So, Dharma productions/Karan Johar just announced that they will be remaking Mani Ratnam’s OK Kanmani, to be directed by Shaad Ali and starring Aditya Roy Kapoor and Shraddha Kapoor. I am very excited!
I love Ratnam remakes, because it means with get Rahman songs we already love, but redone with lyrics we can understand (Gulzar is doing the Hindi lyrics, so you know they will be awesome!). And this one looks like it might actually turn out as well as its soundtrack! My hope is, as well as the last time Shaad Ali remade Ratnam, Saathiya, which is one of my favorite movies.
The problem with these southern remakes is that often the assumption is, the soundtrack and plot you bought from down south will carry it. No need to change anything, just make the exact same film over again, and boom, hit!
That’s what happened with Ekk Deewana Tha, which used the same director as its Tamil original, Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa, cast a couple of unknowns from the north, translated the original fabulous Rahman soundtrack into Hindi, and assumed that would be enough to make it a hit. See also Ratnam’s own remakes, Yuva and Raavan, which worked fabulously in the southern versions, but flopped both critically and commercially in the Hindi. The difference between the Hindi industry and the regional is so much more than just language! Well, it is language, but it’s not the difference between one language and another, it’s the difference between having a language and not using one at all.
In the southern industries, the assumption is that everyone watching the film is fluent in the language used. You are able to create much more challenging narratives and realistic images, because the language of the script can convey everything. In Hindi, that meaning comes through the acting styles, the visual metaphors, the feel of the song sequences, even the statements made in pre-film publicity are part of the overall message.
Saathiya, to me, is the gold-standard for these remakes, able to thread the needle of maintaining what was so appealing about the southern original (Alaipayuthey) while adjusting it just enough to make sense nationally and internationally. And a large part of that was Shaad Ali directing. And another part of it was Rani Mukherjee and Viviek Oberoi acting. And this announcement fills me with hope that we will see the same kind of film again.
To see what I mean, just look at the original song sequence from Alaipayuthey.
Versus the remake
(notice the way Rani is allowed to dominate the screen, the clean lines so you can always tell the geography of the song, the simpler dialogue between the leads, the fancier and more modern clothing, and the way it just generally feels like Song Sequence, instead of a sequence in a film that happens to include a song.)
Shaad Ali trained under Ratnam, he understands him. But at the same time, Ali works in the Hindi industry, has for years, he also understands the different requirements there. He is capable of taking a grounded, realistic love story, one in which the song sequences are almost after thoughts and everything progresses in a dreamy out of time manner (the Ratnam trademark), and turning it into a tightly turned out glossy film with promotable songs and a logically progressive plot.
And then there’s the cast. Aditya Roy Kapoor and Shraddha Kapoor are a known and popular pair nationally, but not so well known that they will dominate the film and lose the tone of the original. They are also experienced, veterans of multiple films, able to competently handle not just the actual acting, but the publicity, the pre-release buzz, the things that are required of Hindi film actors in a different way than actors from any other industry. Very much in the same place as where Rani and Viviek were back when they signed Saatihya.
And of course, the production house. Dharma KNOWS romance. It owns romance, romance is its bread and butter. It makes everything from Student of the Year to Wake Up, Sid, and it makes you believe in all of them. So if anyone can take a realistic lowkey southern film about a couple falling in love, living together, and coming to understand what commitment means, and turn it into a swooningly romantic, universally relatable, national and international hit, it’s going to be Dharma.
But mostly, I am still excited because no matter what, this means next summer when I am belting out “Mana Mental Manadhil” in the car, it will be in Hindi, and I will actually know what I am saying! I really hope it isn’t secretly dirty words.