Sholay and new Indian cinema
Ah! Indian cinema in the age of capitalism. Remakes, sequels, merchandising, product placements, revenue streams, segmentation… there is an intensification of rational ways of making business. Along with that comes the corporate juggernaut and legal paraphernalia so no opportunity to mop up revenue is missed. In the new capitalistic jargon Dhoom epitomises film “properties” that can be exploited in various ways — sequels and product placements being the key strategies. The other is way to reduce risk is by going the remake route. Take a well-known film, throw in A-list stars and you have a much better chance at ROI than risking it with fresh or original scripts. But then originality has not been one of the strong points of popular Indian cinema. Unlike the “new wave” or “parallel” filmmakers who toil to get original scripts to see the light of day, popular filmmakers never miss an opportunity at spotting successful films from abroad and then localising them (Bollycat is an excellent research resource for Hindi film rip offs).
RGV’s interpretation of Sholay is a good instance of shrewd thinking by the filmmaker. But he seems to have run into trouble with Sippy Films, who hold copyrights to the film and all properties associated with it, including characters (read report here). They have thrown a spanner into the works. Meanwhile, Ekta Kapoor has announced a Bhojpuri remake of Sholay (read report here). In a film culture where the concept of intellectual property is alien, this is an interesting development. It is not just corporate greed, but a structural shift in the way film business is conducted.
In a way this might be good as there could be an unintended consequence — original films being made. But as long as the industry keeps ripping off films from abroad, it will do little to foster originality. Where are companies with announcements of development funds? Barring the low budget investments by Mukta and UTV and the occasional scripts by independent filmmakers, corporate Bollywood appears to be going the same way as Hollywood.