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Why are Bollywood remakes so expensive?

Shaurya Thapa
Shaurya ThapaSep 13, 2022 | 13:16

Why are Bollywood remakes so expensive?

Vikram Vedha's shift of budget from Rs 11 crore to 175 crore is not a new phenomenon for Bollywood. (photo-DailyO)

When the Tamil film Vikram Vedha started filming in 2016, the budget was estimated at Rs 11 crore. Now, five years later, the same writing and directing team are creating a Bollywood remake at a budget of Rs 175 crore.

Slated for a September 30 release, Vikram Vedha is just one of the many B-Town remakes that increase the budget to a significant extent from the original. There can be exceptions like Laal Singh Chaddha, which was made on a budget of Rs 180 crore (roughly $22 million in today's terms) as opposed to Forrest Gump's budget of $55 million in 1994 (Rs 170.5 crore that time). But overall, the trend is always to up the budget with Hindi remakes.

Take the following cases in point: 

 

 

The successful big-budget Hindi remakes: Ghajini had a budget of Rs 7 crore in Tamil, with director AR Murugadoss amping it up to Rs 65 crore for the Aamir Khan-led Hindi version. In both cases, the budget paid off, with the former doing a business of Rs 50 crore while the latter being one of Khan's biggest blockbusters at Rs 232 crore.

Three years later, another Suriya-starrer Singham got a successful Hindi remake. The Rs 5 crore Tamil cop thriller was adapted into a Rs 41 crore excuse for Rohit Shetty to blow up cars. The box-office returns amounted to Rs 157 crore and Shetty succeeded in creating his own "Cop Universe" of blockbusters. 

Among the more recent examples, Kabir Singh is another great one of a successful big-budget Hindi remake. The budget of Kabir Singh was Rs 60 crore, as opposed to Arjun Reddy's modest budget of Rs 5 crore. Kabir Singh grossed over Rs 370 crore, cementing its place as the third highest grossing Bollywood film of 2019. 

But 2022 has shown us that increasing the budget can also be bad for business. 

At the same time, the remakes might not make enough considering the big budget. Take the case of this year itself. A particularly disastrous year for Bollywood this year, the first major remake was Shahid Kapoor-starrer Jersey. The 2019 Telugu original had a budget of Rs 25 crore (doing a business of Rs 51 crore). Sadly, Shahid Kapoor could not replicate his Kabir Singh streak as the third wave in early 2022 lead to several release delays. Kapoor earned positive reviews for his performance but the Rs 81 crore movie managed to earn just Rs 27.9 crore at the box office. 

Then, of course, the highly-anticipated Laal Singh Chaddha bombed recently, managing to not even earn as much as its budget. As mentioned earlier, there wasn't much of a difference between the budgets of Forrest Gump and the Hindi remake. The Rs 180 crore budget included star and producer Aamir Khan's salary (estimated to be over Rs 50 crore) and the multiple locations required for the shooting.

The Kargil War sequence was clearly one of the big-budget scenes and then, the entire Tur Kaaleyan sequence showed the protagonist running all over India. So, even for a few seconds, several pan-Indian locations were featured in that one song alone, locations including Jatayu's Earth Centre in Kerala, Kinnaur Gate in Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh, the Thar Desert, and Dhanushkodi in Tamil Nadu. Ultimately, due to all the controversies and the negative reviews, this grandiose budget only led to major losses as the Rs 180 crore managed to rake in only Rs 129.58 crore.

So, why are Bollywood remakes so expensive? Star power is an obvious answer. A good quarter of these big budgets go in the salaries of the Bollywood stars who are used to charging exorbitant fees. Commenting on the increased budget of the Vikram Vedha remake, film analyst Komal Nahta says, "Hrithik Roshan plays Vijay Sethupathi's character [in the Hindi version]. While Sethupathi is a critically acclaimed actor, Roshan has that superstar image that makes him charge high fees. And when a star joins a project, the scale and production value is automatically expected to be higher."

 

Nahta adds that this has been the case with many of Roshan's films barring exceptions like Super 30 which was intentionally set amongst the lower economic strata, with Roshan himself playing a more grounded character. 

Film analyst and critic Taran Adarsh is of a similar viewpoint as he gives Vikram Vedha and Jersey's examples. "Vijay Sethupathi and Nani are good performers but they aren’t in a place to quote high prices like Hrithik and Shahid." 

The big-budget comes with its own challenges.

Much like Forrest Gump, Laal Singh Chaddha's special effects included blending the protagonist with archival footage. The pan-India run is again similar to Forrest Gump running all over America. The Kargil War segment still proved to be a bigger financial burden as opposed to the original's Vietnam War scenes (with Hunting Island State Park in America's South Carolina doubling for Vietnam's forests). It is understandable for the remake's producers to try their very best to make a big-budget spectacle so that they can follow the footsteps of the acclaimed Hollywood original.

On an episode of Koffee With Karan, Khan already mentioned how remaking Forrest Gump was a daunting task, with the purchasing of rights taking almost over a decade. When Atul Kulkarni offered him the screenplay's first draft, Khan was reluctant in taking up the project. Hence, remaking a successful film (be it a regional hit or a Hollywood blockbuster) is bound to come with its own added pressure. More so if the original has its own following.

"The thing about big-budget remakes is that there is immense pressure on the makers to deliver the product. The increase in budget along with expectations to match the original adds to this pressure."
- Komal Nahta, film trade analyst

Now, with only a few weeks left for Vikram Vedha to release in theatres, it will be worth seeing if it can break the remake curse of this year or just be another box-office underperformer.

Last updated: September 13, 2022 | 13:16
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