Post watching a well-made Hindi remake of a regional-language film, one rarely enquires about the original, as the remake is considered worthy enough for discussion by the new set of audience. However, the same isn’t true when one watches an awful Hindi remake of a hit regional-language film like the recently released Laxmii.
In fact, the very first question asked after watching a film like Laxmii is that do they make these kinds of films in the south and is this among the HIT movies in south cinema?
The question is valid and logical, but this is exactly how a false perception about our Indian regional cinema takes birth in the minds of Hindi film viewers due to such lousy remakes. It’s a false perception, as in reality the regional-language films made in our country are miles ahead of Hindi cinema in terms of content, vision and execution. But, obviously, that cannot be said for everything made in these languages as a general statement.
No doubt the image of regional cinema has been seriously dented by the poorly-dubbed action-oriented flicks repeatedly aired on TV and uploaded on YouTube channels (with some unbelievably weird titles), but a terribly-made mainstream Hindi film featuring one of the top stars surely causes a much bigger damage, resulting in a stronger false perception. Yes, there has been a positive change in the outlook post Baahubali and viewers are watching more regional films with English subtitles on the OTT portals. But still the perception largely remains the same amongst a big majority and films like Laxmii further add to the spice keeping the Hindi film viewers away from the must-watch gems being made in our regional-language cinema.
Taking the specific example of Laxmii — you must have heard many viewers as well as critics saying that after watching it, they don’t have any energy or desire left to watch the original film as it has also been directed by the same director.
The amazing fact itself makes Laxmii a unique case in the world of remakes, as here we have the same writer and director, Raghava Lawrence, behind a decently entertaining hit Tamil horror-comedy Kanchana (2011) and an unbearable Hindi remake made on an almost similar script.
This also raises many significant questions about how and why an experienced hit writer-actor-director from the South (with a chain of hit horror-comedies to his credit) could deliver such a shoddy Hindi remake of his own film featuring one of the top stars of Hindi cinema? Was it his fault being unaware of the language or it was due to many interfering suggestions by others associated with the project?
To prove the point, there is a climax sequence in Laxmii, wherein Akshay Kumar is not able to enter a temple being a ghost, but then manages to enter as a human, explaining it in a one-line dialogue.
The scene is entirely different in terms of dialogues as well as execution in the Tamil original, backed by far better writing and reasoning with a conversation with the deity too. Moreover, it duly takes care of the religious aspect with gratification, capable of giving the viewers a spirited high. Surprisingly, it fails to generate any similar impact in a completely re-written sequence in the Hindi remake. Now for what reason Raghava rewrote the powerful climax, making it completely filmy and ineffective is quite confusing. In short, the original Tamil film Kanchana does have its flaws but it is certainly not a poor or unbearable film.
It might be hard to believe but that is exactly how a ‘bad remake’ forces you to think following a false perception, resulting in a wide unawareness about our own worth-watching Indian cinema made in the regional languages.
The Silver Lining
Interestingly, at times even extremely bad films also become fruitful in a different manner. In case of Laxmii, its subject makes the youngsters enquire about the role of a transgender earlier portrayed in Hindi cinema.
In historical films before the '70s, one could often see such supporting characters interacting with the emperors and the queens in many major sequences. But post the '80s we had many splendid, worth-watching performances enacted by the renowned actors. Among the key ones are Sadashiv Amrapurkar in Sadak (1991), Nirmal Pandey in Daayra (1996), Arif Zakaria in Darmiyaan (1997), Prashant Narayanan in Murder 2 (2011) and Mahesh Manjrekar in Rajjo (2013).
But above all, there were two exceptionally outstanding acts in the mainstream cinema by Paresh Rawal in Tamanna (1998) as the emotional Tikku and Ashutosh Rana in Sangharsh (1999) as the dreadful Lajja Shankar Pandey.
Coming back to Laxmii, here we honestly have Sharad Kelkar delivering a much impressive act as a transgender, becoming the only merit of the film led by Akshay Kumar.
(The writer is a critic-columnist, an explorer of cinema and author of 'Did You Know' series on Hindi films also active at bobbytalkscinema.com)