We all know a list of Mollywood remakes that have been inspired by Hollywood movies. Some of them turned out to be as good as the original, yet others turned out to be huge disappointments. Hollywood and Mollywood audiences aren’t quite the same, so most of the former’s movies require a drastic change or makeover before they get introduced into the Mollywood industry. These changes mostly happen to be rather sexist, backward, and typically patriarchal.
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If women rule, men take over, modern ways are undermined by the traditional outlook and nothing beats the power of love when it comes to the Mollywood industry. Movies are made for the audience, so the way a movie is made can be seen as a reflection of the mindset and ideologies of the audience it is presented to. Here are a couple of examples that show how this culture filter has worked in Malayalam cinema:
Dead Poets Society (1989) and Life is Beautiful (2000)
Starring Robin Williams, Dead Poets Society is the story of a group of boys in an all-boys high school who get inspired to become free thinkers by their unique and progressive English teacher. Sounds familiar? While this storyline is the main plot of the movie, it gets reduced to a subplot in its Mollywood counterpart, Life is Beautiful.
Dead Poets Society is basically a teen drama, focusing on the thoughts and experiences of the young boys who want to break away from the norm and live their dreams. It also shows their bond with their teacher, who for the first time makes them feel that life is more than just books and rules. But in the Mollywood version, this gets turned into a mere subplot as student life isn’t worth any consideration in a society that thinks that life begins once you’re married or in love.
In Life is Beautiful the focus turns to the teacher and his exaggerated love life, pushing the story of the students aside. They are just used as a tool to emphasize the image of the hero as a unique, free-minded, intelligent man. But the most important part of all is him being an equally good husband and a faithful lover, which the audience is drawn to be more concerned about. And to have an element of conflict, they introduce a complicated relationship by involving the wife’s sister Bala. While Bala’s scarred childhood and her insecurities were the reasons that caused the complication, it is again reduced to just some hurdle that the two lovers Vinayachandran and Sindhu must face with their amazingly strong bond of love. Our society has always considered the thoughts and issues of young adults as trivial, expecting them to magically grow out of it once they turn 21. Movies like these act like a reflection of this attitude, valuing the trivial fantasies of ‘adults’ than the struggles of young minds.
With ‘love’ given the limelight above everything else, the other elements of the plot become tools to glorify the hero or obstacles to test the strong bond of the couple. In Dead Poets Society the character Neil, whose father denies his dream to pursue acting, commits suicide. The death of Neil brings the biggest impact in the story, but that was completely avoided in the case of the Mollywood counterpart Sooraj. He gets saved right on time and eventually gets permission from his father to become a singer. Thus, the very last bit of significance is removed from the story of the students, as the attention once again goes to the teacher who is shown as a hero who was able to help a student fulfil his dream.
The Proposal (2009) and My Boss (2012)
Both movies are forever favourites when it comes to the romance-comedy genre, but there is a stark contrast in the comedy that is acceptable for both sets of audiences.
The Proposal is a comedy starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds that tells the story of how Margaret, an authoritative boss who is at risk of getting deported, forces her assistant Andrew to marry her in return for a promotion. Andrew being her assistant, is dependent on her for his job, and in desperation, agrees. However, when circumstances compel them to go to Andrew’s hometown to convince his family of their marriage, things change for Margaret and the couple ends up falling in love and marrying each other for real.
The Proposal is a woman-centric story, but My Boss turns it around making it the story about Manu. Obviously, the first thing they did was rectify the age situation by adjusting Manu’s story to make him older than the woman character, Priya. He is also given a higher status in education and is better skilled when compared to Priya, with his father being the only obstacle that had kept him from achieving his true potential. Even the emphasis is on his father when it comes to Manu’s family life. When asked if they are rich, Andrew’s reply is, “No, my parents are rich” while for Manu this changes to, “No, my father is rich.”
While the rest of the story of The Proposal focuses on Margaret’s experiences from her perspective, My Boss desperately tries to make the best out of Manu gaining control over his ‘wife’. And then there are the offensive sexist jokes that are sprinkled throughout My Boss. While Andrew hated Margaret just as much, he is a gentleman towards her throughout the film and doesn’t ‘use his chance’ to take revenge when they stay at his place. On the other hand, the Malayali audience had a good laugh watching Manu shamelessly trying to grope Priya saying that he has the right to grab ‘anything’ laying on his bed. Not to mention his supportive friend, who had contributed to another one of the movie’s comedic scenes by advising Manu to rape Priya when he gets the chance. And despite all this, the heroine still falls for the hero, as she realises that she just got what she deserved for her attitude.
Being the bold boss is one of Margaret’s plus points in The Proposal, but the assertive modern woman gets turned into a joke in Mollywood. Note that the film My Boss ends with Priya quitting her job and accepting Manu’s marriage proposal (in churidar).
Are there other movies where you could spot such drastic differences from their originals? Tell us in the comments section.