Sushmita Bose (Copycats)
10 September 2010
For years, the bombay film industry has been looking for ‘inspiration’ from the american dream factory. the story so far...
If you go to Google images, and type in Stepmom — as in the 1998 Hollywood movie, starring Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon (the stepmom and the real mom, in that order) — something funny happens. You are bombarded with images of We Are Family, the just-released Bollywood movie, starring Kajol and Kareena Kapoor (the real mom and the stepmom, in that order).
Curious, you key in We Are Family, and you get a smattering of stills from Stepmom.
And you realise that on online forums (and offline dining table banter), the much-talked-about ‘adaptation’ of Chris Columbus’s “family drama” by Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions is now in over-the-top discussion mode.
Which is surprising — considering that for years now Bollywood has borrowed generously from its American opposite number. Yes, the Mumbai film industry also gets enamoured with non-Hollywood offerings (like Zinda, a copy of Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy), but Hollywood has been the mainstay.
Rebecca, Alfred Hitchcock’s first Hollywood project based on Daphne du Maurier’s book (and the only Hitchcock movie to win an Oscar — for Best Film in 1940), was remade as Kohra in 1964. Waheeda Rehman did a Joan Fontaine alongside Biswajeet’s rendering of Laurence Olivier’s class act. The notable difference was that the lead pair indulged into a few song-and-caper routines (Kohra’s music by Hemant Kumar was top-notch stuff).
The other memorable black-and-white rip-off was the Raj Kapoor-Nargis 1956 starrer Chori Chori, copied painstakingly from Frank Capra’s 1934 romcom It Happened One Night with the formidable Clark Gable and the impassive Claudette Colbert. Old-timers fondly remember Chori Chori as being a much-ahead-of-its-time Bollywood hit.
The early 70s saw Parichay, adapted from The Sound of Music — with a gender change. In the middle of the decade, there was Sholay, the “all-time” biggest blockbuster that has emerged from the Bollywood stable, a take-off from The Magnificent Seven (which in itself was copied from Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai) — even though there was only the deadly duo (Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra) and not the magnificent seven. Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw’s Love Story (based on Eric Segal’s book) was made into Aankhiyon Ke Jharoke Se with Sachin and Ranjeeta.
The 80s saw Sharaabi with a storyline on loan from Arthur (Big B vs Dudley Moore) and Main Azaad Hoon (yet again, Big B doing the honours in the lead role) — a rehash of Capra’s Meet John Doe from way back in the 1941. Both received critical acclaim; Sharaabi set the cash registers ringing big-time, and reinforced that Bachchan was the best thing to have happened to Bollywood in a long, long time. He followed it up with Agneepath, a copy of Scarface, in 1990; many said Bachchan gave Pacino a run for his money.
With the flattening of global space (and world views), the 90s ushered in a string of copies leading Indian news magazines to run cover stories on the ‘copycat’ phenomenon. Akele Hum Akele Tum was Kramer Vs Kramer; Yaarana, Agni Sakshi and Daraar (yes, all three of them) were Sleeping With The Enemy; Baazigar was A Kiss Before Dying; Dil Hain Ki Maanta Nahin was the second It Happened One Night (after Chori Chori); Paapi Gudiya was Child’s Play; Fareb was Unlawful Entry; the list went on.
Expectedly, the new millennium has gone hammer and tongs — with a list too long to even fit on these pages. The notables have been Sarkar, a copy of The Godfather — and then the sequel Sarkar Raaj (Godfather Part II? Probably); Kaante from Reservoir Dogs; Koi... Mil Gaya from ET; Hum Tum from When Harry Met Sally; Murder from Unfaithful; Ek Ajnabee from Man On Fire; Ghajini from Memento; Chocolate from The Usual Suspects; Raaz from What Lies Beneath; and now We Are Family from Stepmom.
Here is a random sampling of Hollywood-inspired Bollywood — and we’d love to hear from you if you have any additions.
Parichay (1972) from The Sound of Music (1965)
Alright, there was one BIG difference: Maria’s role in Parichay was enacted by a man — Jeetendra (complete with him singing en route to the Hindi Von Trapp mansion), the in-residence teacher for a bunch of lovable brats. And unlike Maria who falls for the good captain, here the music teacher falls for the oldest sister.
Manoranjan (1974) from Irma La Douce (1963)
Shirley MacLaine as the prostitute with a golden heart and Jack Lemmon as a lucked-out cop found their takers in Zeenat Aman and Sanjeev Kumar. But the theme was too ‘controversial’ for Bollywood audiences those days, and Manoranjan came a cropper at the box office.
Masoom (1983) and Man, Woman and Child (1983)
Most film buffs swear that the Bollywood version of the book by Eric Segal was far better than the Hollywood one, starring Martin Sheen and Blythe Danner (both movies released the same year so Masoom was not a copy). Naseeruddin Shah and Shabana Azmi turned in superlative performances, director Shekhar Kapur was spot on, and child star Jugal Hansraj (who grew up and sank without a trace) set a new benchmark for kids’ acting skills in India.
Satte Pe Satta (1982) from Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (1954)
The Hollywood one had the brothers named alphabetically from the Old Testament; the Bollywood one had the blokes named after the seven days of the week (in Hindi obviously). Satte Pe Satta left out the social commentary of the original and concentrated on the music and the good times. And yes, there is an extra villainous twist too.
Akele Hum Akele Tum (1995) from Kramer Vs Kramer (1979)
Meryl Streep vs Dustin Hoffman in Kramer Vs Kramer was a tough act to follow, but all credit to Aamir Khan and Manisha Koirala for coming out with flying colours. Of course, in Akele Hum Akele Tum, the hero and heroine get back together in the end; in the Hollywood version, they do not.
Murder (2004) from
Murder shot into the limelight more for leading lady Mallika Sherawat’s bare-all antics and the steamy, minutes-long kisses she shared with Emraan Hashmi than the scene-by-scene replication from Unfaithful. Even so, the two couldn’t match the chemistry shared by Diane Lane and Olivier Martinez in
Hum Tum (2004) from When Harry Met Sally (1989)
In a sense, Hum Tum set the trend for new-age Hindi romcoms; it was modern, global and refreshing. Just like it happened with Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally, Saif Ali Khan and Rani Mukherji keep bumping into each other and then letting go; and then meeting up again at regular intervals. The war with words remain a constant throughout, as does the pairing off of the best friends of the hero and heroine: Carrie Fisher and Bruna Kirby in When Harry Met Sally and Jimmy Shergill and Isha Koppikar in Hum Tum.
Yaarana (1995), Daraar (1996), Agni Sakshi (1996) from Sleeping With The Enemy (1991)
What does it say when three movies — made in quick succession — are all copied from the same film? The saleability of the plot probably. All three Bollywood copies met different fates: Agni Sakshi was a super hit, much like Sleeping With The Enemy (Nana Patekar as Patrick Bergin’s opposite number was far more menacing); Yaarana was a modest hit (because of the ‘Mera piya ghar aaya’ song-and-dance that had become a rage); Daraar was a dud.