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I was disheartened, but not surprised, to see so many discount Akshay Kumar’s latest movie Rowdy Rathore because it is a remake of a South Indian masala film. As excited as I am by the new wave of more realistic, ‘Hindie’ cinema now coming out of India, let’s not forget that many of us who are into Bollywood were first attracted to it due to its entertainment value – the genre-busting storylines, the colourful songs, the ridiculous action sequences. In fact, due to the fact that Bollywood seems to be producing less and less true masala films these days, I know of many fans who have turned to South Indian movies as a source of entertainment instead, myself included.

Images (from top to bottom): Rowdy Rathore, Siruthai, Vikramarkudu

South Indian masala films are comprised, unapologetically, of some key ingredients. Here is the recipe. First, the bad guy must be very bad indeed. The hero might start with a good heart, or he may develop one over the course of the film, but either way there’s that feeling of catharsis when the hero finally defeats the very bad guy in the final moments of the film. To this add: a romantic sub-plot, colourful songs in which dance moves are actually performed by the hero and heroine, some comedy (the quality of which can range from hilarious to insufferable), gravity-defying action sequences, the kind of convoluted storytelling that a 2 hour plus run-time allows, and plot holes big enough to drive a Tata Sumo through, and you have the makings of a very entertaining time indeed. However, to all these really good masala adds one other thing – something a little unhinged, something slightly insane, something I like to call ridonkulous – because when masala is really good, it is deliriously so.

Images (from top to bottom): Rowdy Rathore, Siruthai, Vikramarkudu

Rowdy Rathore, the Hindi remake of a South Indian masala movie, has all these ingredients, as well as a couple of other things going for it. First, it is a remake of a film originally made by the Telugu director S. S. Rajamouli who produced, between 2005 and 2009, what I would consider to be four classic Telugu masala films in a row. Second, it is directed by Prabhu Deva, the Tamil actor-choreographer-turned-director, who has himself produced some classic South Indian masala movies as well as, it could be argued, kicking off the trend of Hindi remakes of South Indian movies with the Salman Khan starrer Wanted in 2009. Finally, the role of Shiva/Vikram Rathore allows Akshay to be both goofy and badass (instead of his usual only goofy) and indeed Akshay’s martial arts training was put to good use during the fight sequences, especially the one at the film’s climax.

Images (from top to bottom): Rowdy Rathore, Siruthai, Vikramarkudu

Furthermore, I think a great thing about Hindi remakes of South Indian masala films is that they provide an opportunity to correct any weaknesses that were present in the original. For example, Aamir Khan’s Ghajini avoided the original’s out-of-control ending in favour of something more streamlined. By contrast, Ajay Devgn’s Singham suffered because it changed things from the original film that did not need to be changed. I haven’t seen the original Telugu Vikramarkudu, but I have seen the Tamil remake Siruthai, and one of the things I disliked about it was the romantic subplot. The class difference between the thief (called Raja in that version) and the girl (called Swetha) was much more obvious in the Tamil version, and I found it too hard to believe that Swetha would not only fall in love with Raja, but also believe him when he tells her that he works in IT. The Hindi version solves this problem by, first of all, having Shiva admit to Paro right away about being a thief, and also by ignoring any class differences and making the character of Paro rather naughty herself, making it easier to believe she would fall for the mischievous Shiva. Rowdy Rathore also tones down the climactic fight scene (yes, that was toned down), which in Siruthai got a little… Raja Hindustani-esque, if you know what I mean.

Images (from top to bottom): Rowdy Rathore, Siruthai, Vikramarkudu

In the end, it should not come as a surprise that these types of films are popular. Rowdy Rathore is entertaining, without descending into crudeness, but with a joyful, self-aware silliness. I thought it was a great way to spend a rainy summer afternoon.

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