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Before Vikram Vedha: 10 southern directors who remade their hit films in Hindi

Years before Vikram Vedha, Pushkar-Gayatri's remake of their Tamil original, every decade since Independence has seen south Indian filmmakers remake their films in Hindi, with Hindi-speaking actors. In matters of popularity, greater reach, and more money, the southern disdain for Hindi is left by the wayside

October 02, 2022 / 12:49 PM IST
Hrithik Roshan in a still from the just-released Vikram Vedha, the Hindi remake of the Tamil original

Hrithik Roshan in a still from the just-released Vikram Vedha, the Hindi remake of the Tamil original

This week, two greatly anticipated films, bringing together the Tamil and Hindi film fraternity, have hit the theatres. One among them is Tamil director couple Pushkar-Gayatri’s Vikram Vedha redux in Hindi, starring Hrithik Roshan and Saif Ali Khan, remade from their 2017 Vijay Sethupathi-Madhavan-starrer Tamil original. At the centre of this neo-noir action thriller is a story as old as time. One that the home-grown audience would have read, heard or watched, the mythological tale of King Vikramadityan and Vedhalam, or Vikram and Betaal up north. With a gangster and a cop, the film is a modern-day take on the cat-and-mouse chase.

Vikram Vedha continues in a fairly long tradition of south Indian films being remade into Hindi, with Hindi actors. When it comes to remakes, which brings in greater reach, popularity, and money, the southern disdain for Hindi gets left by the wayside. The original Vikram Vedha, made on a budget of Rs 11 crore, earned Rs 60 crore at the box office. The budget for the Hindi version, however, was ramped up to Rs 175 crore — Roshan’s most expensive movie to date.

Regional cinema, including Bengali and south Indian movies, have lent themselves to Hindi remakes since long. Now, remakes are of two kinds. Remakes of older/recent films by another director, for instance, Deiva Cheyal (1967, Tamil) and Haathi Mere Saathi (1971, Hindi); Manichitrathazhu (1993, Malayalam) and Bhool Bhulaiyaa (2007, Hindi); Nayagan (1987, Tamil) and Dayavan (1988, Hindi); Vikramarkudu (2006, Telegu) and Rowdy Rathore (2012, Hindi); Singam (2010, Tamil) and Singham (2011, Hindi); and the two Drishyam in Malayalam in 2013, and in Hindi in 2015.

Pattanna produced the Tamil 1955 Gemini Ganesan-starrer Kanavane Kankanda Deivam and directed its 1956 Hindi remake, starring Ganesan and Vyjayanthimala. Ratnam co-produced the Hindi remakes of his Tamil originals (Alaipayuthey/Saathiya; O Kadhal Kanmani/OK Jaanu), or, in a first, simultaneously made the Tamil and Hindi versions of Raavanan and Raavan in 2010.

The other kind is when remakes are made by the same/original director in another language, such as Vikram Vedha. Here, we take a look at 10 south Indian directors who remade their own films in Hindi. This is by no means a comprehensive list:

1960s: Tapi Chanakya (Ram Aur Shyam)

The Dilip Kumar-starrer Ram Aur Shyam (1967) is considered one of the first Hindi remakes from a south Indian-language film. Telugu director Tapi Chanakya remade his NT Rama Rao-starrer blockbuster Ramudu Bheemudu (1964), a story about twin brothers and the tragicomedy of errors, into Hindi, which, by some accounts, was the second-highest-grossing Hindi film of that year, as Dilip Kumar left the audiences chortling.

Box-office collection: Rs 2.75 crore lifetime collection*

1970s: KS Sethumadhavan (Julie)

The ’70s was the decade that saw depictions of the Christian Anglo-Indian community in Hindi cinema, touching upon the problem of an inter-caste/inter-religion/inter-class union, from Bobby (1973), Julie (1975), to Arvind Desai Ki Ajeeb Dastaan (1978). A film also about unwed motherhood, in Julie, the Hindi remake of the Malayalam Chattakkari (1974), director KS Sethumadhavan retained Laxmi, who would, years later, appear — this time as the conventional, strict matriarch — in another Hindi remake, Priyadarshan’s Hulchul (2004), from Siddique-Lal’s Malayalam original Godfather (1991). Priyadarshan would regularly remake the duo’s films (Hera Pheri, 2000, from the original Ramji Rao Speaking, 1989).

Box-office collection: Rs 1.4 crore

1980s: K Balachander (Ek Duuje Ke Liye), Balu Mahendra (Sadma),
K Raghavendra Rao (Himmatwala, Tohfa)

Kamal Haasan entered Hindi-film landscape with Ek Duuje Ke Liye (1981), a remake of his Telugu film Maro Charitra (1978), both directed by K Balachander. Then came another remake of Haasan’s when his super-hit Tamil movie Moondram Pirai (1982) — which had a theatrical run of over a year — was made into Sadma (1983), by the same director, Balu Mahendra. No other actor could portray tragedy, or the tragic-hero figure, on screen with as much élan as Haasan. Whatever be the circumstance, he never got the girl. Telugu director K Raghavendra Rao turned his blockbuster comedy drama Ooriki Monagadu (1981) into the Jeetendra-starrer Himmatwala (1983), and Devatha (1982) into Tohfa (1984). A recurring face in some of these remakes was of Sridevi.

Box-office collection: Rs 1.4 crore (Ek Duuje Ke Liye), Rs 2.2 crore (Sadma),

Rs 5 crore (Himmatwala), Rs 4.5 crore (Tohfa)

1990s: Ram Gopal Varma (Shiva)

From the days when Ram Gopal Varma was truly great, he was one of the firsts to deploy Steadicam in Indian filmmaking with his exceptional debut in tight frames and tense atmospherics. RGV remade his Telugu debut the Nagarjuna-starrer anti-hero thriller Siva (1989) as Shiva (1990), his first Hindi runway hit. The original was the all-time highest-grossing Telugu film then. He almost never had a ready script and yet paved the way for gritty, realistic films, straddling genres (caper, gangster films, horror, etc.) to emerge in both Bollywood and in the south. The RGV of that era is MIA, the recent version is better forgotten.

Box-office collection: NA; the Telugu film made Rs 5.75 crore that year, according to movie database IMDB

2000s: Gautham Vasudev Menon (Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein),
AR Murugadoss (Ghajini)

There’s a line between being romantic and creepy, and many films would have you believe it’s just a blur. In the long tradition of cinema normalising the clichéd “love at first sight” and the hero as a stalker, Gautham Vasudev Menon’s films find a pride of place. His Tamil cult Minnale (2001), which was remade into Hindi as Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein (2001), were both bumper hits, and, at the time, was seen as a pinnacle of romance, the credit goes to Harris Jayaraj’s music and a young, dashing Madhavan’s five o’clock shadow.

AR Murugadoss made Ghajini — inspired from Christopher Nolan’s Memento (2000) — in Tamil with Suriya in 2005 and in Hindi with Aamir Khan in 2008, both versions had beefed-up male leads, suffering from short-term memory loss, out to avenge the murder of their onscreen beloved, played by Asin Thottumkal.

Box-office collection: Rs 5.52 crore (Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein), Rs 114 crore (Ghajini), both domestic or nett gross earnings

2010s: Siddique (Bodyguard), Sandeep Reddy Vanga (Kabir Singh)

Siddique remade his 2010 Malayalam Nayanthara-starrer romantic action comedy Bodyguard in Hindi with Salman Khan and Kareena Kapoor a year later.

Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s extremely angry men in the Telugu Arjun Reddy (2017) and its Hindi remake Kabir Singh (2019) don’t bat an eyelid before raising a hand on their ladyloves. This, however, was lapped up by a majority of the young audiences, men and women alike. Love hurts, literally. Speaks of our times, doesn’t it?

Box-office collection: Rs 145 crore (Bodyguard), Rs 276 crore (Kabir Singh), both domestic or nett gross earnings

*All figures are of the Hindi remakes and have been sourced from movie websites Bollywood Hungama and Box Office India
Tanushree Ghosh