New Delhi: Once upon a time films from the south were family socials. Gemini, Prasad and other banners promoted cute products celebrating wholesome family values where virtue always vanquished evil and the good, honest protagonist and the loyal, sacrificing heroine always saw the cruel, conniving baadie off to tra-ta into the unset.
Interestingly, the character actors and actresses were invariably paired off to give it a real feel-good happy ending. They may not have been the no. 1 brand of the movie-goers but they did have a sizable market among the orthodox, conservative, god-fearing constituency, pan-India. It was an innocent time, the 50's and 60's, with neither consumerism, globalization nor technology to rain on their parade.
With time that genre faded out and while heroines from the south zoomed into B-town, the traditional fare was replaced by loud, gaudy, over-the-top, dhin-chak offerings with Jumping Jack Jeetu as their triumphant brand ambassador. A super-duper success, these films with the white-shoed hero serenading a gorgeous Jaya Prada or sexy Sridevi and Shakti-Kader's unleashing toilet humour , tumbled out of the South thick n' fast and raked in the loot, big time.
Today, as southern material once again invades Bollywood with a huge bang, it is interesting to note the difference. These are not the Sasurals (Teri Pyari Pyari Surat Ko...), Gharanas (Husnwale, tera jawab...) or Hamrahis (Mujko apne gale lagalo...), of yesterdays... sweet, romantic, melodrama nor the Jeetu-driven jhatka stuff but violence driven whammos with vendetta, blood and gore along with populist catch phrases and dialogue-baazi to boot.
From Ghajini (2008) to Rowdy Rathore (2012), Bollywood's biggest blockbusters to dominate the celebrated Rs 100 crore club, have been solid remakes from the south. Why? What's so special in them for cornering the market? What is so spicy and irresistible that the movie-going junta and superstars continue to fall under their spell (for different reasons) and swear that their brand of full on entertainment? Why do big production houses and directors too repeatedly zero in on this Madras cut genre?
Film scholar and historian Rauf Ahmed believes it's not about value judgment, the return of tasteless, mindless cinema or catering to the instincts of the lowest common denominator but just a reaction to an overdose of a type that was destined to play itself out. "For over a decade, post DDLJ, mush ruled. Love and romance, Khan-style rocked. Exceptions apart, it was the flavor of the day and the audiences loved it. Loud melodrama, violence or anything overstated was considered cheap. Action-films too were sent to the cleaners because B-town only copied Hollywood without their technical virtuosity, panache or flair".
It was in this environment that in year 2008, director A Murugadoss ventured a remake of Ghajini, a 2005 Tamil hit, with Surya and Asin playing lead. Inspired by the Hollywood movie Memento, the remake starring Aamir khan was a smash hit and unleashed the southern remake trend. Made with a budget of Rs 65 crore, it is reported to have crossed the Rs 100 crore mark. Wanted, the Rs 35 crore Salman Khan starrer in 2009, raked in a cool Rs 95 crore. Remade from the Telugu 2006 hit Pokiri, it confirmed the credibility and market for remakes from the south.
In 2011 came a hat-trick. Singham (remade from 2010 Tamil hit Singam), Ready (remade from the 2008 Telugu hit of the same name) and Bodyguard (made from the Malayalam hit of the same name), all registered huge brownie points at the box office. The latest to join this club is the Akshay Kumar superhit Rowdy Rathore (remade from the 2006 Telugu hit VikramarKudu).
What's the secret behind the success of these loud, violence prone potboilers? Critic Saibal Chatterjee believes that there will always be a space for this kind of full-on, hard-core escapist fare celebrating machismo. "These are well made techno savvy fare riding on a consciously dumbed down populist, simplistic tale powered by the brute force of a superstar. Salman, Ajay, Akshay are all hot, macho males with huge brand equity and author backed, audience friendly roles." Also, the fact that these films come with readymade scripts which have rocked. The dialogue reworked by a team of intelligent and savvy, dialogue writers offer good catch lines and signature toss-offs, songs and item numbers do the rest.
In fact, such is their booming popularity with 2 of the 3 Khans already in the remake list that king Khan is seriously thinking of getting in. Reports have it that SRK is on the verge of signing a remake of the 2002 Tamil action blockbuster, Ramanna.
Aiyyo, Very Good-a.