“Aap kaise hain?”, asks Bion, our snorkelling instructor/speed boat operator almost three hours after we first meet. The untimely question is a result of me explaining that I write about movies for a living. Its Bion showing off his Hindi, a language he picked after falling desperately in love with Bollywood. “I love Sharug Khan, but my favourite is Sanjay Dutt…he is best don,” he adds, a result of having watched either the Munnabhai series or Vaastav, I’m guessing.
He says he doesn’t watch too many Maldivian movies, a brand of melodramatic cinema that borrows heavily from Bollywood, but he sends me the YouTube link to Hiyy Halaaku, one of his favourites. He says it’s inspired from a Bollywood film but can’t remember which one and its one of around ten films that release each year in the country. As Bion’s friend points out, these films are no longer available on DVD. “If you give them a hard disk, they’ll copy every Maldivian film for you but they’re not currently playing in the theatre because we’re nearing Ramadan,” he says.
He goes on to add that if Male’s Olympus Cinema shuts down or closes for renovation, Maldivian cinema itself will come to a standstill given how it’s the only releasing centre. A couple of hours later and thanks to free wi-fi, I sat down to watch Hiyy Halaaku, my first Dhivehi film, mainly to find out which film its inspired from. 60 seconds, that’s all it takes…the background score over the opening credits is enough to make out that we’re watching a fiercely loyal “adaptation” of the Karan Johar film.
It’s an effort that almost instantly reminded me of the work of two teenage boys who made a near identical copy of the Raiders Of The Lost Ark, who worked on it for seven years to complete their tribute. Similarly, Hiyy Halaaku is a work of deep devotion, the work of someone who painstakingly recreated an entire film with the budget of what must have been the cost of Shah Rukh Khan’s Polo Sport jackets in the original.
How loyal is this remake? And most importantly, how do you set the ‘Tussi Na Jao’ Sardar kid into a Maldivian context? I just had to find out.
First things first, SRK’s Rahul Khanna becomes Shahil and Anjali Sharma becomes Fazlee Shareef. They’re both into basketball and notice their hairstyles? I have a theory that Salman’s look in Tere Naam is Bollywood’s tribute to Maldivian cinema.
And notice the film’s iconic handshake?
And what about the basketball scene? They even get the t-shirts right. The chain too but I don’t think it says ‘C-O-O-L’.
The songs identical too. Even the lyrics rhyme! ‘Purani’ even managed to become ‘Qurani’. The Dhivehi version of ‘Koi Mil Gaya’ is even better.
And of course they wear friendship bands.
Tina, the character played by Rani Mukherjee in the original, looks very different.
And the Salman equivalent? Here’s a screenshot from ‘Saajanji Ghar Aaye’.
The shooting star scene. The shooting star they’ve used is the same though.
What about Miss Braganza? She even gets a pair of similar pearl necklace.
The other Anjali too is genius-level casting.
See the way her hair is braided, the way she speaks to the camera and of course the ‘Ma’ scene. Even the clock behind her as she speaks on stage has ‘love’ written all over it.
The film too is immensely watchable not just because we understand it, but just to see the lengths that have gone in to making this film. Not only did the film go on to become a hit but it also spawned similar remakes of films such as Dhadkan and Raaz. After years of ripping off films from other industries, doesn’t it feel great to watch a film that’s taken a bit from ours? And what about the Sardar boy? You just have to watch the film to find out.