Films should be adapted, not remade: U Turn director Pawan Kumar

Imagine remaking your film in two languages you don’t know. Well, Pawan Kumar did. He isn’t one to shy away from risks when exploring storytelling. An engineering graduate, he quit college to do theatre. He acted, wrote plays and created a successful brand for himself. And eight years later, he decided to quit theatre to pursue films. After three hits in Kannada, (including the much-acclaimed Lucia), he has now ventured into Tamil and Telugu with the remakes of his own U Turn. The Samantha-starrer has been basking in positive reviews, one of the very few cases where the remake is turning an equal number of heads as its predecessor.

The new U Turn can be thought of as a more streamlined film than its Kannada version, and Pawan agrees. “When you work on a script again, you just get these new ideas that make the film more interesting. Maybe, a year from now, if I think about this script again, I would be able to make more ‘updates’,” he says. He further adds that the universal nature of the subject meant that not much had to be tweaked in terms of content. “While we retained the central theme, the way the characters arrive at the conclusion is different. We made the characters more inter-dependent; that was the major change.”

In its revisioned avatar, U Turn is set on a larger canvas and looks grander. Question Pawan if it was a conscious choice based on the industry he was taking the film into, and he replies that it was more a matter of available resources. “The other locations, except Samantha’s house, look better because we had a bigger budget this time. We chose a duplex for Samantha’s house as it helped us establish the sense of fear better. We could explore more visual perspectives and manifest fear better. We were also using bigger cameras than what we did in Kannada.”

Despite the success of U Turn, Pawan admits that he isn’t keen on remaking any of his other films again. “Revisiting the same script creatively drains me. The mind constantly compares with what you have done before. I didn’t realise it while shooting but I was constantly asking myself whether this has come out better than what I had done before. That isn’t a great process. While it was good that the film turned out to be better with more emotional points, I would rather try and achieve this in my first attempt.”

There are several films that are remade across industries but few manage to be success stories. Pawan’s own Lucia couldn’t replicate the success when remade in Tamil (though by a different director). “I see several box office hits getting remade where the makers don’t realise why it worked in the first place. If they just try to copy the same things, it won’t work,” he says. “One has to take the story and rework it, keeping the theme intact, but still make necessary changes to make it work for the new region. When that is done, it becomes an adaptation of a thought. I think the word remake shouldn’t be used. We should call them adaptations.”

Pawan also discloses that he agreed to make U Turn in Tamil and Telugu as Samantha was more keen on the story than on box office success. “We had decided to do U Turn with Samantha in Tamil and Telugu even before the Kannada version released,” he says.

Quitting college for theatre and later, theatre for films, Pawan’s journey has been filled with unconventional choices. He says that self-doubt is necessary as long as it’s a motivating factor. “Even though U Turn in Kannada was a hit, Samantha and I would, even on the last day, have doubts on whether we had done the right film. There is a transition when making bilinguals. So there is doubt if I would be able to bridge the language gap; whether my stories would be able to reach out to audiences in all the three states.”

He might not be keen on remaking his films, but Pawan is evidently enamoured by bilinguals. “My stories, like U Turn, don’t have a huge commercial appeal on their own. So when I need a good budget for what I have written, I need larger markets to justify that investment.”

This was originally written for The New Indian Express. You can find it here.

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