“Borrowed” from Hollywood

I watched Aamir Khan’s movie Dil Hai Ke Manta Nahin yesterday. It is an obvious remake of Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night and it got me thinking, not for the first time, about why I prefer the Hindi film version of some of my favorite Hollywood films. The Hindi film industry is often accused of stealing entire plots without acknowledging (or paying for) copyrights held on their Hollywood counterparts. And to be sure, a movie like DHKMN should acknowledge Frank Capra’s work as its direct ancestor. What I don’t understand is why so many people hold these remakes in contempt and use them as examples of how Indian filmmakers lack creativity. After all, Hollywood itself remakes its old films.

For example, Aamir Khan’s Mann* is a remake of 1957’s An Affair to Remember starring Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant, which Hollywood remade (and not well) in 1994 as Love Affair with Warren Beatty and Annette Bening. I remember watching An Affair to Remember after school one day, box of Kleenex on my lap. When my mother called me for dinner, everyone looked at my tragic, tear-swollen face and asked who had died. It is a monumentally heart-wrenching classic**.

So, when I saw that it had been remade in Hindi movie form, I couldn’t wait to watch it. And I was so rewarded! It took that over-the-top tearjerker and upped the ante! Instead of being merely paralyzed like Deborah Kerr, Manisha Koirala has her legs amputated below the knee:

mann_stumps.jpg

So of course, when Aamir’s grandmother dies (knowing nothing of Manisha’s circumstances), instead of leaving Manisha a shawl (as in the Hollywood version):

mann_anklets.jpg

Brilliant!

Of course this drama is what makes some people look down on Bollywood movies, but it is largely what makes me love them. I went through TWO boxes of Kleenex watching Mann (well, it was also twice as long as the original). Luckily, this time only Gemma was around to witness the storm (and anyway she loves to lick tears off my face…but I digress).

One of the first Hindi films I fell in love with was Pyaar To Hona Hi Tha starring Ajay Devgan and Kajol. Again — an obvious remake of French Kiss, but with Michael Jackson impersonators, a crazy but lovable interfering Indian family, an Indian wedding, a gangland-style shooting in a mall and numerous car chases thrown in for good measure — along with the obligatory music and dance numbers. It’s not really a good movie in the usual sense, but I love it. I liked French Kiss too, but I’ve only seen it once, whereas I’ve seen PTHHT dozens of times.

It’s just more entertaining!

My very favorite Hindi movie is 2003’s Chori Chori starring Ajay Devgan*** and Rani Mukherjee. It is a remake of Hollywood’s Housesitter starring Goldie Hawn and Steve Martin. I really liked Housesitter and yes: I really love Chori Chori. It has all the romantic tension and comic by-play of the original, but with the addition of a crazy but lovable interfering Indian family, two Indian weddings, a mehendi ceremony, Himalayan scenery, and truly truly wonderful songs and dances. Milan Luthria took a cute romantic comedy from Hollywood and made it into an ultra-romantic, ultra-dramatic, ultra-heart-warming non-stop entertainer. And I think it easily qualifies as a good movie too, by any standard (it’s one of my “starter” films for friends who are curious about Hindi movies). I am on my second DVD of Chori Chori (the first one wore out) but am content to have only seen Housesitter once.

I could go on in this vein forever, but since I have other things to do I will stop with these two thoughts:

A movie like Omkara is not a remake or a copy. It is a true original, with its inspiration taken from Othello (and acknowledged) but with story, setting, characters, and dialogue all completely unique (and uniquely Indian) to that film;

and Bollywood: please go on remaking Hollywood classics in your inimitable style (but do consider giving credit where credit is due).

*I am by no means trying to pick on Aamir, it’s just coincidence that I mention these two films first!
**It’s also referenced in Sleepless in Seattle — Rita Wilson recounts the story to Tom Hanks and Rob Reiner and collapses in tears as she talks, as they look at her in utter bewilderment.
***Not picking on Ajay either, honest!

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31 Comments to ““Borrowed” from Hollywood”

  1. We could add the Amitabh – Rajni starrer BLACK, that is a remake of that Hollywood film about Helen Keller, but with a difference; the ending diverges from the model in an interesting way, and there is just so much to see and feel in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s movie!
    yves

  2. The old hindi film Chori-Chori – Raj kapoor and Nargis is also a remake of It happened one Night.

    Chori -2 has some of the most melodious songs (nearly 10 ) in hindi cinema which are popular to this day.

    I liked chori -2 very much. Hope u get to watch it too. Raj Kapoor and Nargis were so natural.

  3. I liked Raj Kapoor’s Chori Chori too, very beautiful songs :-)

  4. Most Bollywood films are based on old Indian folk tales, stories and remakes of older Indian films. People should stop picking on this developing country and realise that all kinds of people copy other people, not just Indian directors (it’s very prejudice to assume that all Indian directors are “copy-cats” anyway). Hitch (2005) copied the British film Alfie (1966) which is a copy of the French film A Bout de Souffle (1960); so why do these Bollywood films stand out so much? Would people distrust every American film-maker and composer knowing that a huge amount of Hollywood films are copies?? Nowadays, most films are becoming more and more unoriginal which in turn gives the impression that they’re copies of each other no matter what industry they belong to, Bollywood, Hollywood or other.

  5. I think the only problem with it is that some Indian filmmakers deny that they have copied anything and give no credit to the original — when their films are obviously copied scene by scene with exact dialogues from the originals.

    As I said in this post: I usually like the Hindi version better. And I am very aware that there are a lot of original stories told in Hindi films too :-)

  6. You and I seem to have the same thoughts – they do say that all wise men think alike!!! ;-)

    Like you, I cant understand why Bollywood should be held in contempt for lifting ideas, either. Even Shakespeare’s plays were not 100% original. Dont know if he acknowledged his sources, though. Do all Hollywood movies always cite the original? I can remember movies citing the books they were based on, but dont remember seeing acknowledgement of the original film.

    By the way, did you know that An Affair To Remember was itself a remake of an older Hollywood movie – Love Affair (1939) starring Charles Boyer and Irene Dunn. I’m afraid I havent seen Mann, though. After sitting through the terrible Akele Hum Akele Tum and watching Manisha and Aamir ruining Kramer vs Kramer (Aamir does seem to have more than his fair share of remakes!), I just couldnt bring myself to watch Mann even on TV. Now that the memories of Akele… have faded I should try it again.

    • I didn’t really mind that ‘Akele Hum, Akele Tum” was a remake of (or ripoff) of KvK since I knew about it ahead of time, but what annoys me is that even some of the music is ripped off!

      The starting music from the song that Amir Khan’s character sings when he and Manisha first meet is taken from the music of Deep Purple’s “Child in Time.” It’s too much!

      Amir Khan does do a lot of remakes! Lol!

  7. Completely agree with your assessment of Chori Chori (the Ajay-Rani one), too. In fact I liked it a lot better than the original. The romance in Chori Chori was so much better done and ofcourse the family was adorable.

  8. The first half of Mann kind of drags, but the second half more than makes up for it! Verrrrrry dramatic.

    And Chori Chori…I can watch over and over and over (and do!)…

  9. Heyy Babyy was inspired by/a remake of Three Men and a Baby, but what people who complain about that seem to forget is that TMAAB was a remake of Trois hommes et un couffin. i don’t get why people pick on BW for this all the time, either, since HW cannibalizes itself all the time anyway.

  10. I found Mann intolerable, actually. I remember writing at the time that the scenes on board the cruise-ship ought to be banned by the Geneva Convention. But the second half was quite okay in comparison.

    You Aamir to mention first was fair, I think. Aamir has probably starred in more remakes of Hollywood and elsewhere than any other actor currently working in Bollywood. (Except maybe Anil Kapoor, whose specialty is remakes of films made down south.)

    Take Akele Hum Akele Tum, for instance. Plot from Kramer vs Kramer, publicity posters from Sleepless in Seattle (which I’m surprised hasn’t been remade yet), music from George Michael, Deep Purple and The Godfather… none of it acknowledged in the credits, if memory serves right. And to top it all off, a sub-plot about an original music director (who “composed” the aforementioned tunes) being laid low by plagiarism.

    Then there’s Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar, which I thought was a wonderful movie, even if it did borrow from Breaking Away. And Ghulam, which took its inspiration from On the Waterfront (including the “I coulda been a contender” speech), Aatank Hi Aatank where he played the Michael Corleone role, Fanaa which borrows bits and pieces in the second half from Eye of the Needle, and the upcoming Ghajini which is a remake of the earlier Tamil version and may owe a debt to Memento. I know I’ve left out a few…

    I wish they had acknowledged those references, though. That’s the sad part. At least Indra Kumar did, when he said that he had wanted to remake An Affair to Remember for the longest time.

    ~r

    • Ramsu:
      KUCH KUCH HOTA HAI took part of its story-spine from SLEEPLESS IN SEATLE bundled with Archie Andrews comics and beautifully ornated Yash Chopra style by Karan Johar

  11. I agree that the first half of Mann is hard to sit through (I confess I FF’d through some of it), but the second half is great. Of course, I loved it because it’s so OTT esp. compared with An Affair To Remember—which is also why I love PTHHT more than French Kiss.

    It’s going to be interesting to see how Hollywood’s entry into Bolly-land will affect this blatant plagiarizing. All these B’wood filmmakers are going to have a hard time denying that they’ve copied a film scene for scene like they are used to doing :-) Not to mention some of the blatant music stealing!

    But I would be v.v. sad if some of Hollywood’s better films didn’t continue to be remade in inimitable Indian filmi-style!

  12. Nowadays Bollywood has gone a step further…it borrows from more than one movie..take something like TaraRumPum…..borrows heavily from a beautiful life and The Cindrella Man.
    And we have diversified geographically as well…even Korean flicks are not out of bound..Zinda,Ugly Aur Pagli cases in point…

  13. Ha ha I couldn’t get through more than half an hour of Tara Rum Pum…it was too Hollywood for me! Bad bland Hollywood!

  14. Hi friends,
    just came to this post and enjoyed reading it.
    If you want to know more about this “Inspiration” list,
    then do visit my website and you will find

    “the most intensive research on this topic ever read”

    Chek out “www.bobbytalkscinema.com”

    See You there!
    Will surely come back again on this block to read more…
    I liked the articles here…

    Keep up the good work Memsaab..

  15. Hi,

    Nice write up. Please use a hanky for tears next time instead wasting so much of tissue paper :)

    Cheers,
    Jeevan

  16. Also there’s

    Maine Pyar Kyu Kiya- from “Cactus Flower”
    Yeh Dillagi- From “Sabrina”
    Ek Ladka, Ek Ladki- From “Overboard”

  17. I still, all these years later, mostly prefer Indian remakes of Hollywood films :) Or at least like them AS MUCH. Keep ‘em coming!!!

  18. I just realised that this movie is inspired more by “Roman Holiday” rather than “It happened one night”.I wonder why it took me so long to realise that, considering that I have seen “Roman Holiday”.

  19. Also,

    Andaz Apna Apna inspired by Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
    Krish inspired by Paycheck
    Ishqiya inspired by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
    3 Idiots inspired by Patch Adams

  20. I also thought if or not condemning Hollywood remakes. I will definitely watch them, if i expect to be nicely entertained. It is so funny: i detest over-the-top comedies from Hollywood, but often like them from Bollywood (though not so after 2005 or so).

    Still – if the take-over/lifting/remake isn’t credited – it is definitely a form of stealing. What do you think if you see someone stealing from a shop? It’s no damage to you, but still – do you like it?

    I understand that in this time and age, concepts like “privacy” or “intellectual property” lose ground to a copy-paste mentality. So maybe i shouldn’t think negatively anyway.

  21. Ok Memsaab, now I must agree to disagree with you on Mann and `An Affair To Remember.’ That last scene of the latter was the reason I fell madly in love with Cary Grant and went back to watch as many of his earlier movies as I could. I hated Mann, though I rather like Aamir and Manisha. Only liked the title song.
    I’m so glad they haven’t remade `Charade’, though they lifted the title track for Gumnaam.
    `Tere Mere Sapne’ was a desi variation of `The Citadel,’ while Aradhana was from `To Each His Own.’

    • To each his own! And actually, most people agree that Chhaila Babu is a remake of Charade :) Sorry! There is a vast number of Holly-to-Bolly remakes.

  22. Went through this post just now. Very interesting.

    I think many hindi movies are inspired by hollywood movies or even world cinema these days. But then anything that a person creates is going to be inspired by what he/she sees, hears gets impressed with. And yes, sometimes the “inspired” movie is actually much better than the original. Problem is when it is an obvious copy and due acknoledgement is missing. And that is the reason why then, it gets looked down upon – becasue it becomes “stealing”…

    Guzarish, was a remake of a spannish film (English title – “The sea inside”), but no acknowledgement.

    And I would like to make some corrections to the last list of copies :-)

    Andaz Apna Apna inspired by Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. – I think the real copy of Dirthy Rotten Scoundrels was “Khel” starring Anil Kapoor, Madhuri Dixit and Anupam Kher.
    Krish inspired by Paycheck – not sure
    Ishqiya inspired by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – not really a copy, though there are some similarities…
    3 Idiots inspired by Patch Adams – not at all – if any movie was inspired by Patch Adams, it was Munnabhai M.B.B.S. – and that too was not really a copy exactly

    Oh and as for Kuch Kuch Hota Hai being inspired by Sleepless in Seattle, I don’t see it, the only thing common is that the hero’s child is trying to get them together….. (In my opinion, Sleepless in Seattle is a much better movie than KKHH) – and I ma not sure if we can say something is a copy of something just becasue the basic concept is same (checkout my latest post on http://hindimoviesgoldenera.blogspot.com/ – its about this topic) I would think of a movie to be “inspired” by another movie, if there were similariies in characters, or situations or the flow etc.

  23. Memsaab, yes, I forgot about Charade and Chhaila Babu (RK’s numerous identities).
    More recently, Aakrosh from Mississipi Burning. Just saw the beginning and decided it was a frame-to-frame, practically. What to do, see and be inspired is the norm – considering that’s how we learn everything as we start off in life, it’s err….natural.
    Yes, I agree with Sonali, I liked Sleepless in Seattle a lot better than KKHH.

  24. Dil Hai Ke Manta Nahin is remake of Raj Kapoor Nargiz starrer Chori Chori of 1956 and Anadaz Apna Apna borrows heavily from Tamil film Thenmazahai of 1968-69 starring Cho Ramaswamy and Nagesh.

  25. 90% of bollywood movies are completely ripped off from hollywood (sometimes other language) movies…and even when not, they will have a few scenes lifted from hollywood…which really pisses me off…two things 1) bollywood does not give credit to the original, so it is basically plagiarising 2) it does show a lack of imagination and is plain lazy, when people just lift off scenes from other movies.

    However back in the 70s & 80s bollywood movies were much more original & thought-provoking. Or atleast they were onscreen adaptions of famous hindi novels (like those of Munshi Premchand). Nowadays most bollywood movies are brainless mush, “inspired” by hollywood films.

    • Hollywood rehashes the same old plots over and over again too :) I agree that not giving credit where credit is due is bad, but remember too that these filmmakers had very little money in those days. And actually if you watch films from the 30s and 40s there are a lot of original plots there too, or at least Indian stories.

      I have to sadly agree with you about modern “Bollywood” although there are some exceptions and it’s nice to see the “indie” culture springing up again.

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