Indian Cinema has dealt with a wide range of topics including all kinds of social and political issues. Bollywood, Kollywood, Mollywood and Tollywood have had their fair share of movies speaking about issues like sexual abuse, rape, harassment, child abuse, domestic abuse, etc. Sexual abuse is a topic that has been dealt with by Indian filmmakers for a very long time. Out of all the movies that speak about this issue, one movie that stood out with its very famous phrase “NO! Means NO!” is ‘Pink’ that was released in 2016.
The Amitabh Bachchan and Taapsee Pannu movie directed by Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury was jointly written by Shoojit Sircar, Ritesh Shah and the director himself. At the time of its release, Sexual Harassment and abuse were topics that required a lot of awareness in society. The way the story was written, with the first blame falling on the women for not being cautious, carried the story forward and spelled success for the movie on the whole. A lot of young girls were inspired after the movie was released, and the importance of ‘CONSENT’ was clearly conveyed through the movie.
Due to its success in Bollywood, moviemakers decided to remake it in other languages. In Tamil, H Vinoth who is also directing Valimai for Ajith, took the story of Pink and remade it as ‘Nerkonda Paarvai’ with slight tweaks in the story to suit the Tamil Audience. This movie was released in 2019, and was produced by Boney Kapoor who wanted to produce a movie for Ajith after Sridevi and Ajith became acquaintances in the English Vinglish movie. The movie starring Shraddha Shrinath, Arjun Chidambaram and Vidya Balan, became quite a hit in the Tamil film industry as well.
After a success in two languages, a Telugu film maker thought about making the movie more relatable and understandable for the Telugu audience, considering the importance given to the topic discussed in the movie. Starring Pawan Kalyan, ‘Vakeel Saab’ released in 2021 and the storyline though changed a little was mainly based on Pink and Nerkonda Paarvai. The movie was written and directed by Venu Sriram and stars Nivetha Thomas, Anjali and Shruthi Hassan in lead roles.
Although they carry the same story and message, the movies were remade with slight changes and was cast with leading actors to favour the taste and preferences of different audiences. When compared to Nerkonda Paarvai and Pink, Vakeel Saab saw more numbers in terms of Box Office. Although Pink was made for a wider Hindi-audience and starred Amitabh Bachchan, Nerkonda Paarvai and Vakeel Saab had a better reach with their respective audiences. However, none of the movies became a blockbuster hit, probably because the topic dealt with is one with limited appeal.
Generally, the Telugu audience love their movies with a great amount of Heroism and violence. It is not a rare sight to see car doors flying when the Protagonist of a Telugu movie is fighting the Gundas of the villain. Therefore, although the underlying idea of the movie Pink was carried forward into Vakeel Saab, the movie had a lot of dramatic effects which were considered unnecessary by other audiences. Of course, the movie has still fared the best at Box Office out of the three. But in terms of critical reception, the movie has been criticised for its steady show of patriarchy.
Yes, patriarchy! You read it right. This original movie is majorly based on how in a rape case victim-blaming is way more prevalent than punishing or investigating the accused. But, the Telugu version of the movie has majorly shown Pawan Kalyan as the Hero who is the only one capable of saving the day. In Pink and its Tamil counterpart, both the characters of Amitabh and Ajith are supporting roles, where they stand along with the girls to speak their truth, in a society that does not listen to a woman.
However, in Vakeel Saab, Pawan Kalyan’s role is shown more as the Knight in Shining Armour who has come to save not 1 but 3 Damsels in distress. Apart from the fact that he helps the girls in spite of giving up his profession because of the loss of his wife, we also see that Pawan Kalyan was a physics scholar who enters the field of Law only because a poor farmer dies by suicide after his land is taken over by the government for development. So, more than the storyline relating to the struggles of rape and abuse victims, the Telugu version concentrated a lot on showcasing Pawan Kalyan as the ultimate Hero.
The exaggerations in terms of violence in the Telugu version were also criticised. While, both the Hindi and Tamil version show their respective Lawyers as angry and aggressive ones, Vakeel Saab shows that it is okay for Pawan’s character to thrash people in a metro station, a park or even a bathroom. The infamous scene where he screams ‘Objection!’ pushing the table and chair away in the courtroom felt very unrealistic to most of the audience.
The flashback story is a little different in all three movies. While the scene is not given much importance in the Hindi version, the Tamil and Telugu versions base their Lawyer characters’ lives completely on their flashback and the love that they had for their wives. In Pink, Amitabh Bachchan is shown as a Bipolar. In Nerkonda Paarvai Ajith goes into depression after losing his wife and quits his profession because of his mental instability. The Telegu movie goes one step forward and shows Pawan as an alcoholic, which he becomes after he loses his wife. The cameo-appearance of both Vidya Balan and Shruti Haasan in their respective movies made a huge difference. This sentiment was slightly missed in the original movie, but it did not make a big difference for the Hindi-audience.
In terms of commercialisation and masala, Pink was the only movie that was very realistic and had no other added elements that compromises on the seriousness of the story. However, the commercial elements in the Tamil and Telugu remake have found out to be much required for their respective audiences.
When compared to Pink, both Nerkonda Paarvai and Vakeel Saab had a better BGM track that made the movie even more serious and anticipatory. Out of the three, Yuvan Shankar Raja has done the most justice to music in Nerkonda Paarvai followed by S S Thaman in Vakeel Saab.
One common problem found in all three movies, is the need for a male-figure to come and save the day. This aspect was questioned when Pink was released initially, and continues to be questioned after the release of the two remakes as well. A lot of critics felt that a women-centric movie could have dealt with the women standing up for themselves, rather than waiting for a man to do so. Some felt that the movie could have been without the main Hero character at all and instead with just some female leads. However, in reality, Indian Cinema does not work very well with ideas as such and therefore Amitabh, Ajith and Pawan were required to make the movie a whole.
On the whole, all three directors have proven that there is no one way to tell a story. In their own way, they have done justice to the movies that they have written and directed. They have proven this by showing the success they have received with their respective audiences. The lead actors, irrespective of whether it is Amitabh Bachchan, Ajith or Pawan Kalyan or Taapsee, Shraddha or Nivetha, have done justice to their respective roles and have surely helped in ensuring that the movie becomes a hit in their respective languages. The effort to remake the movie is not only about making hits and profits but also about spreading the message of ‘Consent’ which all three movies have done beautifully.