Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Double Jeopardy

Picture and popcorn…. one of our favourite pastimes. Weekends and holidays have never been complete without a dose of handpicked movies. We have seen both good and some terrible ones. This post is about four films that Sanjay and I saw almost back to back. ‘Unfaithful’ followed by ‘Murder’, ‘Body Heat’ followed by ‘Jism’. If there’s anyone out there who has seen these films you will empathise with us. Well without much ado for those who have not seen this awesome foursome…Murder and Jism are Hindi remakes of Unfaithful and Body Heat respectively. (Aside: Unfaithful itself is a remake of French film La Femme Infidèle which I am yet to see)

Unfaithful was undoubtedly a very nice film. A simple storyline but powerful execution and there was Richard Gere to add glamour. Murder had only glamour in the form of Mallika Sherawat. Body Heat had a nail biting plot. Jism had scintillating songs. I am not someone who is against remakes…I would infact call it emulation. In any remake there is definitely room for improvisation but in this case it is an impoverish mock-up. What is stopping an aesthetic photocopy? So here I am going to deliberate on the cultural adaptation challenges of remakes.

In Unfaithful, a lonely wife succumbs to temptation and goes astray having a roaring affair with a guy…a stranger much younger to her. In Murder too the plot is the same….but the guy is not a stranger but her ex-boyfriend. And to add more pity, the heroine is married to her brother in law after her sister’s death. And the immoral act is not set in Indian soil but abroad. Lame reasons or plot points to attract sympathy for the heroine even when she is promiscuous. Why were these changes made to the setting? Is it because Indian women and promiscuity are antonyms or Indian women should have some strong reason to go astray? (anything other than strong sexual attraction as in the case of Unfaithful). Is it because Indian women and one night stand and affair with strangers are impossible or difficult to digest? Is it culture shock or comprehension skills of viewers or rather underestimation of reception skills of discerning viewers?

Well one can say that these questions can be raised for any Indian film and not just remakes. (For instance Tamil film Poove Poochudava’s protagonist Nadiya and her grand mother are Hindus whereas in its Malayalam version they are Christians, though the story had nothing to do with religion.) And Hollywood remakes of European originals have also not escaped criticism. Agreed. But aren’t remakes answerable to the ethos of the originals? Maybe that’s why terms like ‘loosely based’ and ‘inspired by’ surface to shield against criticism.


Chandni Natarajan said...

Mam......I totally agree with you about all the 4 films you mentioned..And again I second Chandni..Your Blog reminds me so much of the wonderful Media Aesthetics class you took for us..By the way mam,,you never told our class about your review of Hey Ram..Is there a chance for you to pass it on to me??

deepa makesh said...

hey vids... s i certainly agree - the terms inspired by and loosely based certainly are to sheild..time n again remakes are "glocalised" keeping cuture in mind. this may be true wit the greatest remakes too. If you realise if an indian woman goes astray she ceases being a heroine but turns a vamp!


Sanjay Pinto said...

Hard hitting and lucid.Plagiarism is not the sole preserve of the academic world! Tinsel town that's 'reeling' under the antics of a different villain - piracy...should perhaps move out of a glass house! A grrrreat read.

Gayatri said...

Hi Vidya mam, just read your e-mail about you leaving MOP, the future batches are going to miss out on a gem of a teacher :)

This blog post is brilliant and reminds me of the Film Thesis which my batch had to do for your subject 'Media Aesthetics'

Best of luck for your PhD mam. Take care. Loads of hugs. :)


Rums said...

I agree with you about the media's skewed portrayal of the kind of 'woman' an Indian is expected to be. Remember the whole Khushboo episode? The truth is, there are plenty of Indian women who have affairs just for the heck of it and everyone knows it, but just as Deepa Ma'am says - all of those women turn out to be vamps! Hypocrites, huh?

I haven't seen the Indian versions of these movies, but while we're on the subject of a woman getting married to her brother-in-law, I got reminded of Border Cafe (Iranian). Have you watched that movie Vids? You need to, if you haven't already!

Sowmya Balakrishnan said...

MOP certainly is going to miss u ma'am.. Enjoying your posts... Seeing movies from ur point of view has always been a pleasure