Two Trailers, Two Remakes: Chef and Judwaa 2

Well, this is FASCINATING!  It didn’t hit me until I watched the Chef trailer and then the new Judwaa 2 song right next to each other, but they are both remakes!  In ways that couldn’t be more different.  A sign that the industry doesn’t know if it should look back, or look out for the new hit.

I have to admit, I haven’t seen the original Chef.  But moviemavengal did and she told me about it.  And so did my parents and THEY told me about it.  And I read reviews and stuff after that.  So it’s kind of like I saw it?  Anyway, the stuff I want to talk about here isn’t related to any details, it’s just general stuff about the film that I could absolutely know just from what I’ve read/been told.

You know Jon Favreau?  If you are a certain person of a certain age in America, you just went “Oh, Jon Favreau!”  And if you are not that person, just so you have a picture in your mind, you remember Monica’s millionaire boyfriend from season 3 of Friends?  It’s that guy.

Back in the 90s, there was this very particular kind of actor/artist that started popping up.  They were smart, not just pretty and handsome.  They were friends with other smart people and liked to make smart off-beat things together.  They tended to come out of stand-up or like “real” acting schools (Julliard and stuff), or else improv (that’s where Jon came from).  And the American film/TV industry was in an odd point in the 90s that let this fun off-beat things be kind of mainstream for a while.

Jon Favreau was one of those guys.  The biggest thing he did back then was the movie Swingers, which had kind of a similar reception to what The Big Sick is getting now.  Not the same by any means, but similar.  Small film with a lot of really good people working in it and on it because they all liked each other and were eager for work.  Really sweet kind of story that no one else was telling just then, showing people like you didn’t see in other movies.

Image result for swingers poster

(It’s basically nothing like the poster.  This is a marketing man gone mad)

So he kept working, and became that guy who played the friend of the hero.  Often because in real life he WAS that friend of the hero.  He stayed in touch with all those people he knew from back in the 90s when they were starting out, and would take small roles in their films.  And eventually when he decided to turn director of his own small film, he was able to call in some of his friends and it became a minor hit.  Which got him the job of directing a small comedy film, Elf, that turned into a surprise hit.  Which lead to his big big job, directing and helping to produce Iron Man, for his long time friend Robert Downey Jr.

And from then on, his career was made.  He could do all the big budget films he wanted, unlimited budget and promotion and everything else.  But strangely, in the midst of directing Cowboys & Aliens and The Jungle Book and Iron Man 2 and all these big big things, he also kept acting!  In tiny little “friend of the hero” roles, just like before.

And then he made a movie about that.  Sort of.  Chef was made on a budget of 11 million, in between the 163 million Cowboys & Aliens and the 175 million The Jungle Book.  It’s a tiny story which takes all his superstar connections and big deal successful film experience and uses it to make a nice small film.  And that’s also the plot of the film!  A big deal Chef who is disillusioned with his life and quits to open a food truck with good friends and get back to the small joyful place he started.

Okay, now here’s the Indian version:

 

 

Did you notice the same thing I did?  It’s still autobiographical!!!!  Only instead of a superstar director getting back to his indie roots with the help of his friends, it’s about a super cosmopolitan single father getting back in touch with his son.  They took the basic idea, big deal chef who quits to open a food truck and said “okay, if this stars Saif Ali Khan instead of Jon Favreau, how can we still make it meaningful?”  And the answer was to make it about Saif as a single father, relearning an Indian identity.  Yes, the original also had a father son relationship, but that wasn’t the main impetus for change, it was the professional disillusionment that drove everything.

Also, thank goodness they figured out how to make a food truck make sense in India!  Do you know about food trucks?  It’s this thing that is suddenly cool in American cities.  Well, not “suddenly”, it’s been going on for over ten years now.  Food trucks used to be a really working class thing.  Usually you would see them outside factories, the idea being you could park just outside the gates so they don’t have to walk all the way off the grounds for lunch, and you would show up right before the noon whistle, and leave right after to hit up the next factory.  Cheap street food, not that great and not that bad.  I’m guessing the Indian equivalent would be something like a chai and dosa cart (dosa? I don’t know what the cheap street food would be) that knows just when to move over outside a workshop to get people on the midday break, and then wheels down the road to a different workshop for the next break.

Anyway, it is suddenly “hip” now and there are all these food trucks that offer expensive gourmet food and park by big fancy concerts and stuff instead of outside of working places.  For people who could perfectly well go eat somewhere else, they have the time and money, but the food truck is a “cool” way to do it.  And it’s the “cool” way to work in the new economy because you can open your own food truck a lot more easily than your own restaurant, and the restaurant market/jobs have kind of fallen off lately in the US.

So, none of this translates to India!  And thank goodness, they aren’t pretending that food trucks are suddenly “a thing” or something like that.  It’s very location specific, a Kerala (it is Kerala, right?) tourist area is exactly where the food truck model would work, a bunch of white people who are familiar with the concept, and lots of outdoor events where people with disposable income would like the fun of a different way of eating.

Those are all my very complex background thoughts, for the film itself, looks fun!  I’m really glad to see Saif playing his own age and background, instead of trying to be young and/or tough.  Very interested in the idea of a father-son story, don’t know when was the last time we had something like that.  Oh, and it looks like the director is a Malayali (and directed Airlift), and the heroine is Padmapriya, who was my favorite part of Kerala Verma.  So that’s all good too.  I am cautiously optimistic.

 

Okay, deep thinking over with, time for Judwaa 2!  Look, a Ganesh song!  I wonder if the film will take place in real time?  I assume this is long-hair Varun’s intro song.  So maybe we follow a month in his life, ending with Gandhi’s birthday/the actual release weekend?  That might be cool.

 

 

Otherwise, this is very much “Look!  A Varun Ganpati song!” and I don’t really have much else to say about it.  The hair looks good on him, but based on the full trailer, his character will be cutting it soon for maximum confusion, so we shouldn’t get too fond of it.  And that’s kind of it?  It’s a big fun bright song, what’s to say?

But then, that’s the point!  This is a big fun bright movie with not a lot to say or think about.  It’s a remake, by the same creative team, of another fun bright movie.  It is 100% Indian in background, trying to hit that nostalgia in the Hindi film audience.

And it’s coming out right next to a film that is 100% not-Indian, a remake of a very specifically American film.  Isn’t that interesting?  Isn’t that a sign of the industry trying to find itself?  Should it be taking the overseas films and turning them “Indian”, trying to appeal to that same globalized sensibility?  Or should it double down, go even more “Indian” than before?

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35 thoughts on “Two Trailers, Two Remakes: Chef and Judwaa 2

  1. Judwa was the official remake of the Telugu film Hello Brother, which was an unofficial remake of Jackie Chan’s Twin Dragons. How Indian is that? 🙂

    The Chef trailer struck me (not knowing anything about the original American film) as being very *un-Indian*. I had already read by that time that it was the remake of an American film, and the whole concept of an estranged father (he isn’t a single dad, as the kid actually lives with his mother) reconnecting with his son, in the way shown in the trailer, felt very American — i.e., I felt they didn’t do much “Indianizing” of the plot. The dialogs felt like they were actually writen English, and translated to Hindi. Saif sounded like he thought in English even while saying the Hindi words. So overall it was a big fail for me.

    What really struck me with the Chef trailer, and your summary of JHMS, is that Hindi films are trying to emulate “western” films in their structure and basic plot, meaning, focusing only on the lead characters, without giving a lot of backstory about their lives. Now in a Hollywood or European film that would work, because a adult character would, in fact, be living on his/her own, worrying about and making major life decisions on their own, etc. But in India, even today, no character is alone like that. There would always be some kind of family around or interfering in their life, and even if the character literally has no family due to being an orphan, say, s/he would still have friends or other people who are close, replicating the various family figures. Now if you take all that away, and just leave the character, then I don’t think the majority of the audience will be able to connect with that person, and thus the film won’t work. Even Dil Chalta Hai, for all its supposed pathbreaking examination of friendship, still had family members around each of the friends, shaping and influencing their lives. So overall I don’t think this “new” direction will be a fruitful one for the industry.

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    • The movie that really bothered me with the lack of family was Jhoothi Hai Saahi. Not a very remarkable film in any way, but it was distracting to have this group of friends going through a lot of complicated stuff, and family wasn’t even mentioned, not so much as a “my mother called up because was worried/mad at me/confused about my break-up”. Or at even, “my parents got divorced/are dead so I am pretty much on my own”.

      On Thu, Aug 31, 2017 at 12:19 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • It wasn’t, I don’t think, it just really really felt like it. Felt exactly like Notting Hill/Four Weddings and a Funeral all of those movies. Only with the exact plot that I don’t think had been done before.

          On Thu, Aug 31, 2017 at 12:57 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • I’ll just remember the great soundtrack from that film from the same team that did Jaane Tu before that.

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          • I love that soundtrack! Rahman did the title song at the concert where we saw him live, and it was really great live. They did it like a true Jazz song, so lots of improvisation and experimentation, with just Rahman at the piano and I think a cello and a drum.

            On Thu, Aug 31, 2017 at 1:14 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • I’m thinking that’s more like what “Food Truck” used to mean.

      On Thu, Aug 31, 2017 at 3:53 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. Hate this trailer. I’ve watched the original film. I didn’t think it was groundbreaking at all. Didn’t No Reservations release before it and the story was kinda similar? Anyway, so films about food have a special place in my heart because of how they tell a story about a person and their culture through their own relationship with their food (Chocolat, Woman on Top, Julia & Julia, even Ratatouille). What I can tell from this trailer is that the only Indian connection this film makes in terms of food is chole bhature from chandani chowk! Like, could you BE any more generic???

    It’s an insult. To our country and our culinary traditions. I hate it that the guy was a chef abroad. Like, why can’t he be a chef in India? That’s what made the original movie interesting to watch because the guy has a meltdown in his restaurant and the the video goes viral. And then he has that super cute rivalry with the food critic which I did not see in this trailer at all.

    If they’re making it a father-son thing, again, they’re going to fail miserably because estranged fathers in India don’t stay friends with their kids’ moms because hello, if you can tolerate each other why aren’t you together for the sake of the kid? That’s the actual Indian logic and you can’t just not consider it because the American script you’re ripping off didn’t get into this complexity.

    I completely agree with the assessment that this film is un-indian. Not because the story couldn’t have been translated to Indian culture but because whoever did the screenplay is a condescending ass who probably assumed people in India wouldn’t have watched the original film (it was premiered on TV after a full two month promotion across partner channrls FYI)

    What’s sad is that keeping the original script as is would have worked. From the trailer I don’t understand why the couple isn’t together. Like if he’s based overseas and knowing the indian obsession with NRI grooms, why aren’t they together? This is where the clash of cultures thing in Vicky Donor worked. I’m hoping there’s some logic to the love story.

    Also, why is Saif so upbeat? Jon Favreau perfectly captured the frustrated culinary genius who’d NEED a food truck just to stay afloat. Judging just by the trailer and knowing how diverse and widespread Indian culinary scene is, Saif’s career makes no sense. If you’re a top chef in India, you’re probably heading a Taj kitchen. Then there are a gazillion hotel and restaurant chains that will take you in based on a Taj stint on your resume. Food critics don’t exist in India so how are they playing that part of the story?

    The food truck part is probably the cheesiest part of whatever this film is. Food trucks have exploded all over India. I’ve yet to meet an owner working at one though. That could have been the USP for this film.

    I hate how wrong this film feels about indian food.

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    • I also love foodie movies! I would add Big Night to your list. My Italian-American husband (who is very picky about depictions of Italians and about Italian food) loved it so much we had two dinner party/movie nights where we watched the movie and took an intermission to serve the dinner as shown in the movie!

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    • Oh oh! I have another Malayalam film for you! I’m just not going to give up until you watch one. Anyway, Ustadh Hotel! A grandson raised in Dubai is sent home as punishment and ends up helping his grandfather run an old beachfront restaurant. The grandson is a European trained chef and, just like you said, he was able to find work right there at the luxury hotel nearby doing the kind of cooking he was trained in. And there’s all this interesting stuff about the basic Indian food at the beach front restaurant versus the fancy “fusion” food at the hotel, plus our hero and grandfather as cooks, which his father sees as feminine, and all kinds of things!

      It’s the kind of movie that by the end of it you are just STARVING.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I found Chef relatable. And food trucks are very common in bangalore. A friend of mine runs one for some sort of italian bite sized food and fell in love with another girl running a bake store. It was so cute, if it was a movie people would find it unrealistic.

    also glad they showed the very nice urban south indian thing of them both being friends and still not being together maybe because they havent found what they want. I am betting they will end up together in the end though (all that dancing!! UFF!!)

    Saifooooo was delicious, super sauve and I love seeing him do this cute dad role.

    I am looking forward to it so much that I have delayed watching the Jon Favraeu movie just so that my expectations for the Indian one are matched 🙂

    Judwaa is exciting. Varun has the persona down pat. For someone like me who’s watched Judwaa a million times as a kid, this is hitting all the right nostalgia spots (I am not a fan of that ganapati song though, it doesnt have a great tone). Looking forward to Salman and Karishma’s special appearances.

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    • First, for cute movie love stories, I have a friend who fell in love with the guy who sold her a sandwich every morning at the train station (I believe after a certain point he stopped charging her). And then 2 years later they got permission to have their wedding in the train station where they met in the middle of rush hour.

      I really need to rewatch Judwaa. I’ve seen it once, maybe twice, but it seems like Judwaa 2 is counting on you to have more of that “I’ve seen it a million times and have it memorized” feeling about the film.

      Oh, and you are making me realize, I totally wrote this movie! Well, not “this” movie, but there was a request in the comments for me to invent a film in which Saif plays a grown up father figure type, and I had him falling in love with his daughter’s teacher (Rani, in my version).

      On Fri, Sep 1, 2017 at 10:11 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • hah! maybe menon stole it from you then? 🙂

        hahahaha on Judwaa. Every single scene in the trailer- I knew EXACTLY which moment from the movie was being referenced. It was awesome.

        They even put in a “Hello Brother” reference (which is actually a Arbaaz-Salman movie)

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        • Yeah, I’ve definitely got to rewatch Judwaa. I do remember it being super fun to watch, so it won’t be painful to do a rewatch!

          On Fri, Sep 1, 2017 at 11:13 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Would you guys recommend that I watch Judwaa once before I see Judwaa 2 or no? I’ve seen Hello Brother (the Telugu movie starring Nagarjuna that Judwaa was a remake of) so I know the premise.

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          • Just for me, I would say watch it. My rule is to try to watch the original before the remake as much as possible just so I can appreciate how they stayed or varied from the original. And in this case, from what people are saying, it’s practically having a conversation with the original and if you don’t know it, you will miss half the references (same reason I am planning a rewatch).

            On the other hand, you just started college! Make friends! Explore campus! Do your homework! Movies can wait. It won’t be the worst thing in the world if you can’t squeeze in Judwaa. (I am feeling very big sister-y all of a sudden)

            Liked by 1 person

          • See, this is why you need to minor in film (like I did), that way it can be “homework”.

            Or else just go off and have fun, I know you will be back with us after September 29th at least.

            On Thu, Sep 7, 2017 at 11:35 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • of course watch judwaa. you can do that as you eat breakfast/brush your teeth if you are busy. its a great way to start your day that I will tell you.

            Liked by 1 person

  4. Perhaps its just me but I had to wait for some dialogue to confirm the kid is a he. Was reminded of the boy in KANK who is actually a girl IRL as I later found out.

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    • NO WAY!!! KANK kid is a girl? I knew the Bahubali baby was a girl, but that doesn’t really matter with babies.

      Although there is a long tradition of cross-gender casting in Indian film. Especially back in the 50s-60s-70s. I think the little girl in Chupke Chupke is actually a boy.

      On Sat, Sep 2, 2017 at 2:00 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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