A big percentage of young movie enthusiasts have a misconception about remakes as they believe the trend has started recently in the last two decades in particular. However, an amazing fact related to the concept is that the remakes were here in our Hindi films right from the beginning, since the first few decades itself.
Quoting the Britannica Encyclopedia of Hindi Cinema, even Dadasaheb Phalke recreated Raja Harishchandra four years after its release in 1913. But that was for a different reason in the silent era setting a tradition, which continued later with directors like Mehboob Khan remaking his film Aurat (1940) as Mother India in 1957. Interestingly, we are witnessing similar examples in the recent times too with directors remaking their own films in Hindi as Kabir Singh, Laxmii and more.
Hindi remakes of the regional-language films (with a major influence of Bengali Cinema) began in the initial decades itself in the form of bilinguals and complete recreations made by filmmakers such as P. C. Barua, Nitin Bose, Bimal Roy, V. Shantaram and others. But a major change was seen when southern influence made a stronger impact post the late 1940s with Chandralekha (1948) and mega projects coming in from reputed production studios like Gemini, Prasad Pictures and AVM. The 1950s thus witnessed a big number of remakes of South hits such as Bahar, Sharada, Miss Mary, Chhoti Behen, Bhai Bhai, Amardeep, Bhabhi, Insaniyat, Azaad, Payal and many more.
The trend of remaking the regional-language hits (of both South and Bengali cinema) continued in the next two decades prominently and even if only a few names are mentioned here, they are surely going to surprise many young readers because the original film was almost never mentioned in the opening or end-credits in that era.
In 1960s we had major movies as remakes like Barkha, Hum Hindustani, Prem Patra, Dil Ek Mandir, Dil Tera Diwana, Doli, Gharana, Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, Mera Saaya, Nazrana, Farz, Milan, Mamta, Majhli Didi, Mehrbaan, Aadmi, Teen Bahuraniyan, Khandan, Do Dooni Chaar, Padosan, Pyar Kiye Ja, Saathi, Sadhu Aur Shaitan, Ram Aur Shyam, Main Sunder Hoon and more.
1970s witnessed remakes as Gopi, Pyar Ki Kahani, Do Phool, Lakhon Mein Ek, Safar, Jeevan Mrityu, Khamoshi, Dharti, Mere Apne, Naya Zamana, Aaina, Sanjog, Prem Nagar, Apna Desh, Humjoli, Chhoti Bahu, Lal Pathhar, Bawarchi, Naya Din Nayi Raat, Piya Ka Ghar, Amar Prem, Balika Badhu, Charitraheen, Chupke Chupke, Kora Kagaz, Khilona, Julie, Khushboo, Lok Parlok, Sargam, Bombay To Goa, Aap Ki Kasam and more.
The trend reached its peak in 1980s when many already established directors in south joined in creating Hindi remakes of their hit regional-language movies. As a result, there was a remake releasing regularly featuring stars of Hindi cinema, such as Jeetendra, Dharmendra, Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan, along with stars from the south as Kamal Hasan, Rajinikanth, Sridevi, Jaya Prada and more. The key remakes releasing in this decade were Sau Din Saas Ke, Ek Duje Ke Liye, Sadma, Zara Si Zindagi, Bemisal, Red Rose, Hum Paanch, Angoor, Meri Aawaz Suno, Woh Saat Din, Anubhav, Aaj Ka Daur, Ghazab, Kaamchor, Tohfa, Eeshwar, Hatya, New Delhi, Pataal Bhairavi, Saheb, Mahaan, Inquilaab, Aaj Ka MLA Ram Avtar, Aakhiri Raasta, Andha Kanoon, Dayavan, Satyamev Jayate and many more. On the other end, remakes of hit Hindi films also started being made in the South featuring names like Kamal Hassan and Rajinikanth.
In 1990s the pattern continued with young known stars of Hindi films as well as from South like Chiranjeevi, Nagarjuna, Venkatesh and Revathi featuring in remakes such as Pratibandh, Aaj Ka Goondaraj, Love, Shiva, Taqdeerwala, Pratikaar, Abhimanyu, Pratighaat, 100 Days, Chachi 420, Gopi Kishan, Viraasat, Muskurahat, Judaai, Police Public, Beta, Biwi No. 1, Bol Radha Bol, Sailaab, Sajan Chale Sasural, Judwaa, Coolie No.1, Raja Babu, Andaz, Aankhen, Gardish, Sooryavansham and more.
In the new millennium, Rehna Hai Tere Dil Mein, Tere Naam, Nayak, Hera Pheri, Kyon Ki...., kept the tradition alive till social networks came in and films like Ghajini and Wanted became the center of attraction as remakes of their South originals. Unfortunately since then, it has become one of the most (blindly) followed pattern by Hindi filmmakers to go for a remake that gives them ready material to work upon and adapt as per the tastes of Hindi film viewers taking much less time in comparison to an original project.
Probably it is this format of quick filmmaking that is resulting in a big difference in the quality of remakes in the golden era of Hindi cinema and the present. Anyway, though this a vast subject to write upon, the enlightening fact remains that the trend of remaking the regional language hits is nothing new in Hindi cinema and it has always been there right from the beginning.
(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)