South Films Much In Demand In Bollywood

When  Karan Johar recently  decided to buy the remake rights  of  the  highly-rated Vijay Deverakonda  starrer Dear  Comrade, reportedly at a  staggering price, he also wanted Vijay as part  of  the Hindi remake. Vijay declined.

 Vijay or Mahesh Babu, Telugu stars are not particularly  keen on going into Hindi. The demand is for Telugu , and to  a lesser  extent, Tamil content to be converted  into Hindi.In recent times  Telugu remakes  of Kick and  Arjun Reddy have done  mind-bending business at the boxoffice. Bollywood directors are now queing  up for the rights of  many  certified  hits in Telugu, some  of them  10-15 years  old.

The  trend  of remakes is nothing new. In the  1960s  and  70s  several  distinguished Tamil producers  remade  their own Tamil films successfully into Hindi.  L V Prasad, rightly considered the  deceased doyen  of Tamil cinema,  was a leader  in this trend.Many of his biggest  Hindi hits like Sasural, Milan, Khilona and Ek Duuje  Ke  Liye were  remakes of Tamil films Prasad  had himself produced.

 In the earlier  decades  Bollywood’s focus   for remake rights was Tamil Nadu. Way back in  1951, Bahar, the  Hindi  film introducingVyjanthimala  was  a remake  of  the Tamil blockbuster Vazhkai. This remake  set  the pattern for subsequent remakes  from Tamil to Hindi  such as  Miss Mary(1957) a remake  of  the Tamil Misamma, and Bhabhi(1957)  a remake  

 By  the  1970s  the trend  of remaking  of  Tamil films in Hindi lost steam. During the  reign of Rajesh Khanna in  Bollywood remakes  faded away.But were soon revived by Jeetendra who needed to revive his career after Khanna’s 5-year reign. Telugu remakes  proved a blessing  forJeetendra. He turned producer  and bought remake  rights of every Telugu hit he could lay his hands on. 

The gambit  worked.   It revived his career. Jeetendra recalls  how he relentlessly  shot these Hindi remakes  of Telugu films in  Hyderabad. He  was  so much out of his home in Mumbai that  his wife and children had  to fly into Hyderabad  to meet him.

If the credit for  bringing Telugu cinema into Bollywood  in such a major way in the 1970s  goes  to Jeetendra, in the  1980s and  90s  it was producer Kapoor who leaned  heavily on Telugu cinema for his Bollywood  palate. Between  1980 and 2015  Boney  bought the remake rights of  as many as  15 Telugu  hits. Among his  successful remakes were  WohSaat Din(the  film that launched Boney’s brother Anil Kapoor  as a leading man in Hindi cinema),Judaai(Boney’s wife the legendary  Sridevi’s last film before marriage) and Tevar(a  remake  of  Mahesh Babu’s  Telugu  blockbuster  Okkadu featuring Boney’s son Arjun Kapoor). Now, Boney has moved in the  other direction: he has remade the influential Hindi  hit Pink into Tamil.

 Not all of  Boney’s Telugu remakes worked.  He admitted to me that the remake must make  cultural  changes to be palatable  in  the Hindi  belt. Blind remakes don’t work. We   hope Karan Johar  remembers  to  adapt Dear Comrade  to an pan-India  milieu .

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