The most memorable remake fiasco was by none other than mighty Ram Gopal Varma. His 'Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag', made with an obscenely high budget and big stars, is a re-styled and re-modelled version of Ramesh Sippy's 1975 cult film 'Sholay'. But it sank at the box office without a trace.
The same week, another remake, 'Victoria No 203' of the 1972 film of the same name, had a similar fate. Most halls running these films were going empty on the very first day.
Going by the fate of 'Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag' and 'Victoria No. 203', it seems the good intention of filmmakers in reviving old memories is not quite working out. A case of expectations gone awry?
'We don't need remakes. If we want to see some old classics, we can watch them on CDs and DVDs as they are easily available in the market. The multiplex tickets burn a hole in our pockets. Going for 'Aag' was absolutely a waste of money. I'm really angry with the director for making such a bad film and hyping it,' said Gayatri Gosain, a student who regretted buying tickets for Varma's 'Aag'.
'The film is too gimmicky to be effective. 'Sholay' had worked because of its dramatic sweep and narrative simplicity. RGV's style in 'Aag' is too self-conscious, as if he is out to prove a point. That makes the film come across as rather laboured,' said Saibal Chatterjee, editor of Indian Express Sunday Supplement.
If viewing such poorly made films pinches a viewer's pockets, it is an expensive business for filmmakers too.
While 'Aag' was made at a mammoth budget of Rs.300 million, J.P. Dutta invested about Rs.200 million in his remake of the 1981 classic 'Umrao Jaan'. Despite the presence of Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan, Dutta's interpretation of Mirza Hadi Ruswa's novel went awry. The film's failure meant financial loss to investors as well as distributors.
Shah Rukh Khan's starrer 'Don', a remake of Chandra Barot's hit 1978 action thriller which had Amitabh in the lead, was made at a cost of Rs.350 million. It did comparatively reasonable business at first but couldn't keep the cash registers ringing for long.
'I think it's not a good idea to go for remakes. Personally, I don't believe in remakes. I feel that it is difficult to create the same magic. Because when a film is made, so many people are involved and it is difficult to get that kind of mind work,' said Indra Kumar, whose 'Dhamaal' releases this week.
Many are disappointed with Varma's 'Aag' and oppose the idea of remakes unless it is worth making.
'Remakes are alright as long as the film being remade is not as big as 'Sholay', which still lives in our collective memory. It doesn't need to be updated. Remaking a film like 'Don', for instance, is fine because for one, it wasn't a perfect film, and two, it had begun to drop out of public memory except for the songs,' added Chatterjee.
Ashima, of Ashima-Leena designer duo, told IANS: 'If directors don't use the same storyline and if the content is completely different from the original, then they should make a new movie, instead of calling it a remake. There is no comparison between 'Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag' and 'Sholay'. Remaking such a cult film lowers its market value.'
Dharmesh Darshan's triangular love story 'Bewafaa' too was inspired by B.R. Chopra's 'Gumraah'. The film didn't go very far in terms of box office success but the director never called it a remake, which actually kept the dignity of the original film intact.
This was not the first time Darshan was taking inspiration from an old classic. His successful film 'Raja Hindustani' was a remake of 'Jab Jab Phool Khile'.
And the list of movies that have been remade without acknowledging the original doesn't end here. There are more.
Sooraj Barjatya struck gold at the box office with 'Hum Aapke Hai Kaun', a remake of Rajshri's earlier Bhojpuri drama 'Nadiya Ke Paar'. But Barjatya was not so lucky when he attempted a remake of his banner's 'Chitchor' titled 'Main Prem Ki Deewani Hoon'. It bombed.
The same happened to Ahmed Siddiqui's mythological drama 'Jai Santoshi Maa', a remake of the 1975 hit mythological film of the same name. It also wilted.
In recent times only the remakes of 'Devdas' and 'Parineeta' have enjoyed a good run at the box office.