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Lionsgate’s Bollywood debut Brothers, a remake of the studio’s 2011 martial arts drama Warrior, is yet another sign that official remakes are gaining ground in India and replacing unauthorized rip-offs.
Brothers was first announced last year as a co-production between Lionsgate and Endemol India’s banner Eyedentity Motion Pictures. Leading Bollywood banner Dharma Productions later boarded the project followed by Fox Star Studios, which is handling distribution for India and overseas.
According to Rentrak figures, Brothers collected a total worldwide opening haul of about $13 million, dominated by its India take of about $11.2 million. The film landed in the 10th spot in Rentrak’s top 10 international releases for the weekend of Aug. 15. Clearly, the mixed reviews the film received didn’t seem to dampen its opening results.
That’s good news for Hollywood as well as Bollywood, since Brothers is one of a new wave of legit remakes that are looking to change the rip-off culture of a certain portion of the Indian industry. In the 1980s and 90s, unofficial – and unattributed – Hollywood “remakes” seemed to dominate the landscape.
With films like Brothers, Bollywood is looking to mix the best of Hollywood storytelling with local talent and do so in a way that makes money for both sides.
The original Warrior stars Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton as estranged brothers and mixed martial arts fighters who use the ring to work through their troubled relationship with each other and their father (Nick Nolte). In the Bollywood remake, Edgerton and Hardy’s roles are played by Indian stars Akshay Kumar and Sidharth Malhotra, with veteran actor Jackie Shroff as the father.
“If you can imagine Warrior with an erotic, booze-soaked dance number and double the love scenes, then you’ll be able to wrap your head around the Indian version of the film,” said The Hollywood Reporter in its review while praising Brothers for adding local tweaks to the original.
But in the interest of making it locally relevant, Brothers deviates in parts from the original with some typical Bollywood elements. These include lengthy flashback scenes and a saucy song and dance sequence featuring a cameo by actress Kareena Kapoor Khan. Known as an “item song” in Bollywood parlance, these are aimed at potentially boosting a film’s appeal and are frequently featured in major titles.
Not everyone was impressed with Brothers, however. The Guardian found Brothers “puny and underdeveloped: at best light-middleweight, dancing round in the shadows of a super-heavyweight” and gave the film a two star rating.
Indian reviews haven’t been too encouraging either. The Indian Express had some praise for Brothers, especially for its well-staged fight scenes, but it found the film “dragged down by its over-wrought mawkishness.” News network CNN-IBN’s two and a half star review said that “Brothers never fully exploits the delicious complexity of its premise, and as a result it doesn’t quite earn the redemptive emotional wallop of its climax.”
But the impressive financial performance of Brothers suggests that the film can only add to the growing trend of legit Bollywood remakes.
The new wave arguably started back in 2010 with We Are Family, an official Bollywood version of the Julia Roberts–Susan Sarandon starrer Stepmom from Dharma Productions. Since then, the trend of authorized remakes has been gathering steam.
One of the most high-profile remakes so far has been Fox Star Studios’ 2014 title Bang Bang! featuring actor Hrithik Roshan and actress Katrina Kaif reworking (some would say improving) the Tom Cruise/Cameron Diaz chemistry from Knight and Day.
FSS also released City Lights, a Hindi remake of the U.K.’s foreign-language Oscar entry Metro Manila. The studio recently announced it was planning a Bollywood version of Fox’s hit YA title The Fault in Our Stars.
Unauthorized remakes haven’t completely vanished. Ajay Chandhok‘s Hey Bro, released earlier this year, featured a plot that was a blatant rip-off of the 1988 action comedy Twins, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito as genetic brothers who bear no resemblance to each other. But the film was roundly panned – “the writing is amateurish and juvenile and would have worked in the nineties. But in today’s times, even kids won’t appreciate such outdated humor,” said the Financial Express in its review – and did not perform at the box office.
Only a handful of official remakes have been released, so it is too early to see if the trend can establish itself. But former entertainment industry analyst turned producer Sunir Kheterpal says going legit has its advantages.
“It makes it easier to first pitch it creatively to potential talent,” Kheterpal told The Hollywood Reporter. “Also Indian audiences are opening up to a wider range of stories, so it’s only natural to acquire material that has worked in various markets.”
Bollywood is looking beyond Hollywood for its inspiration. French feature Apres vous was remade as 2013 Bollywood title Nautanki Saala and Audrey Tautou-starrer Beautiful Lies is being turned into Shimla Mirchi from acclaimed Bollywood director Ramesh Sippy. Upcoming Bollywood remakes include A Gang Story, a version of Gaumont’s 2011 crime drama Les Lyonnais from well-known Bollywood director Tigmanshu Dhulia and Korean thriller The Man From Nowhere, being redone as Rocky Handsome, starring Bollywood actor John Abraham and directed by Nishikant Kamat.
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