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Anti View
Text by Madhulika Varma and Illustration by Farzana Cooper
Published: Volume 15, Issue 1, January, 2007

All-time blockbusters are being reinvented in contemporary mode. But is the current stampede to churn out old classics a tribute to timeless hits or a complete bankruptcy of ideas, asks Madhulika Varma

It was only a matter of time. When they were choking the airwaves with remixes of every conceivable number recorded before 1970 and the cherubs were singing Kaliyon ka chaman and Mere piya gaye Rangoon in their cribs, one knew, before long, that one of these Bollywood buccaneers would have the gall to dust up an old classic and declare that it needed to be remade.

It's just that one didn't imagine the man who'd lead the pack would be the King of Krass, Vashu Bhagnani! And the film he'd pick would be the 1946 classic, Anmol Ghadi!

But, truth they say is stranger than fiction. So, we had the Noorjehan-Suraiya-Surendra love saga, a musical that boasted Naushad's genius, turned into Jeena Sirf Mere Liye, in a contemporary setting with Kareena Kapoor and Tusshar Kapoor warbling about their bachpan ka pyar - and it seemed kind of incongruous because back in the '40s, kids led peaceable lives. They didn't have access to TV 24x7, with 200 channels - they didn't even have to ration time between their play stations and karate classes. So, they could hold hands with chubby little playmates and sing Bachpan ke din bhula na dena…and keep on singing till they were 40.

Today's kids have the attention span of a moth. They have to be re-introduced to their own siblings on a weekly basis. And as for the anmol ghadi, they run through at least six different, disposable, digital watches a month - most of them came free with their Bournvita....

Where was the need to drag the poor classic kicking and screaming into so much ignominy? And that is the biggest gripe one has against these film-makers. This desire to drag classics and cult films from their exalted hall of fame and turn them into contemporary pantomime.

To add insult to injury, they slap it all on like they're doing the world a huge favour that's almost up there with restoring a Rembrandt.

Says Priyanka Chopra, who's slated to play Meena Kumari's 'Choti Bahu', in the remake of the Guru Dutt classic, Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, "My generation may not watch old classics and miss out on them completely, so where is the harm in retelling classics in a contemporary format?"

Really? How does one fashion Guru Dutt's searing b/w classic about the pain and isolation of a woman in feudal Bengal, into a contemporary film?