Bollywoodhungama is reporting that Siddharth Anand has the rights to the Rambo trilogy. Which is exciting and intriguing and all kinds of interesting!
i just posted a couple of days ago about how India deals differently with copyright and inspiration and dialogue between two separate art works. But that is changing increasingly, post the liberalization of the Indian economy and its increasing involvement in the international marketplace.
Disney owns UTV, Sony Music has been buying into soundtracks for almost 2 decades now, and Reliance bought Dreamworks from Spielberg (although I am pretty sure that is just because Tinu Minum wanted him to come to one of her parties). For me, the first faint sign of this shift was back in 2003 when Karan actually bought the rights to “Pretty Woman” instead of just stealing it.
It’s not just that they are actually buying the rights, they are promoting that they are buying the rights. Like it is somehow a sign of leveling up in the global marketplace? To respectably and legally purchase something instead of just using it without permission? When Bang Bang came out, even during filming, the fact that it was a legal remake, with the rights all bought and paid for, was mentioned in every article and interview. But, it was the rights for Knight and Day, which was a terrible terrible movie. I say that not just because I watched it, and thought it wasn’t that good, but because I was working at a movie theater when it came out. We lost so much money that week. Like, our hours were cut back, because they couldn’t afford to pay us, because they weren’t selling any tickets. Bang Bang is so much better! So much better! If anything, an association with Knight and Day lowers it.
And yet, they thought just saying the magic words and sprinkling the legal fairy dust, buying something from a real grown up multinational corporation, would always be better. I looooooooove Bang Bang, by the way. I think it is brilliantly stupid. It knows it is a fun silly action movie and it embraces that in a way Knight and Day never quite did. Same silly plot, less silly attitude. Plus, no songs. And no Hrithik. Tom Cruise is fine, but he takes himself a little too seriously, and he doesn’t dance. Really, Bang Bang is awesome because it has Hrithik and dancing and fabulous totally original action set pieces. The plot they purchased is the least of it.
(Best part of Bang Bang, and there is nothing even close to this in Knight and Day!)
Okay, and now the same director has the rights to Rambo. And he says he has had the rights for 2 years. But he was waiting until the Rambo series was finished in America, and taking his time trying to figure out how to re-use the series in the Indian context. That’s what throws me about this, all of the plot details are going to need to be changed to make Rambo work in India. And the tone and everything else. Rambo was all about post-Vietnam America, and then Reagan’s America. It was all about wounds that can’t heal and the noble solitary warrior and so on and so on.
How does this work with India? Who would even have PTSD? Veterans of Kargil? Secret RAW agents? Or, survivors of inter-India violence? Plenty of those! Riots, police brutality, the mob. But then why buy the rights to Rambo? I just watched Ghayal for the first time (in preparation for Ghayal Once Again), and that’s basically the plot. Our happy hero has his life turned upside down by the mob working with the corrupt cops, he lands in jail for 5 years where he slowly hardens and toughens into a fighting machine, and at the same time society forgets about him and rejects him. And then he gets out and there is a massive manhunt. The themes of society’s forgotten, a good man who was forever changed by what was done to him, who has seen things worse than we could imagine, etc. etc.-it’s all there already!
But like I said, I loooooove Bang Bang, so I am fine with anything Siddharth Anand wants to do. And if anyone can pull off a traumatized almost non-verbal warrior, it’s definitely Hrithik. I mean heck, that was basically his part in Agneepath! The only thing is, why buy the rights? Why not just make an action movie about a guy who sees horrible things and survives captivity and is then misunderstood and underestimated by everyone else? Buying the rights, it just feels small, you know? Like they have to prove something by getting the approval of the West instead of being brave enough to stand on their own. Which, oddly, is the point of Rambo, someone who is so far outside of society that he doesn’t even know how to interact with it. So, Siddharth Anand, be like Rambo! Just do what you got to do and don’t be afraid to stand alone.