Remaking a successful old same language film: While a few like Naan Avan Illai (2007) and Billa (2007) succeeded, many films in this format failed like Mappillai (2011), Murattukalai (2012), Thillu Mulu (2013). It is risky, as people would have seen the original and comparisons are easy; hence failure chance is high. Best to avoid.
Remaking a successful other language film: Hundreds of films were remade from Hindi, Malayalam, Telugu and Kannada in Tamil. Recent examples are Jannal Oram, Pulivaal, Vasoolraja MBBS, Manithan, Pap anasam, Malini 22 Palayamkottai, Chandra mukhi, Kuselan, 36 Vayathinile, Kavalan, Settai, Oru Naal Iravil, Un Samayal Araiyil, Meendum Oru Kadhal Kadhai, Aarathu Sinam and Bengaluru Naatkal. Most remakes are not working nowadays, as viewers have watched the original and comparisons are made. Unless the theme is strong and has universal appeal, this idea should be avoided as audience come with a double-edged sword; comparison and expectation and attack if it does not measure up.
Remaking a failed film: This can be from the same language or another language. If the theme is strong and has the potential, such remakes do work. A few examples: Naan Avan Illai (2007) was remake of failed 1974 film with same title; Samsaram Adhu Minsaram (1986) was remake of Uravukku Kai Koduppom (1975) and Ramu (1966) was remake of failed Hindi film Door Gagan Ki Chhaan Mein (1964).
Remaking officially a foreign language film: This good practice began a few years back and films like Kadhalum Kadandhu Pogum, Thozha and Thoonga Vanam were official remakes of foreign films. Like other language remakes, even this has become risky, as audiences begin comparing if the originals’ beauty has been retained.
Free-making a foreign language film: This has been happening in Tamil cinema for more than 80 years. Most of our initial talkies were free-makes of foreign language films. Unfortunately, this practice of free-making a foreign language film, by picking up its essence or theme without officially buying the rights, is continuing.
Few rules for remakes if followed, will reduce failure possibilities. 1) The film’s theme must be universal, relevant and relatable to Tamil audience and not restricted to the original language region. 2) The original film’s theme must fit into cultural nuances of the region. If the theme addresses a culture alien to the Tamil audience, the chances of its working is poor. 3) There must be something innovative in the original theme, with potential to appeal to Tamil audience. 4) Most realistic, artistic and neo-noir type of films cannot be remade easily in Tamil like attempt to remake Lucia (Kannada) in Tamil as Enakkul Oruvan, which failed. Mass and family entertainers fit into the remake bill and are continuing to be made (e.g. remakes like Ghilli, Pokkiri, M Kumaran S/o Mahalakshmi, Santosh Subramaniam, etc.). 5) Producers and filmmakers must identify what really worked in the original (it may be the lead cast’s magic, the presentation, etc.) Unless that magic can be repeated even in casting, remake attempt should not be made. Failure of Bangalore Days in Tamil was a classic example of wrong casting. 6) Remaking is not copying scene by scene. But taking the essence of the film and interpreting for the language to connect with the targeted audience. 7) Ideally, remakes must be made by the original filmmaker to bring in the same magic in remade version. Hence, director Fazil succeeded in 1980’s, with remakes of his original Malayalam films and it was the same case with recent successful films like Kavalan, Papanasam and 36 Vayathinile , which were remade by original filmmakers. Remake is an easy but risky option. Venture out only when it meets with at least one or two of above rules.
— The writer is Founder-Dean, BOFTA Film Institute in Chennai.