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In the Telugu movie Vikramarkudu,South Indian actress Anushka Shetty had a rather minuscule role.

Written by Dipti Nagpaul D'souza | Published: April 17, 2012 1:59:58 am

In the Telugu movie Vikramarkudu,South Indian actress Anushka Shetty had a rather minuscule role. The film revolved around the hero in a double role,as a crook and a cop,played by actor Ravi Teja. However,while adapting this potboiler as Rowdy Rathore in Hindi,Shiraz Ahmed was well aware that no top Bollywood heroine would come on board if she was offered a blink-and-you-miss-it role opposite lead actor Akshay Kumar.

Today,Sonakshi Sinha shares equal space with Kumar in both posters as well as the promos of the film that will release in June.

“The Bollywood film audience expects heroines to have a meaty role even in a typical masala movie. That aside,actresses here are also conscious of the roles they choose,especially the popular ones. And without a prominent heroine in the lead,it becomes tough to market the movie,” says Ahmed. His argument slices open the process of adaptation that South Indian films need to go through to be remade in Bollywood.

Several factors are at work when an adaptation of a South Indian blockbuster is planned — it includes the setting and characterisation,big and small quirks and parallel tracks in the film. Ahmed,who also wrote the Prabhu Deva-directed Wanted in Hindi,says that adapting a film is way tougher than writing one from scratch.

Changing the setting is the first step that most screenplay writers undertake. According to director-filmmaker Nishikant Kamat — who directed Force,a Hindi remake of the Tamil Kaakha Kaakha — this takes care of several hiccups encountered while remaking a film for Bollywood. “The quirks of a character depends on the setting and the actor. In Force,John Abraham,who plays the hero,is an urban young man. We could take the liberty of showing him beefed up and with tattoos,” he explains. Whereas,in Kaakha Kaakha,the lead actor Suriya was more like a regular cop who got sucked into the world of drug trafficking.

Similarly,while loosely adapting Telugu film MaryadaRamanna as Son of Sardar,writer-director Ashwini Dhir wanted to define Ajay Devgn’s lead character as stubborn yet funny. In Maryada Ramanna,the hero falls for the daughter of his late father’s enemy. What lends to twists in the story is a rule at the heroine’s home that they will treat a guest with utmost respect. “We moved the film to Patiala and we could see that the characters fit in perfectly with the Sikh community,short-tempered yet pleasant and strict followers of tradition and culture,” explains Dhir.

Like Bollywood,films in the South also follow a formula. They have certain fixed elements that must then be changed to suit the sensibilities of Hindi film viewers. For instance,extreme and crass violence as shown in some films in the South is not easily acceptable to Hindi film audiences. “There is almost always a comic track in South films where the comedian is like a second lead,with his own romantic angle and songs. But Bollywood does not enjoy that,especially since such humour is considered low-brow,” explains Sajid Sanghvi of the screenwriter duo Sajid-Farhad. Having penned several remakes,including Ready and Singham,they feel that the comic track can be easily done away with.

The usual strength of a typical South Indian film is the sharp storyline and characters rooted in their culture. However,a literal adaptation can also be jarring on the sensibilities of the Bollywood audience. “In a scene from Vikramarkudu,the hero hits women and children in jest. A sequence like that would never be acceptable to the urban Hindi audiences. The multiplex audience has just about started to warm up to action thrillers that are remakes. These kind of scenes could put them off,” says Ahmed.

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