Now Trending in Bollywood - South Korean Remakes

Bollywood looking to Korea for inspiration? It certainly seems so! 

5 min read
The just-released <i>Te3n</i> has been inspired by the Korean film <i>Montage</i>

It’s one of those interesting times when we are happy to report that TE3N, featuring Amitabh Bachchan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Vidya Balan, is an official remake of the South Korean thriller, Montage, which released in 2013. About a crime that sends three characters on a quest, the Indian version helmed by Ribhu Dasgupta released today.

Indian filmmakers’ affair with Korean thrillers is not something new. In the past decade, we’ve released several remakes of South Korean films, sometimes official, and most of the times, as you know, copied and pasted without permission.

Prem Ratan Dhan Payo / Masquerade

 A still from <i>Masquerade</i>, on which the Salman-Sonam starrer&nbsp;<i>Prem Ratan Dhan Payo</i> was based
A still from Masquerade, on which the Salman-Sonam starrer Prem Ratan Dhan Payo was based

Sooraj Barjatya is the last person you’d expect to be inspired by a Korean film. Unlike most of his peers hypnotized by thrillers, the Rajshri scion looked at a period film for inventiveness. A humble acrobat standing in for a king, both played by Lee Byung-hun, made way for Sallu Bhai, and in place of the historical intrigue, we got cheese, mush and dollops of sanskaar. The historical detailing and the scale of the original was sure-footed, but our desi version cared only to make Bhai grand, grander, grandest in a strange kind of royal setting.

And the rest is rust and stardust.


Ek Villain / I Saw The Devil

<i>Ek Villain</i> is the desi version of Kim Jee-woon’s <i>I Saw The  Devil</i>
Ek Villain is the desi version of Kim Jee-woon’s I Saw The Devil

Kim Jee-woon’s ultraviolent thriller took revenge to Dostoevskian heights, and it was impossible to look away from its dexterously handled blood-and-gore. Mohit Suri borrowed handsomely from the original, and Indianised it by adding a romantic subplot, backstory, chartbusting music and of course, shrieking melodrama. So we got a product that wanted to be a slasher film minus the gore, and a thriller minus the thrills.

Silly, silly boy.


Zinda / Oldboy

The iconic <i>Oldboy</i> inspired the Sanjay Dutt-John Abraham-starrer <i>Zinda</i>
The iconic Oldboy inspired the Sanjay Dutt-John Abraham-starrer Zinda

Sanjay Gupta has made a career out of being inspired foreign films and in Zinda, he sponged from Park Chan-wook’s masterpiece, Oldboy. The original famously renewed global interest in Korean cinema for showing revenge in a meditative yarn, and violence, hammered with a poetic style. Our Gupta saab was one of the few inspired by its beauty and tried his best to transcribe it in the Indian terrain, albeit unofficially. The remake felt like a poor photocopy of the original though the actors were in fine form, and of course, Gupta did a cop-out when it came to the incest angle.


Ugly Aur Pagli / My Sassy girl

A still from  <i>Ugly aur Pagli</i>
A still from Ugly aur Pagli

When the original released in its home country, it took everyone by surprise by becoming the highest grossing romantic comedy of all time in Korea. In fact, it has a dedicated fan base in most Asian countries. So when we decided to steal it, we called it Ugly Aur Pagli, and the film more than lived up to its title! With gags falling flat from the beginning, and zero chemistry between the leads, the remake was a clueless muddle of non-existent plot movement.


Murder 2 / The Chaser

<i>The Chaser</i> redefined the  South Korean thriller genre
The Chaser redefined the South Korean thriller genre

South Korea, famous for reinventing the thriller genre with each new entry, showcased another gem in The Chaser. In Murder 2, Mohit Suri lifted from the original as if it was his birthday gift, and made a film that galloped in the first half, but struggled in the second half, a complete hara-kiri for a thriller. Unlike the steamy chemistry of Mallika Sherawat and Emraan Hashmi in the first Murder (which was inspired by Unfaithful but that’s another story), the second part left no scope for the fans to perspire. All in all, an uninspired remake.


Rock On!! / The Happy Life

Telling the story of a boy band, <i>Rock  On!!</i> was inspired by Lee Joon-ik’s <i>The  Happy Life</i>
Telling the story of a boy band, Rock On!! was inspired by Lee Joon-ik’s The Happy Life

Lee Joon-ik’s film about a band of boys looking to reunite inspired Farhan Akhtar’s debut vehicle as an actor. Like the original, director Abhishek Kapoor took the core idea about four band members, and garnished it with original and distinctive moments. Though the inspiration has never been spoken about, if you see the original, you’d know the seed of the idea.


Jazbaa / Seven Days

The  Aishwarya Rai-starrer <i>Jazbaa</i> is the remake of <i>Seven Days</i>
The Aishwarya Rai-starrer Jazbaa is the remake of Seven Days

First of all, it was a shocker. Because it was Sanjay Gupta’s first official remake of a foreign film. The original, about a successful lawyer pressured to defend a man from death penalty because her daughter is at stake, looked like the perfect vehicle for Aishwarya Rai to make a comeback. But Gupta’s affinity for excess made Rai act with bloodshot eyes like a hysterical woman caught in a storm, and the unrelenting background score just made things worse. Add to that the yellow-green filter that made it look like a quasi post-apocalyptic film. The original wasn’t really impressive, but the remake is a clear case of style ruining substance.


Awaarapan / A Bittersweet Life

Emraan Hashmi and Shriya Saran in <i>Awaarapan</i>
Emraan Hashmi and Shriya Saran in Awaarapan

Kim Jee-woon’s A Bittersweet Life made a star out of Lee Byung-hun for his catlike grace and a performance that went deeper into the character than you’d expect from such a genre picture. The remake gave Emraan Hashmi ample scope but mostly scratched the surface, hardly bothering about the psychological flourishes. The action sequences were decent too, but of course, far more timid if you compare it to the original which had stunningly choreographed carnage.


Rocky Handsome / The Man From Nowhere

A still from <i>The Man from Nowhere</i>
A still from The Man from Nowhere

Taking a cue from Luc Besson’s Léon: The Professional, the Korean original proved to be dynamic despite a regular plot because it balanced gore and grace with a certain genre expertise, and it invested in developing an emotional quotient between the man and the child. Nishikant Kamat, our other remake expert made the Hindi version as a vanity project for John Abraham, the wooden-faced star. Despite some crafty action scenes, the film took a volley of clichés, seeped in cheesy dialogues and gave a new definition to lazy filmmaking. Alas, if only it had cared for the essence of the original.


(The writer is a journalist who believes in the insanity of words, in print or otherwise. Follow him on Twitter: @RanjibMazumder)

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