By T S Sudhir
The webspace, the airwaves and the media are abuzz with criticism of the Khatron ka khiladi for a not-so-glorious act ahead of his film `Khatta Meetha’. Akshay Kumar visited R K Laxman, the ailing creator of India’s iconic Common Man, at Mumbai’s Breach Candy hospital where the veteran cartoonist is admitted after he suffered three mini strokes in Pune last month.
But why did Akshay visit Laxman? Well, the star was by Laxman’s bedside, even as the shutterbugs clicked away, because `Khatta Meetha’ is the story of a common man, who is also a struggling road contractor and faces innumerable problems with the bureaucracy and a corrupt system. It is also a tragi-comic take on the state of our roads, a subject close to Laxman’s ailing heart.
Do I see Malayalam superstar Mohanlal grimacing? I mention Lal, because `Khatta Meetha‘, like most of director Priyadarshan’s films, is a remake of their 1988 Malayalam superhit `Vellanakalude Nadu’. Shobhana’s role of a bureaucrat is played by Trisha, who is making her foray into Bollywood with this 50-50 product.
Taking umbrage at the criticism, Akshay tweeted : “As usual people are so quick to judge situations. I was invited by Mr Laxman’s family to visit him in the hospital. They thought it would be nice for him to meet the man who is bringing to life his legendary comic cartoon.”
Laxman cannot speak or move and in his present health condition, he may not even know who Akshay is. Moreoever, for Laxman and most for our generation, if anyone came closest to depicting Laxman’s common man, it was Anjan Srivastav in `Wagle ki duniya’, also an 1988 creation. Akshay’s razzmatazz in `Khatta Meetha’ is hardly likely to be India’s aam aadmi. (I must admit here that Akshay Kumar is among my all-time favourites for his brilliant comic timing)
I don’t think Mohanlal ever thought of his character, C P Nair in `Vellanakalude Nadu’ as a take-off on Laxman’s common man in `The Times of India’. Nor did that film resort to any film promotion of this kind, even though Kerala is the land of cartoonists. Then how has Sachin Tichkule, Akshay’s character in `Khatta Meetha’, became Laxman’s common man? Did the stakes become so high in this remake, to use a man of Laxman’s stature, now on a hospital bed, to promote a film?
And if it indeed was a private visit, what was the press doing there, reporting on the rendezvous? Couldn’t the publicists of the film have come up with anything better than this? Maybe Akshay and the crew cleaning up a few roads in any city in the country, would have helped them sell a few more tickets.
But having said that, I find the racket of a promotion drama that film production houses indulge in, in league with the media, before every big ticket film quite unpalatable. It has certainly hit a new low with `Khatta Meetha’. Not all krackjack clones leave a good taste in the mouth.
`Khatta Meetha’ is also not the first among Hindi remakes of Tamil, Malayalam or Telugu films that gloss over the fact that it is not an original. You will rarely find Bollywood producers admitting so during the publicity blitz.
I remember an evening some 14 years back at Hyderabad’s Padmalaya Studios with producer Boney Kapoor, where after recording an interview, we were chatting about Anil Kapoor’s next film.
“No, No, I cannot tell you the story of the film,” Boney said pompously. But he still wanted to let me know that Anil had a cracker of a story in hand. “It is the story of a US-returned son, who has to take over his father’s role in the village, where there are lot of caste-related and land issues.”
“Oh, you are remaking `Thevar Magan’,” I exclaimed and Boney’s face fell. He should have realised he shouldn’t be bragging as if it was an original script, to a south Indian, sitting in a south Indian city.
`3 Idiots’ ran into trouble with author Chetan Bhagat who wanted to be given full credit for the story but atleast when Aamir remade `Ghajini‘, he did not hide that it was a remake of a successful Tamil film. When reporters in Delhi complimented him on his look in the film, Aamir graciously acknowledged that he had merely copied what Suriya had done in Tamil.
Wish there would be more honesty not just in the kind of films we make, but also in how we publicise them.