I don’t want to say that Raabta is better than Magadheera, or even as good. But it is a very clever reimagining which takes the same story but replace the from the southern industry (comedy scenes, action scenes, stalking romance) with the strengths of the Hindi industry (clever dialogue, cutting edge international setting, slightly more complicated characters). So, what other southern films could we do that with? Not that we SHOULD do it, but that we could.
I LOVE THIS MOVIE! And if it were to actually be remade, I would probably be so upset that I would refuse to see the remake. But, just as thought experiment, let’s see how it could be changed to take full advantage of the Hindi film industry specialities instead of Malayalam.
Casting first. The Hindi film industry doesn’t have better actors than the Malayalam industry, but it has more glossy star types. So rather than trying to recreate the original fresh and natural feel, let’s odd on the star power.
Nivin Pauly = Shahid Kapoor (with a little scruff)
Nazriya = Alia Bhatt
Nazriya/Alia’s Father = Rishi Kapoor
Nazriya/Alia’s Mother = Neetu Singh
Nazriya/Alia’s favorite aunt = Twinkle Khanna
Shahid’s mother = Shabana Azmi
Vineeth Srinavasan (Nazriya/Alia’s teacher friend in med school) = Varun Dhawan
Aju Varghese (Nazriya/Alia’s lazy conman cousin) = Ranveer Kapoor
The woman Nivin/Shahid is engaged to and Ranveer/Aju marries = Deepika
Next, setting! Hindi film does not do well with village settings. Forget the village, no village. It’s a neighborhood in Bombay. But grounded, not like South Bombay, everyone speaks English and has loads of money. No, a nice neighborhood, but one where everyone sort of knows everyone else. Alia walks to the nearby school, her father runs a clinic out of the first floor of their house, they are richer than most other people who live there, but not so rich that they don’t know their neighbors.
And forget the slow introduction to the characters and setting. Hindi film doesn’t do well with slow introductions. This should all be fast-fast-fast. Alia is born, she grows up the pampered only child of her parents, we are introduced in quick voice over to her aunt, her cousin, and various other people around the area. And then just as Alia decides she wants to marry for love, not arranged, her school takes a trip to the new water park just opened and she meets Shahid. Well, “meets”, they don’t really talk, he just beats up some eve teasers who are bothering her.
(They were cute together, right?)
She comes home, asks about him, finds out he runs a martial arts class, and also has a small fresh produce shop. And he is a southerner, part of the Tamil community in their area, not the Gujurati, like here. He could have done more, but his father died so he stopped after graduating from high school and takes care of his mother and their shop. And besides, it is important to have good fresh produce available in the neighborhood. Alia learns that half the time, her father prescribes people to go to that store to get good food in order to fix their stomach complaints, rather than take medicine.
Another big advantage Hindi film has is the song numbers. And Shahid is a great dancer. So let’s throw a wedding song in here. Heck, her cousin’s wedding! The one whose engagement made her decide to marry for love. Big wedding song number lead by Shahid, with Ranveer as support, and the bride (who? Kareena would be very meta if we could get her) chiming in for one sad verse about growing up and forgetting first love, which Shahid sadly acknowledges. Alia asks Ranveer how he knows Shahid, learns that Shahid was in love with her cousin Dips all through high school, and now hates their family for marrying her off to someone else.
Alia is conflicted, but decides she will be different, and earn his love. Starts hanging out with his mother at the store after school, perhaps a vegetable song? And finally decides she has to confess how she feels. Goes to tell him one day when she knows he will be alone in the shop, but gets embarrassed, especially when a taxi splashes her with mud and she loses her umbrella. Shahid gives her his old umbrella and sends her back home, without hearing what she had to say.
But she gets a second chance because her favorite aunt, Twinkle Khanna, explains that she knows Shahid from long back, he is a good boy, and suggests that Alia go see him at the small Tamil style temple where he always goes on his birthday. Alia goes, before she can admit her love, Shahid tells her she is too young and should finish high school and go to college, etc. etc.
Sad song! Big gloriously marinating in emotions sad song. That continues straight through Alia starting school in, let’s say, Australia? This is a Hindi film, it’s all about the travelogues. Lots of Australia scenes, happy girls song with her roommates, and later a happy friendship-that-might-be-love song with Varun, her handsome young professor who becomes her friend.
But then Shahid shows up! His mother is sick, cancer (but it’s treatable! Shouldn’t be too sad), and his uncle in Australia suggested they come there for treatment. Another song, a love song, with Alia and Shahid traveling around the city, and her constantly fantasizing that it turns into a big love scene, and then coming out of it to see he is just calmly talking to her. And then he is gone! All of a sudden! His mother too, she asks his uncle and is told that it was responsibilities back home. She rushes to the airport to stop him (this is a Hindi film, remember), but is just too late. So, she decides to take leave from school and go back home herself to find out what is happening.
She arrives just in time to walk into his engagement ceremony!!!!! NOOOOOOO! She is heartbroken! And sees Ranveer skulking around outside the venue, also looking heartbroken. She and Ranveer go to Shahid together and ask for help, claiming that they are in love and need help eloping (in this version, Ranveer is more her “cousin” than her real cousin, son of her father’s best friend who she grew up with), and since Shahid has a friend at the Visa office, maybe he can help Ranveer get a Visa for Australia. Shahid seems conflicted about this, but agrees. Another sad-ish song, intercut between Alia watching Shahid and Dips prepare for their wedding, scouting venues around the neighborhood and so on, and Shahid helping Alia and Ranveer apply for passports and stuff. Only, of course, on the night they are supposed to leave, Ranveer meets Shahid and Alia at the train station Alia says she has to go to the bathroom first, comes out in a burka for disguise, gets on the train, and just as Shahid is watching the train pull out and looking heartbroken, Alia comes up next to him! She and Deepika pulled a switch in the bathroom! And Alia passed all the paperwork on to Deepika to fill out before Shahid filed it for them! Dips and Ranveer have been in love all along, but her family didn’t approve, the engagement to Shahid was rapidly arranged when they found out (let’s say that Shahid and Deepika are distant cousins, and both southerners, so the cousin marriage thing would be normal), she needed Alia to be her front for the paperwork and stuff. So now Shahid is free of the engagement.
And then the Shahid touches Alia’s shoulders, and looks deep in her eyes, and suddenly fantasy love song! But Alia comes out of the fantasy to Shahid not saying anything, just dropping his hand and saying he will see her around. Next day, she is all sad, but her aunt Twinkle suggests that she come with her for a walk, and walks her over to the small temple. Shahid is there, and this time he admits his love, and that he has been in love with her all along, we get detailed flashbacks this time showing that he noticed her while he was standing outside her cousin’s engagement, with a broken heart, looking like the girl he loved, but more so and better. That he was infuriated when he saw her harassed at the water park, but still didn’t talk to her because she was so young. That he only started singing because he spotted her at the wedding. That he saw her following him around the neighborhood, would hide in the back and listen to her chattering to his mother, used to pick out the best bananas to send to her house because he knew they were her favorite. Gave her his father’s old umbrella that had been sitting by the door since he set it down the day he died to keep with her, was thrilled to see she still had it in Australia, meaning that she might still love him. But was not sure, because Varun was there too, and she was a foreign trained doctor now, and he was just the shopkeeper from back home. Before he could get up his courage to say anything, he saw Varun embracing her (not knowing that was because she had just admitted her love for Shahid and Varun encouraged her), and then got word from back home that his cousin was in trouble and he owed it to the family honor to marry her. He was heartbroken seeing her at the engagement, and knew he should have been happy to learn she had found love somewhere else (with Ranveer), but was miserable about that as well. And last night, he was so happy, but he wanted to do this right, the way she deserved. And so he asked Twinkle to bring her here, where she confessed her love all those years ago, so he could confess his.
(This, but going on for like 20 minutes. Who wouldn’t love that?)
And then wedding song!!!! At which Varun shows up to dance with Shahid, and Ranveer and Dips are there too, and Varun reveals his own love story, with Alia’s roommate from the “happy girls in Sydney” song (let’s say Ileana D’Suza).
Okay, I think that works. I’m not saying it should be made, but it would be a lot better than them trying and failing to recapture all those parts of the original that just don’t work well in Hindi.
Next one! Manam. Again, it really really shouldn’t be remade. But if it were remade, this is what I would do to make it more it’s own thing, instead of just an imitation of the original.
Hindi film can’t possibly match the casting of the original. So let’s not even try. Instead of the star power and real life family connections and all that, let’s just cast for the roles (also, the character names are way to confusing, so I am just using actor names here):
Shriya Sonam: Kajol
Naga Chaitanya: Varun
Samantha Prabhu: Alia
Otherwise, let’s keep that same plot, but amp the drama WAY WAY UP. Start by seeing the Alia/Varun past romance in detail, not just skated past in a song. The cute first meeting, the passionate first night, the happy honeymoon fights, the more serious pregnancy fights, Alia reluctantly letting him back into her life after the baby is born, a miserable song to get us through all their years of fighting, and finally the final fight leading to death, at which point Shahrukh wakes up from a nightmare remembering all of this and OPENING CREDITS.
We can see that Shahrukh has a sad empty life, let’s make him kind of vicious and embittered, an Asoka-style guy who conquers because he has no love. And to make it extra dramatic, he will meet Varun when he shows up to take over and fire everybody at the company where he works, and Varun leads a walk out with a fiery speech. Shahrukh is just about to drive away, having ordered his man to beat the strikers, when Varun breaks the tinted glass of his car, and he sees him! Instead of beating the strikers, he invites Varun into his car to discuss their concerns, and soon Varun is there as his “special advisor” in the office, solving labor disputes and guiding him towards a more ethical solution for things, and also stopping him from drinking late at night and generally being a good influence. And song montage shows how Shahrukh is influencing Varun as well, getting him to wear corporate gear and stay in a fancy corporate apartment with a nice car and all that.
(They are good together, right?)
And the Varun is sent to handle a land dispute with activists, who turn out to be lead by Alia! Varun and she are all angry and yelling at each other, when Shahrukh happens to see the news report on TV and quickly shows up and tries to calm them both down. Alia, illogically, immediately takes his side against Varun’s, claiming that Varun is the enemy, and Shahrukh is the poor business owner who didn’t know what his underling was doing. Shahrukh tries to interject, but can’t bring himself to interrupt his “parents”, and so the fight continues, ending with Alia declaring that she will come to his office the next day to talk, but only with Shahrukh, not Varun.
Alia and Shahrukh get along great from the start, she brings him food at their meeting, because he is too skinny, and insists on him calling her if he can’t sleep at night, and is generally motherly. But she still refuses to talk to Varun.
Meanwhile, Shahrukh is driving down the road when Kajol flags down his car, to help her take Amitabh, random old man who collapsed, to the hospital because she is a doctor. Shahrukh is in love at first sight, but the old man seems confused when he sees them together. And then, flashback! Amitabh’s voice over explains that SRKajol are the reincarnation of HIS parents! And to Hindi film it up, let’s give it a classic Bombay film studio setting. Past-Shahrukh was an impassioned film director who was also obsessed with cars. He saw a photo of Kajol standing next to a car he is thinking of buying and declares she is the perfect heroine for his next film. Kajol has no interest, she is a confident young woman who wants to get married and not be in film, she is older and has raised all her siblings by herself, and now that they are settled in their lives, she is nagging the marriage broker every day to find her a husband who isn’t a drunkard, or a widower, or an old man, or fat or ugly. Shahrukh finally promises her that if she does this one film for him, he will find her a husband. Over the course of filming, of course they fall in love. He sees her brilliance on camera and kindness to the workers, she sees his charity he is half-ashamed of, and the way he uses his films to support the freedom movement. As filming starts to wrap up, he begins to casually mention that he has found a husband for her, she can see him at the premiere. Kajol is increasingly nervous about this, and when Shahrukh tells her to go to the dark projection booth to meet her suitor, she comes in and starts talking right away, saying she is sorry, she is sure he is a very nice man, but she can’t marry him because she is in love with the director. And then Shahrukh turns the lights on, and of course it is him, and they embrace as in the background you can see the black-and-white embrace of the characters in the film. And then they die. Well, after baby Amitabh is born and grows up, old enough to remember them. There is a fire at the studio, Kajol goes in to save the filmstock (because she knows how much it means to Shahrukh, there was a scene about it earlier), and Shahrukh goes in to save her, and they both are trapped and die in each other’s arms.
Back in the present day, cute love song with Shahrukh visiting Amitabh at the hospital every day and trying to snap secret photos of Kajol, because he is still obsessed with how she looks on camera. And Kajol pretending not to care if he is there or not, but secretly watching the door for his arrival.
Both romances reach their culmination together. Shahrukh tells Alia that she can have the slum development she wants, fully funded by his company, but has to work with Varun on it. And tells Varun that his job, and the future of the company, depends on him making this work. With this inspiration, both of them work on finding a common ground in a way they never did in their past marriage. Varun listens when she talks and remembers her concerns. Alia trusts him and lets him take independent responsibility for some things. And then on the day of the inauguration of the building, Varun takes Alia to one of the empty units, which he has decorated exactly like their past-apartment. And admits that he knew who she was almost immediately, but also knew that their past problems were because they saved the fighting until after marriage, this time around he wanted to get the fighting out of the way from the start, and let them reach an understanding before he confessed his love. And he knew Alia knew who he was too, because she accidentally called him by his “past” name in the middle of their first fight. And he asks if she is willing to live here, with him, and be his wife, again, and do better this time. Alia says she is, but asks if they can redecorate, and then they laugh-cry and hug.
Meanwhile, Shahrukh is missing the inauguration because he got a call that he has to rush to the hospital (which his company built), there has been an accident. An electrical fire, through no fault of the building, has broken out. Shahrukh, wracked with guilt, rushes in to try to fix it himself. Kajol, helping the patients, learns of this and starts to rush in after him. But Amitabh fakes a heart attack to distract her and keep her outside. Shahrukh manages to stop the burning (in this life, because he isn’t distracted trying to save Kajol), but is severely burned and barely manages to get out. It looks like he won’t make it, when Varun appears! Without thinking, they call each other “father” and “son”. Outside, Alia and Kajol and Amitabh are waiting for them. Kajol confesses her love, Shahrukh asks Varun and Alia for permission, Varun reminds him that “in this life”, he is there elder, and can do whatever he wants!
And, double wedding song! With a bit of oddness, because everyone takes everyone else’s blessing. And Amitabh is there and does a little dance with the other two. HAPPY ENDING
Again, I’m not saying they HAVE to be remade, but I feel like these remakes would be different enough to at least justify their existence, right?