Always be reviving

What’s better than a brand-new film in the cinemas? A certified classic.

We find ourselves revisiting popular classics a lot more than before. And the reason isn’t just a birthday or a death centenary or a milestone or a current event that resonated with an older title. Rather, movies that had their theatrical run years or even decades ago and are now available on streaming platforms or YouTube are coming back to cinemas. This can only be a very good thing.

Amitabh Bachchan’s 80th birthday in 2022 was marked by sell-out shows of best-loved films from his heyday in the 1970s and 1980s. These screenings were organised by Film Heritage Foundation, which is doing a stellar job of reviving interest in our cinematic heritage. 

The birth centenaries of Dilip Kumar in 2022 and Dev Anand in 2023 led to a re-discovery of their classics. At a one-off show organised by Film Heritage Foundation of Don, one of Bachchan’s coolest films, his co-star Zeenat Aman was the star attraction.

As you read this, a bunch of films directed and produced by Vidhu Vinod Chopra – whose new movie, 12th Fail, is out on October 27 – is running in the cinemas for a few days.

Most of these re-releases have been remastered or restored from their original versions. The upgrade in sound and picture quality is as alluring as the nostalgic thrill of watching a much-loved film that hasn’t aged in other respects. 

The South has an established practice of re-releasing films. “This has been happening in Tamil cinema for a very long time,” G Dhananjeyan, the Chennai-based producer and analyst, told Scroll. The re-releases have been successful too.” For instance, Karnan, the 1964 historical starring Sivaji Ganesan, was more successful when it was re-released than during its original run, Dhananjeyan pointed out.

The films of MG Ramachandran, the Tamil movie star who later became Tamil Nadu’s Chief Minister, never fail to draw in audiences when they return to the cinemas, Dhananjeyan added. Some of the classic titles are released multiple times, to mark a milestone or fill in the space between the regular releases.

Films starring Kamal Haasan are crowd magnets too. His Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu (2006) collected between Rs 75 lakh and a crore when it re-emerged in cinemas in 2023, Dhananjeyan said. Pushpak, the dialogue-free movie starring Haasan and Amala, is set to be re-released too.

“Films that have become iconic continue to be attractive for fans,” Dhananjeyan pointed out. “You can release a film like Sholay any number of times. Every film isn’t available on a streaming platform. You just have to figure out who has the distribution rights and keep the ticket prices low.”

Given the number of films that target cinemas week on week, only to fail, it might be worth experimenting with reserving a slot for an older title. Let contemporary audiences watch reputed films like Mughal-e-Azam, Guide, Deewar, Sholay and Mother India in the cinemas, where they belong. While we are at it, bring out the heritage gems from other language cinemas too. The box office will be limited, but popcorn and samosas will get sold. 

What we wrote about this week

The ace choreographer PL Raj was responsible for the dances that animate many of the Hindi cinema’s most iconic songs. You can read about his back story here.

Flashback: PL Raj, the ace choreographer who helped the stars to find their feet
PL Raj (extreme right) | Courtesy The Lewis family

The Vidhu Vinod Chopra festival is the perfect opportunity to revisit arguably his best film, the murder mystery Khamosh. Whodunit? You will be hard-pressed to guess.

The deeply disturbing Burari mass suicide from 2018 refuse to leave our midst. No prizes for guessing why.

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