1994) from Sabrina(1954) were not fortunate enough! However, the Bengali copy of My Fair Lady, Ogo Badhu Sundari, released in 1981 was a commercial success and the Bengali superstar Uttam Kumar's final venture as an actor and released after his death.
Inspirations? You must be kidding!
While there can be no doubt about the greatness of Pyasa, its poetry, its music, it directional excellence, the obvious inspiration cannot be overlooked from Charles Chaplin’s “Limelight”. However, Guru Dutt had taken Pyasa to a different spectra altogether after a shade of resemblance of his character with Calvero in Limelight. Years later, Mahesh Bhatt’s “Daddy”, also seemed have taken a good leaf out of Chaplin’s masterpiece, but the movie could not level up to the classic mark.
I wont go into the inspirations of Chopras and Johars here, as they only know what hotchpotch they create by taking each other’s ideas..! J
Some good inspirations, which could qualify to be classics on their right, coming out of the “copy” shadow were “Bees Saal Baad”(1962) with the story taking faint inspiration from Arthur Conan Doyle’s book “The Hound of the Baskervilles” featuring Sherlock Homes.
And finally, Mani Ratnam’s Guru(2006), can there be a better execution of the Citizen Kane as an inspiration, than this?
So, Barfi, don’t worry, you can still be a classic!!

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