Over the past few years, especially after the pandemic, the Hindi film industry or Bollywood as it is popularly known has come under massive criticism for various reasons, one of which is lack of originality.
Bollywood has had a tough time at the box office in recent years, and its obsession with remaking movies is adding to its problems.
On the other hand, there is also the narrative of pan-Indian films of Southern cinema that have invaded Bollywood since the release of SS Rajamoulis Baahubali: the beginningin 2015.
But, is it true? Is Bollywood really losing out to Southern cinema, with Hindi audiences preferring pan-Indian films to Bollywood films? Let’s find out.
The history of remake culture
The trend of remaking films dates back to the early 1950s when not one or two but three Hindi films released in 1951 were remakes of Tamil and Telugu cinema.
One of the earliest Hindi films that have been said to be a remake of Southern cinema is Vyjayanthimalas’ debut film. Bahar in 1951. It was a remake of the 1949 Tamil film Vaazhkai.
The Hindi film was directed by MV Raman who was also the author of the Tamil original.
Another Hindi remake released in the same year was Mangala, from 1943 Tamil film Mangamma Sabatham.
The Hindi version and the Tamil original were supported by Gemini Studios.
The third Hindi remake of 1951 was Marten by SS Vasan. The original was a 1950 Telugu film sam saram by LV Prasad.
In the following years, Hindi cinema delivered cinematic gems but also remade hits in Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam.
The interesting thing about these Hindi remakes was that most of them were made by the original Tamil, Telugu or Malayalam filmmakers to bring their stories to a wider audience.
The two-way street
Also, unlike today’s era, it was a two-way street back then with many Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam films being remakes of Hindi classics.
In fact, a number of Rajinikanth’s hits from the 70s were all remakes of classic Amitabh Bachchan standouts. Some of them include Billa (1980), the remake of put on (1978), Tiger (1979), the remake of Khoon Pasina (1977), You (1981), the remake of Deewar (1975).
This trend continued until the 80s which is often considered the worst phase of Hindi cinema with Jeetendra reigning supreme by remaking several Telugu blockbusters.
The Rise of the Crossed Stars
At the same time, Tamil stars like Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth made their foray into Hindi cinema with blockbusters like For a couple And Andhaa Kaanoun.
The impact of these stars on Hindi audiences was such that many of their hit South Indian films started to be dubbed into Hindi in the 80s in order to cash in on their popularity.
In the late 80s and early 90s, several other southern stars like Nagarjuna, Venkatesh and Chiranjeevi acted in Hindi films and delivered hits.
But it was also the time when crossover stars were stepping back due to the gender shift in Hindi cinema thanks to the rise of Shah Rukh Khan as a romantic star.
It was also the time when Hindi cinema was starting to look to Hollywood for inspiration, but even then there were masala artists who were remakes of Southern films like Coolie No. 1 (1995), Tamil film remake Chinna Mapillai (1993) and Judah (1997), the Telugu film remake Hi brother (1994).
With the rise of the multiplex era in the 2000s, Hindi cinema saw the advent of Hollywood-style romantic comedies and for over a decade remakes were not the mainstay of Bollywood.
However, at this point Southern films started making inroads into North Indian homes via Hindi dubbed releases with films like Meri Jung One Man Army, Indra the Tiger And Gift #1.
As South Indian films had taken over Hindi television, in 2008 Aamir Khans Ghajini became an all-time blockbuster which was the remake of the Tamil film of the same name and a year later it was a remake which revived Salman Khan’s career with Research.
This allowed South remakes to return in full force to Bollywood and with the rise in popularity of Southern stars on TV, it was time for another 80s-like crossover to happen.
The Rise of Pan-Indian Films
And then came in the form of SS Rajamoulis magnum opus Baahubali: the beginning and its sequel, the stricken monster Baahubali 2: the conclusion.
The success of these films eclipsed all the Hindi releases and Prabhas became an overnight star in the northern belts or rather, he was dubbed India’s first pan-Indian star.
Following the success of Baahubali films, many of these pan-Indian films have started to be released in Hindi and some of them like KGF: Chapter 2 AndPushpa: the ascent became huge hits in Hindi, even beating Bollywood at its own game.
It also started the ongoing narrative of Southern cinema taking over Bollywood and how Bollywood is no longer India’s main film industry.
But, is there any truth in the notion? Has Southern cinema really conquered Bollywood?
The harsh reality of so-called pan-Indian films
Well, a report in bollywood hungamasuggests otherwise.
It says there have been 15 pan-South Indian exits so far and all 15 were massive flops.
That’s not all, the report also states that from July 2015 to the end of 2022, a total of 50 movies were released in Hindi dubbed versions and the shocking statistic is that out of these only 10 were successful at the Hindi box office.
And those were Baahubali: The Beginning (2015), Baahubali 2: the conclusion (2017), 2.0 (2018), KGF: Chapter 1 (2018), Pushpa: the ascent (2021), RRR (2022), KGF: Chapter 2 (2022), Karthikeya 2 (2022), Ponniyin Selvan: Part 1 (2022) And Kantara (2022).
This means that the other 40 odd Hindi movies dubbed supposedly pan-Indian were huge box office flops.
While the pan-Indian film fad has started to take huge hits at the box office, remakes are not doing well either.
With the rise of OTT in India during the pandemic, audiences have been exposed to a lot of content from all regions and the world. This has also led to the consumption of Southern films with subtitles and also Hindi dubbing.
And this is where a number of Hindi remakes of South Indian films that were already sanctioned suffered greatly.
With back-to-back flops, Bollywood has again received fair criticism for its lack of originality, but again, it’s a two-way street.
Hindi movies like Andhadhun And Section 15 seen remakes in the South and recently it was reported that the remake rights of Kartik Aaryan and Tabus Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 were purchased by Tamil producer Gnanavel Raja.
Despite consecutive flops, Bollywood’s obsession with Southern remakes refuses to end and there are a number of Hindi films coming out in the months and even years to come that are inspired by Tamil, Telugu, Kannada or Malayalam.
This suggests that remake culture as well as pan-Indian cinema will continue to be in vogue.
Both will depend on a case by case basis. For 15 disasters nicknamed in Hindi, there will be one Pushpa Or kantara and for hindi remake disasters there will be a blockbuster like Drishyam 2.
Between all of this, Hindi cinema will continue to thrive.
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