Should iconic films like Chupke Chupke be remade?

Chupke chupke

As the news of a remake of the classic Hrishikesh Mukherjee comedy Chupke Chupke (1975) filtered in, the debate surrounding how certain films should be remade or how it’s okay to reimagine the same story in a slightly different setting once again gathered momentum.

With Rajkummar Rao slated to reprise the role of Dharmendra, Chupke Chupke isn’t the only high profile remake that would hit the screens in the next few months.

Varun Dhawan and Sara Ali Khan are poised to reinterpret the roles of Govinda and Karishma Kapoor in the Coolie No. 1 (1995) remake, while Kartik Aryan and Bhumi Pednekar are all set to step into the very large shoes of the late Sanjeev Kumar and Vidya Sinha in the Pati, Patni Aur Woh (1978) remake.

As fans stand divided into two categories, the remake business might not experience smooth sailing as the trade and producers would expect thanks to a host of reasons.

A few years ago, remakes meant guaranteed audience curiosity and, more importantly, a tried and tested formula that a filmmaker knew had more chances of recovering its investment as opposed to being a complete washout.

Although ‘official’ remakes (read Ram Gopal Verma Ki Aag, et al.) find it more difficult than ‘inspired’ retelling such as Jab Jab Phool Khile (1965) metamorphizing into Raja Hindustani (1996) or Aaj Ki Taaza Khabar (1973) or Khatta Meetha (1978) becoming Gol Maal sequels, they tend to get the audiences intrigued.

This is the reason why for years one has been hearing an ‘official’ remake of Subhash Ghai’s Ram Lakhan (1989) or Raj N Sippy’s Satte Pe Satta (1982), which was heavily inspired by Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) manages to make news every time it’s mentioned.

Many films automatically become the standard options when it comes to remakes and Chupke Chupke is one first amongst equals.

There have been a few attempts in the past to remake the cult classic, and one version was announced with Paresh Rawal signed to play Om Prakash’s role.

Directed by Luv Ranjan, this is the closest any Chupke Chupke remake has come in the recent past to getting materialised.

Although an argument could be made that the Hrishikesh Mukherjee film itself was based on an Upendranath Ganguly story called ‘Chhadobeshi’ and was made into a Bengali movie, Chhadmabeshi (1971) that featured Uttam Kumar and Madhabi Mukherjee as leads, so a remake of a remake isn’t far-fetched.

Still Chupke Chupke has been loved by generations of moviegoers, and a reinterpretation might fall short.

Today, it might be difficult for a remake to go beyond a point in terms of Box Office success because the viewer is no longer starved for choice.

Moreover, the OTT platforms have given the typical viewer access to material and themes that mainstream and traditional entertainment formats such as films and television would not touch with a bargepole.

In this scenario, how much would a remake of Chupke Chupke entice a viewer? Not only do they have instant access to the original, but they also have a plethora of ‘original’ content to choose from.

The degree of makeover to the source material also threatens to make the remake journey more tedious. Take for instance the David Dhawan’s remake of his own Coolie No. 1.

While the original was based in smalltown India, the Varun Dhawan-Sara Ali Khan version is based in Thailand. On the one hand, this change in the setting makes the film contemporary, but on the other hand, it also robs it of some of the charm.

It brings to mind the justification given by Farhan Akhtar for remaking Don (1978) — update it for the present-day audience. This makes sense, but when looked closely, director Chandra Barot’s original seems more stylish and even contemporary than the Shah Rukh Khan version.

Also, certain tropes that were ‘acceptable’ back in the mid-1990s in the case of Coolie No. 1 such as a bunch of people including the leading man, Govinda, lying to the heroine, Karishma Kapoor, and practically ruining her life in order to teach her father, Kader Khan, a lesson might not be politically correct in this day and age.

When it comes to Pati, Patni Aur Woh, where the original featured a much-married man (Sanjeev Kumar) indulging in an office affair just for kicks, a remake could be unsettling. Back in the late 1970s, an office affair might have been a novel trope but today the similar setting - the executive ‘charming’ his secretary (Ranjeeta) to fall for him on the pretext of being stuck in a marriage where his wife’s (Vidya Sinha) ill-health leaves him unsatisfied - reeks of workplace harassment.