Film Re-Makes

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One of my favourite films is Trois Homme et un Couffin, a 1985 French film written and directed by Coline Serreau. The characters Pierre, Michel and Jacques live their bachelor life in a beautiful apartment in Paris full of amazing paintings.

One morning after a successful party, Pierre, played by Roland Giraud, finds a baby in a basket on his way out to buy croissants for himself and Michel, the cartoonist (Michel Boujenah). Jacques played by Andre Dussolier left early in the morning for Thailand because he worked for Air France.

The note in the basket is from a certain Sylvia who is telling Jacques that the baby is his and that her name is Marie. Sylvia is off to the United States on a modelling assignment for six months. The problem for Pierre and Michel is that Jacques is away for six weeks, leaving Pierre and Michel literally holding the baby. Jacques told Pierre before he left that someone was going to deliver a package, so Pierre thought baby Marie was that package. The real package turned out to be drugs.

Hollywood and Indian Re-Makes
Trois Homme et un Couffin did very well in Europe so Hollywood decided to cash in with its adaptation, Three Men and a Baby starring Ted Danson, Tom Selleck and Steve Guttenberg. Producers in Mumbai also gave it a shot, hence the film Heyy Babyy with actors Vidya Balan, Akshay Kumar, Fardeen Khan and Riteish Deshmukh.

In my humble opinion, Trois Homme et un Couffin, is an exceptional film because of the connection Marie, the baby had with the three bachelors, her father Jacques the pilot, Pierre the lawyer and Michel the cartoonist.

I don’t know the legalities of making a re-make but what is clear is that the re-making producer is under no obligation to stick to the original story. Three Men and a Baby, the U.S. version has Ted Danson’s character using the baby to attract women. He also takes a shower with the baby, whereas Pierre has Marie in the bath in Trois Homme et un Couffin, kneeling on the floor talking to her because he was jealous that she was becoming more attached to Michel, who spent more time with her during the day. “You know me!” said Pierre. Marie, the great actress she was, cooed.

Heyy Babby Indian Re-Make
Heyy Babyy producers took the story to Sydney Australia. The father’s baby becomes Arush played by Akshay Kumar. The baby is called Angela and Vidya Balan is Isha Sahni the mother. The director Sajid Khan puts in a fresh ingredient into the story. Vidya’s character has a father played by Bomani Iran. He lied to Isha that her baby had died in child birth. The difference between the original story and Heyy Babyy is also in the first scene because Arush the baby’s father finds her on the doorstep whereas it is Pierre in Trois Homme et un Couffin.

I must admit that I screened Heyy Babyy half-heartedly because I know the original film. I nearly abandoned it because of the typical Hollywood scene where the three bachelors threw baby food at each other, but I soldiered on. I’m glad I did because there are some tasty morsels. Arush had a one night stand with Isha at his cousin’s wedding in Delhi, whereas we don’t know where Jacques met Sylvia, the baby’s mother in Trois Homme et un Couffin because Jacques had women literally at every airport.

Warning audiences about re-makes
Films belong to producers and viewers have no right to temper with their investment but, I think we should be forewarned. Producers spend millions, on on-line, broadcast and print advertising. Wouldn’t it be nice if it was compulsory that they tell us that a film is a re-make? It should not be hidden in a press release, but splashed on posters together with the names of the cast.

Some changes in the original story are bearable, such as Bunty aur Babli, directed by Shaad Ali Saghal. The film is an adaptation of the two crooks Bonnie and Clyde who created havoc and mayhem across America robbing people. Abhishek Bachchan is Rakesh, a young salesman who is disillusioned when someone says his business idea is not viable, but steals it and makes money. Rani Mukherjee is Vimmi, who ran away from an arranged marriage because she wanted to be a super model.

Bunty aur Babli is palatable because although it is based on Hollywood’s Bonnie and Clyde, it is very much an Indian movie in terms of the landscape, characters Bunty and Babli meet on the way, the police inspector who wants to bring them to justice and the music. Rakesh and Vimmi.change their names and adopt Bunty aur Babli and they go on a rampage, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor.

Other adaptations are just hard to swallow. I do not buy theatre tickets for movies I can write from my couch following the Hollywood formula, so I got the story about the 2005 film Hitch, from a review, and on SABC television early in 2010.

The film is about a man (Will Smith) who tutors men on how to impress women. The 2007 Indian version is called Partner with Salman Khan as Prem. He plays the Hitch character in, helping the love stricken Govinda’s character to woo Katrina Kaif’s character. I switched off the television because Partner was so predictable.

God of Gamblers
Taking a detour to Hong Kong for a moment, I don’t know if Rainman, starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise is a re-make of God of Gamblers or vice versa. God of Gamblers, directed by Wong Jing is one of the greatest films ever made. It has Yun Fat Chow as a famous gambler who loses his memory but not his ability to cheat at the card table.

Danny, Andy Lau’s character is responsible for the gambler’s accident in the first place because he set the trap that made him tumble down the hill and hit a stone, thus losing his memory. Danny calls him Chocolate because he acts like a child and loves chocolates which he eats before any card game. In the film Rainman, Charlie Babbit (Tom Cruise) exploits his brother Raymond Babbit (Dustin Hoffman).

The two films must be related somehow, because there is a scene in Rainman where, Ray watches Charlie and his girlfriend making love. In God of Gamblers, Chocolate doesn’t understand the animal sounds coming from one of the rooms in the motel where he is working and goes and disturbs the couple.

I’m not a great fan of re-makes because they are a hurdle to the production of one million original stories. The world has more than ten billion people, and film producers keep shuffling between only 20 story ideas.

Nonqaba waka Msimang is the author of Sweetness The Novel.
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