The Indian film industry, which has always had a penchant for ‘borrowing’ ideas from the west, has now turned its gaze towards the east
Bollywood is notorious for taking ‘inspiration’ from Hollywood for many of its films—blockbuster Ghajini was a remake of Memento (2000), Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar was based on Breaking Away (1979) and Akele Hum Akele Tum was a remake of Kramer vs Kramer (1979), among numerous other examples. But lately, a new trend is emerging: the lens for inspiration seems to have turned eastwards, specifically towards the South Korean film industry.
In short, Indian movies are now being made taking ideas and inspiration from South Korea. To begin with, actor Salman Khan’s forthcoming venture Bharat, to be directed by Ali Abbas Zafar, is an official adaptation of 2014 Korean hit Ode To My Father. The film, which will also feature Katrina Kaif, spans six decades and tells the story of a man longing to reunite with his missing father and sister after being separated from them during wartime in North Korea. The filmmakers have also cast actors Disha Patani, Tabu and Sunil Grover in the movie. Khan, who will have five different looks in the film, as per the filmmakers, will play a circus showman who performs death-defying stunts on a bike.
So what has triggered this desire to look east? “There’s a reason why Korean dramas are being remade in India,” says Niyati Bhat, a scholar of film studies from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. “They resonate with Indians in a big way, as not only are they high on emotions, but the countries have similar cultures as well,” believes Bhat. The scholar also says that South Korean films are more accessible, affordable and adaptable for Indian audiences in comparison to Hollywood scripts.
Another release to watch out for is the as yet untitled remake of Korean hit Miracle in Cell No. 7, to be directed by Umesh Shukla, who has directed films such as OMG: Oh My God (starring Paresh Rawal and Akshay Kumar) and the recent 102 Not Out (starring Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor). Shukla has been roped in by international film production house, Kross Pictures, which has signed a deal with Mumbai-based Indian Film Studios to co-produce the remake.
Miracle in Cell No. 7, a comedy family drama, depicts a mentally challenged man wrongfully imprisoned for murder. He later builds friendships with hardened criminals in his cell who, in return, help him reunite with his daughter by smuggling her into the prison. Released in 2013, Miracle in Cell No. 7 was one of the top six highest grossing films in South Korea, with a global collection of over Rs 500 crore. As per news reports, the production house (which has set up base in Mumbai as well) has also slated other remake projects for Indian audiences, including for South Korean hits such as Tunnel, A Hard Day and Miss Granny in the coming year.
Interestingly, the earliest South Korean remake that Kross Pictures presented to the Indian audiences was the Amitabh Bachchan-starrer Te3N, which was based on the 2013 South Korean film Montage. The Hindi remake, which also starred Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Vidya Balan, was about a 70-year-old man who sought the help of a priest and a police officer to find the people who kidnapped and killed his granddaughter.
Not just Te3N, some other recent Hindi movies are also remakes of South Korean hits—Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s comeback movie Jazbaa (2015) was an adaptation of the 2007 film Seven Days, Rocky Handsome (2016) was a remake of The Man From Nowhere, a classic South Korean action movie, and Emraan Hashmi’s 2007 film Awarapan was based on A Bittersweet Life (2005). Randeep Hooda’s Do Lafzon Ki Kahani (2016) was also based on the 2011 Korean film Always.
The inspiration story doesn’t end there. In 2014’s Ek Villain, Riteish Deshmukh’s character was heavily inspired from one in I Saw the Devil (2010). Even streaming giant Netflix has sensed the trend, which reflects in its choice to stream several South Korean TV series such as Hello My Twenties, This Is My Love and The Miracle for its Indian audiences.
Jawaharlal Nehru University’s Bhat feels this overwhelming trend is a result of the fact that South Korean films are high on action, as well as emotion, a formula that’s a big hit with Indian audiences. What’s more, the South Korean film industry seems to have taken note of this similarity too. In a great cinematic cross-exchange, Kross Pictures is now working on the Korean remake of 2012 Bollywood thriller Kahaani, which was directed by Sujoy Ghosh and starred Vidya Balan as a pregnant woman who goes looking for her missing husband. It’s going to be a pleasant time at the movies, for sure!