Four years after Kangana Ranaut played a jilted bride who went off by herself on her honeymoon in Queen, Kajal Aggarwal, Tamannah Bhatia, Manjima Mohan and Parul Yadav are set to repeat the feat in remakes in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada.
Four remakes? The story needed to be made in as many languages as possible, producer Manu Kumaran told Scroll.in. “Queen is such a powerful story,” said the founder of Mediente Films. “Marriage is treated as a destination for women across all cultures. It is a story that deserves to be told.”
The 2014 Hindi comedy was directed by Vikas Bahl and written by Bahl, Chaitally Parmar and Parveez Shaikh. Anvita Dutt Guptan wrote the dialogue, for which Ranaut has an additional credit. The film traces Rani’s emotional and psychological journey after she is deserted on the eve of her wedding. Since the honeymoon to Paris and Amsterdam has been pro-booked, Rani decides to go ahead anyway, meeting a set of characters along the way who help her regain her confidence and transform her outlook.
Ramesh Aravind will direct the Tamil and Kannada versions. Paris Paris and Butterfly respectively star Kajal Aggarwal and Parul Yadav. Neelakanta will direct the Malayalam version (Zam Zam), while Prashant Varma will handle the Telugu-language That Is Mahalakshmi. Zam Zam stars Manjima Mohan, while That Is Mahalakshmi has Tamannah Bhatia in the lead role.
Mediente Films had previously planned a multiple-language horror film in Hindi, Spanish and English. When that fell through, Kumaran decided to pick up a project that would chime with local viewers. “Everybody is talking about going vernacular in the Indian context,” the producer said. Also globally, like with Black Panther and Wonder Woman, films are not tailored for specific audiences.”
The remakes offer a chance to explore the distinctive subcultures of the four South Indian states, he added. “The North Indian view of the south is that it is a homogeneous mould, which it is not,” Kumaran said. “The south has four different cultures, and three of those cultures have very strong film histories. It became easier to attempt this prototype than to attempt this project in Spanish.”
A multi-language project allowed each remake to have more resources and a bigger canvas. “We could not have spent so much money if we had just made one of the movies,” Kumaran said. “The idea was to maximise the value and creative quality of each movie. The quality also depends on the amount of money we are able to throw at a project.” The remakes have enough depth and variation to interest both old and fresh admirers of the original film, he promised. “The important thing for me was to get a story that was interesting with a robust screenplay,” he said. “Comparisons between films are a bit subjective.”
It was also important for Kumaran to recruit the music composer of Queen, Amit Trivedi, for the remakes. Music played a significant role in Queen’s success, with the songs London Thumakda, O Gujaraiya and Hungama proving to be popular till this day. “The music is outstanding,” Kumaran observed. “The music should share the credit along with the performances and everything else. In fact, Amit feels that he did better in these films than he did for the original.”
Financing four productions centered on female leads was a challenge. “It took time because people are not enamoured by female-centric movies,” Kumaran said. “I don’t know why that is, because women form 50% of the audience. I don’t know why people assume they want to watch stories about men.”
Apart from KP Kumaran’s Aaksha Gopuram (2008) and Sudhir Mishra’s Tera Kya Hoga Johnny (2010), Mediente Films has also collaborated with international studios to produce the Hollywood titles Yellow (2012) and Storage 24 (2012). “Yellow is an A-list Hollywood project, but because the movie needed a scale which could not be justified by the traditional ways in which financing looks at movies, it was floating around,” Kumaran said. “For me it has always been about the opportunity to collaborate with a maker.”
Mediente Films’ last Indian venture was Kamal Swaroop’s Battle of Banaras (also known as Dance For Democracy), which was denied certification by the Central Board of Film Certification in 2015 for allegedly causing “communal disharmony”. Kumaran took the matter to court, and the censor board’s decision was quashed by the Delhi High Court earlier this year.
The 2014 documentary chronicles the run-up to the election for the Varanasi parliamentary constituency in 2014 between Narendra Modi, Arvind Kejriwal and Congress candidate Ajay Rai. It was important to fight the battle in court, Kumaran said.
“We strongly believed that it was our right to make the movie,” he said. “We fought it in the court it and we won, but it took us three-and-a-half years, and we ended up losing money all around. With these films [the remakes], we are going towards the phase of looking at slightly safer films.”