Some of their songs such as "Kill This Love" have gathered more than a billion YouTube hits
Bhramam is a remake that will be best remembered for its originality. When one of the principal cast of the Malayalam remake of the hit 2018 Bollywood dark comedy Andhadhun pronounces this mere hours ahead of the world premiere of the Prithviraj starrer in Dubai, we don’t scoff, but accept it wholeheartedly.
Mainly because Malayalam cinema has garnered a reputation over the years for coming out with such great content, that it is difficult to dispute it.
Directed by famed cinematographer turned director Ravi K. Chandran, Bhramam, with a screenplay adapted by Sarath Balan, sees Prithviraj take on the role of the blind pianist, played with absolute gusto by Ayushmann Khurrana in the original.
The lead character gets embroiled in the murder of a former film actor, and what ensues is a cat and mouse game to find the culprit. The Malayalam adaptation has been helmed by the man who has etched his name in cinematography history and boasts such works as Minsara Kanavu (1997) Kandukondain Kandukondain (2000), Dil Chahta Hai (2001), Yuva (2004) among others.
Ahead of the film’s world premiere on Wednesday, we sat down with the cast for an exclusive chat about what viewers can expect from this Malayalam film.
Why a remake from an industry lauded for original content?
The Malayalam film industry has long been enjoying a golden phase, where practically every film made has hit the bullseye with only a few exceptions.
And while many Malayalam movies have been remade in other languages to not so favourable reviews, it is not often that someone from the South sits down to seriously remake a Bollywood model.
Prithviraj says that while he is happy to flaunt that “we are very content driven as an industry, it does not mean that we shut our doors and minds to content that comes our way from other industries. It would not be right on our part to take a higher ground and claim that we are the only industry that makes great content.
"Andhadhun just happens to be a brilliant piece of cinema, which is the reason why it is being made in Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu. Back when it released, I remember thinking this would make a great Malayalam film, because it lends itself so beautifully to the Malayali milieu.
"As coincidental as it might sound Sriram (Raghavan, the director) wanted to shoot the film in Cochin, and cast a Malayalam actor in the lead but they ended up shooting in Pune with Ayushmann. It was a brilliant film and Ayushmann did a fantastic job.
"But I still thought that the film should be made in Malayalam. But what really got me excited was the fact that Ravi K. Chandran decided to take it on - it is his Malayalam directorial debut.
We had a new writer Sarath who penned down a very intelligent adaptation of the original and planted it very intelligently in the Malayalam subculture. I’m looking forward to the reaction from people who have seen the original to see what have to say about our adapted version.
A remake, not a copy job…
Unni Mukundan who plays the police officer in Bhramam says that while the film may be a remake, it is not quite a remake either. Chandran also points out that having worked in many multi-lingual movies in his career, each language comes with its own dynamics that translates into a different viewing experience for each set of audiences.
As an example he says Sadma in Hindi and Tamil is made by the same director and stars Kamal Haasan and Sridevi in the lead, yet both the films differ in terms of experience.
“Even if I want to shoot the same scene the next day, it will never be the same. The way I pan the camera will be different. That’s why I feel movie making is magic.”
“Bhramam for me would be a remake that is known for its originality,” says Unni, “in the way that none of the actors would come across as the same as the ones in the original.”
Chandran also points out that his team has made a lot of corrections especially in the second half of the film, which even amazed Sriram Raghavan who admitted he hadn’t thought of those angles.
Adapting Vs Copying
There are many remakes, which have failed to replicate the success of the original. But the team is confident it will not happen with Bhramam.
The director says that the script has particularly been written for the Malayalam audience, so a lot of comical elements have been added.
“Even Prithviraj played the character in a very different manner from the original, I didn’t see any shade of Ayushmann in this. As for Mamta’s role - Tabu played it in a different way and she plays it in her own way,” says the director.
Chandran is clear that he didn’t want to change too much of the original content. But once the script was adapted, it took on a life of its own and “then we were not looking at the original. We were just trying to follow the script and for us it is like a new movie.”
In terms of the plot, can we expect any changes?
We are used to seeing remakes, which are either done so clumsily that we wonder why the effort was made in the first place or so blandly that we don’t get the purpose behind it all.
But the director is clear that Bhramam has a lot of changes from the original, which will only appeal to the audience.
“A lot of loopholes in the original have been filled in,” he says. “Also Prithvi’s on screen presence is completely different from that of Ayushmann. The script also had to be tweaked to adjust to the fact that both Mamta and Tabu are of different ages.
“Unni Mukundan’s role is not played by a hero in Andhadhun - he himself is a hero here.”
So a lot of things were rewritten to suit the new dynamics and particularly in the second half they have made the characters evolve in a different manner from the original.
Why Mamta won’t be aping Tabu from the original
Other than the age factor, which separates the duo, both Mamta and Tabu have played the character differently. Mamta who loved Andhadhun when she first saw it, says “this was one of those female-driven characters that intrigued me the most.”
She says she had stopped watching Bollywood films for a while and would rather watch independent Bollywood content when it is written well.
But what excited her the most was “the way the character has been designed for a female actor. You don’t get opportunities to play such roles, so this was clearly one that I didn’t want to go amiss.”
Ayushmann/Prithviraj - who plays it best
While comparisons are odious, Prithviraj has no qualms about being measured up against the original lead actor. While the whole team is very clear that the script they worked on made all the difference in the way they enacted the story, for the Malayalam superstar, used to helming original stories, this is a path off the beaten track, but one he is ready to embrace.
It is Unni Mukundan who points out that when Andhadhun happened, Ayushmann had just started out whereas “Prithviraj is a superstar”. So the casting itself is different and for someone with an established career to take on the role of a blind character such as this is the real challenge, he explains.
Even the director points out that both Ayushmann and Prithviraj have a different sort of screen presence so in essence there can be no comparisons between the two.
If all goes well Bhramam will also prove to be a pathbreaking experiment since it is releasing both theatrically (in the UAE) and on OTT (India) simultaneously.
“This hybrid release model is something that is now going to be around as a mainstay, regardless of pandemic or no pandemic,” explains Prithviraj.
If you have seen Andhadhun, should you be watching Bhramam?
Prithviraj: It is quite obvious that people who have seen the original will watch Bhramam and could be at a sub conscious level making comparisons while seeing the film, but that is something natural and I don’t mind that. The challenge for us is to engage the viewer who knows how the plot is driven and full credit for that should go to the director. I feel that Andhadhun was conceived and shot in a way, where even if you know where the plot is headed, it still rewards you with an engaging viewing experience; it is a beautifully conceived and designed film. It is an intelligently done film. So for me and for a lot of others who remember the original quite well, even though you may know what happens in a particular moment, it would still arrest you. I genuinely think even with the original at the back of your mind, Bhramam will still give you a rewarding experience. That’s my take on it and I hope I’m proven right.
‘A remake cannot be a copy paste job’
Prithviraj: All the big-ticket remakes that have travelled from the South to the North, are mostly films that catered to the star appeal of an actor, with popcorn audience. So there, you are not really looking at recreating the aesthetics or acknowledging the original core of the content. You are basically using a platform to create another two and a half hours of mainstream, mass, commercial cinema.
Right now one of my films Ayyappanum Koshiyum is being remade in many languages and I feel that it is adapted quite well. It is something that caught me by surprise - the new elements that they brought in to the Telugu version, and I wish Sachy (the late director) was around to discuss this.
It is not that all remakes are bad, I just think that the number one lesson you have to keep in mind while attempting a remake is never to forget why you are remaking the film. The primary reason being the original film is good. Acknowledge that there has been a brilliant piece of cinema that inspired you, that made you want to attempt it in your own language; respect the original content but also realise that it cannot be a copy paste job.
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