It is not wrong to be inspired but when the inspiration delves into the territory of plagiarism, it must be questioned. Every film is inspired by something: what you do with the inspiration is what counts. The Indian film industry has long been accused of this, with the inspiration being particularly from Hollywood. Despite this long history of what some term to be copying, Indian films have proven that they can take their inspiration and turn it into something better. While this is not the case with every film, the number of times this has happened will surprise you. This happens because the director crafts the film with a vision of their own. Of course, certain elements are added for the sake of the Indian audience but the overall impact of the film is not affected by these choices.
When a film combines a plot from Hollywood and takes the sensibilities of the Indian viewer into account, the result can be excellent. These seven films are proof of that.
7. Ajnabee: Consenting Adults
This Abbas-Mustan film was adapted from the 1992 thriller directed by Alan J. Pakula. The Indian director duo are well known for the twists in their writing and that is exactly what they delivered with this film. With a great performance from Akshay Kumar added with the twists and thrills, it managed to entertain the audience. The American version on the other hand, had the viewers laughing at inopportune moments. The critics in particular weren’t buying it, they roundly criticized the plotting as well as the acting. ‘Ajnabee’ isn’t a great film either but at least it’s entertaining — which the original isn’t.
6. Baazigar: A Kiss Before Dying
There have been two adaptations of the novel by Ira Levin. While the 1956 version was appreciated for its style as well as the performances, the 1991 version was not warmly received. Many people thought that the new version had lost the essence of the novel and it failed both critically and commercially. The 1993 release ‘Baazigar’ remains an iconic film of the 90s. It has a career defining performance from Shah Rukh Khan and a memorable soundtrack to boot. The film had a story that was not commonly seen by the Indian audience. This coupled with strong performances from the rest of the cast and Kajol in particular made the film a winner. This is further proof of Abbas-Mustan’s ability to make thrilling stories that resonate with the Indian viewers.
5. Mahanadi: Hardcore
Kamal Haasan’s filmography is filled with films that are have been partially or directly inspired by Hollywood films. For example, ‘Nayakan’, considered by TIME magazine as one of the best hundred films of all time, is inspired by ‘The Godfather’. While some people may criticize him for doing this, he has many a time proved that he can match up to the original and sometimes even better it. His 1994 film ‘Mahanadi’ has a central plot that was inspired from Paul Schrader’s film, ‘Hardcore’. While Schrader’s film had more action, Haasan focused more on the family dynamics and how their situations affect the bond of the family. Both the story and screenplay are written by Haasan himself. Apart from this, Haasan’s performance has frequently been cited as one of the best in Indian film history. It is because of these reasons that ‘Mahanadi’ is a notch above ‘Hardcore’.
4. Dasvidaniya: The Bucket List
The Hollywood version is an okay film with its two leads having fun which is interrupted by some sentimental moments. While both Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman are terrific actors, the script of the film prevented them from really digging deep into their characters. Everything is only on the surface. This is the one area, where the Hindi version manages to succeed. Vinay Pathak who is one of the more underrated actors of India, gives a nuanced and layered performance that delves into the psyche of his character. The credit for that has to also go to the writer Arshad Syed and the director Shashant Shah as well. By creating a film that does not become too sentimental, they were able to impress both the critics and the audience.
3. Abhimaan: A Star Is Born
The basic premise of ‘A Star Is Born’ has been done to death by both American and Indian films. The Americans have three of versions of the same story. This just shows how timeless the actual premise is. What makes the Indian adaptation better, is the treatment of the story. Directed by one of India’s finest directors, ‘Abhimaan’ is a great character study which has Amitabh Bachchan in one of his finest performances. The film is like a puzzle with separate parts coming together to create one beautiful image. Hrishikesh Mukherjee deserves a lot of credit for making a better version of an American classic. His depiction of the dynamics between a husband and wife is a highlight of the film. It also has some of the best work from greats such as S.D. Burman, Mohammad Rafi, Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar.
2. Munna Bhai M.B.B.S: Patch Adams
The American film starring the late Robin Williams was a based on a real person, Dr. Hunter “Patch” Adams. When the film came out, it went on to become very successful at the box-office. But it was lambasted by the critics for being too sentimental and emotionally manipulating the audience. What made matters worse was the criticism of the real life doctor himself. He felt that the movie didn’t convey his message properly. The Indian version which was directed by Rajkumar Hirani, who created a story that had a perfect mix of humor and sentiment. This prevented the film from becoming too preachy as it didn’t try to hammer any message into the audience. Sanjay Dutt’s role was adored by the audience and the critics as well. The film took the essence of ‘Patch Adams’ and polished it to make something better.
1. Anbe Sivam: Planes, Trains and Automobiles
The John Hughes comedy was easily the best film of his career. It has many funny moments and John Candy at his peak. But ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’ is a comedy and although it quite a funny film, it cannot beat the greatness of the Kamal Haasan film. Another story written by Haasan himself, it is one of the most philosophical films to come out of India in a long time. Taking the basic plot from the American film, ‘Anbe Sivam’ looks at a myriad of themes including atheism and altruism among others. The film didn’t do too well at the box-office due to its experimental nature but over the years it has gained a cult following and it is now considered a landmark in Indian cinema. The film manages to say so much about people, about the way we treat others, our perception of people’s appearances etc. It has the capacity to change one’s way of thinking and that is what makes the film truly great.