Saturday, September 11, 2010

Bollywood, made in Hollywood

The Magnificent Seven, the 1960 Hollywood western starring Yul Bryner and Steve McQueen, and Sholay, the 1975 Bollywood remake with Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra in the lead, had a common storyline—saving an oppressed village from bandits in the original and dacoits in the copy. Both were cult films, did extremely well at the box office, and are watched even today.

Bollywood, the Hindi film industry based in Bombay, owes much of its success to dozens of remakes of, most notably, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), My Fair Lady (1964), Yours, Mine and Ours (1968), and The Godfather (1972), to name a few. Their Bollywood remakes were Satte Pe Satta (1982), Man Pasand (1980), Khatta Meetha (1978) and Dharmatma (1975)  in that order. 

Most of the remakes are no patch on the originals, barring SholayMan Pasand, Satte Pe Satta and Khatta Meetha.

Even Satte Pe Satta (Seven-on-Seven), a fairly entertaining movie starring then superstar Amitabh and Hema Malini, does not hold a candle to Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, the hugely entertaining musical comedy starring Howard Keel and Jane Powell.

In the Indian version, all's well till the end of the first half when Amitabh resurfaces abruptly in a villainous double role and has a change of heart by the time you leave the cinema hall. So you have seven brothers and their seven brides, a baddie-turned hero, a bunch of villains hiding on an island, their fat kingpin, and a fight scene in the end.  

Now watch Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and you wish Bollywood were banned from making a hash of Hollywood films.

Like I said there are exceptions. For instance, in Khatta Meetha (Sour-and-Sweet), veteran Ashok Kumar and the affable Pearl Padamsee reappraised the role of Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball in Yours, Mine and Ours very well. Ditto for Man Pasand where actor-director Dev Anand played the part of Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady.

Years later, the Patrick Swayze-Demi Moore starrer Ghost (1990) was remade into the utterly forgettable Chamatkar (1992) starring Shahrukh Khan and Naseeruddin Shah. Now where are the copyright guys?

Holly-Bolly launched identical films just once, in 1983—Man, Woman and Child and Masoom (The Innocent)—based on the book by Erich Segal. Both versions, starring Martin Sheen and Blythe Danner in the first and Naseeruddin Shah and Shabana Azmi in the second, were worth the price of tickets and popcorn. It's not always so, you know.

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