The Hindi Bodyguard made 100 crores in 10 days at the box office; the biggest ever 10 day gross in the history of Indian cinema. And, it did not come from an experienced hit made from the Hindi film industry. It came from a humble Hindi debutante, who till then was mostly known to make consistently good films, mostly of the small and unassuming kind, mostly in Malayalam, sometimes in Tamil.
Some say that the success of Bodyguard is all because of the current Salman Khan wave, as he delivers huge hit, one after the other, much to the
amazement of the industry. But, we definitely do know that a star alone cannot make a movie a Rs.100 crore success. There was something about the making and the concept that attracted the hearts of audiences all over the globe.
That is the point of wonder here. There are very few stories that transcend populations, languages, tastes and cultures, to be liked by everyone. Bodyguard seems to be one of them. First made in Malayalam as Bodyguard itself, then in Tamil as Kaavalan and now again in Hindi as Bodyguard! We hear that Telugu and Kannada versions are in the pipeline, but not helmed by Siddhique, the original director, anymore.
The biggest surprise factor here is that the scale of the films success, even after accounting for the difference in the sizes of the industries, has only magnified every time the story has been remade. The Malayalam Bodyguard was considered an above average grosser, a moderate hit at best, a film that took more than a year to complete (an inordinate delay by Malayalam standards) and one that was beset by problems. Kaavalan was declared a hit, but not a big one. It was spoken about more because it ended a long line of poor results for Vijay.
At that point, one thought that the last about this story had been heard. But, then came news that Salman Khan was interested in the story and had called Siddhique to make it in Hindi. And, today, it is the biggest hit in the history of Indian cinema. Yes, amazing for a very simple and touching love story. Perhaps, it goes to show that the simplicity of stories is still something that the audiences love. Though we may occasionally get an Endhiran or Ghajini or Dabangg which rely on technology, action and star charisma (not essentially in that order) to wow the audience, we also get films like Bodyguard and 3 Idiots, which use nothing but normal human emotions.
Getting back to the crux of the matter; the dearth of stories that can cut across cultural borders. There are many examples of films that have been successful in two languages, Telugu and Tamil for example. It always seems safe to take a Telugu hit and bring it to Tamil, it has not usually failed. The Malayalam-Tamil remake has also had its fair share of success. But, it is very rare that the same story finds widespread acceptance in more than two languages. And, even rarer that those films replicated, or even bettered their success with each remake.
Munnabhai MBBS, the first and original was the biggest success amongst all its offshoots; Tamil followed at some distance while the Telugu remake managed to hold fort solely because of Chiranjeevi’s mass pull, whereas the Kannada version couldn’t do much. The success of Devar Magan, and Kireedam (Malayalam) could never be repeated in other languages, in spite of earnest remakes by experienced film makers. Even a hugely exciting concept like Mudhalvan fell flat in Hindi despite Shankar handling the remake himself. Many more such examples abound.
But, look at Bodyguard. It has courted success at all places. What are the other movies that have managed to do that? Remember, Pokkiri, the Vijay superhit, which was remade from the Telugu blockbuster of the same name and how it then went to Hindi as Wanted with Salman Khan. Come to think of it, Salman does seem to have the knack of picking up universally appealing stories. That is why he perhaps did Bodyguard and before that Ready which again was a Telugu superhit to start with (under the same name) and was then remade in Tamil as Uthamaputhiran which met with a fair degree of success.
Speaking of such successes, we can never forget Billa, the one story that not only transcended languages, but also eras. Starting with the original Don in Hindi in the late 70s, to the unforgettable Superstar avatar, the SRK-Ajith remakes and now their upcoming sequels- the character never seems to die. Or there is the Chandramukhi story which began its journey in Malayalam in 1993 as Manichithrathazhu, went to Kannada as Apthamithra, came to Tamil and then went to Hindi as Bhool Bhulaiya, superhits at all places, cult hits at some.
Really, no one knows the secret behind why a story is liked or not. We cannot explain why a wonderful account of friendship like Naadodigal could never hit it off with the Telugu audience or why the cult hit Udhayananu Tharam (Malayalam) could not leave a mark in Tamil (Vellithirai) or Hindi (Short Kut). We might never understand! But, let us hope for more stories that are liked by all.