Updated: Mar 16
Remakes are always tricky. They are tricky irrespective of the success or failure of the original. It is all the more challenging when it comes to remaking films the original of which is not in the same as the remake. If the original becomes a success, (the main reason why the remake is attempted in other languages) there is a lot more pressure on the director helming the remake. In the case of Arjun Reddy, it was fairly less challenging, or at least I think, to direct the remake as Sandeep Reddy Vanga made it in Telugu and Hindi. Even in the Tamil remake, Giresayya, who was one of the AD's of Vanga, stuck to the original beats. Sans the odd tweaks to make the film a more "Tamil" film, the screenplay wasn't that very different.
But in the case of different directors remaking the original, take Munna Bhai M.B.B.S. into Vasool Raja M.B.B.S. or A Wednesday into Unnai Pol Oruvan, there is a risk involved. For instance, in the remake of A Wednesday, the emotional element was just a tad bit absent (which Kamal Hassan more than made up for the sharp dialogues and his brilliant performance). This is one of the many challenges that I spoke about earlier, the emotional context, the cultural milieu and the time period are all crucial factors that need to be taken into mind. At the same time, the integrity of the script also shouldn't be compromised. At the same time, there have been remakes where the director has his own share of fun without sacrificing the must-haves of the original. Now, that is something, don't you think?
After Andhadhun, when I heard that Nithiin was starring in its Telugu remake titled Maestro, I was... intrigued. Simply because after watching him in Bheeshma, I just couldn't see him play the blind pianist that Ayushmann Khurrana played so nonchalantly. It's largely because of my lack of knowledge about the films that he has acted on so far and also the lasting impact Ayushmann's performance had left on me. Nevertheless, while watching the film, I found that the director, Merlepaka Gandhi (of Venkatadri Express fame) had stuck to the original faithfully (almost like that front bench student in a classroom) and yet tried to add his own originality into it. The touches of the railway station scene or the comedy scene while introducing the character of Arun (Nithiin) were good. Since that didn't really change the course of the movie, the touches only felt like safe bets. The acting, however, was more than average. Nithiin fit the role rather easily. I was surprised at Tamannah's casting but she did pretty well despite the awkward Telugu accent. The rest of the cast played their part like they were meant to without much individuality infused into the respective characters.
I was appalled at the criminal underutilization of Jisshu Sengupta. He is an actor of such great calibre whose writing is too flat. His character had the maximum potential for the ironic comedy in the film, yet his character is too unidimensional. The music had a lot of violins in it than Piano which, I think, kind of diluted the impact of Andhadhun. The biggest jarring aspect was the way every single character spoke in Telugu... in Goa! So much so that even the random blind stranger that Arun meets is also a Telugu speaking person. There is no justification or reasoning behind how so many people speak Telugu - even the police station? Despite the safe bet touches, the film falls flat because it is a remake that remains too faithful and fails to have fun.
Bhramam, on the other hand, is the complete opposite of Maestro. Right from the milieu to the casting, it gets a lot of things right. What's more, the film has a lot of fun with the screenplay as well! The film is set in Kerala, where people speaking in Malayalam is a lot more believable than in some exotic locations like Goa. The casting is spot on with each of the actors playing their part really well. I would like to especially laud the way Mamta Mohandas brought her own sense of uniqueness to the character of Tabu. Prithviraj on the other hand as "the only handsome blind musician" Ray Mathews is phenomenal. With the film being shot and directed by Ravi K. Chandran I was curious to find out how the master cinematographer would bring his uniqueness to the screen beyond the framing and lighting. Right from the introduction shot to the combination scenes of Prithviraj and Mamta, every scene is a beauty and tells a story. Prithviraj has cracked the right balance of humour and innocence in his portrayal. He is pitch-perfect. The dialogues, even if you just read the subtitles are so damn funny! There is a scene where Swapna ( a phenomenal Ananya) talks about the use of the protein from eggs which would make you ROFL. The film has a lot of fun with the story while tweaking it to suit the Malayali sensibilities.
There are a lot of nostalgic meta touches to the film which may be lost on the language handicapped viewers like me. But that doesn't really affect the flow of the film. I liked the way Ravi changed some of the aspects of the climax chase. Even the rabbit becomes a wild boar here. But again, the music has more violin than the piano that was there in the original. I believe that both the Telugu and the Malayalam music directors (Mahati Swara Sagar and Jakes Bejoy) could've spent a little more time on bringing in more piano. Other than the theme music there isn't much piano in both the remakes. But I think it is also due to the unbelievably fantastic score and songs by Amit Trivedi. My favourites are Theme 01 and Theme 02 from Andhadhun which are out of the world. That could probably be the reason why in Telugu and Malayalam they decided to not touch the piano.
For me, while watching both the remakes, the shadows of Ayushmann and Tabu loomed large on the films. Despite their impressive performances in the Telugu and Tamil remakes, I felt like a guy hung up over his ex.