When a film is remade, the new writer tweaks it to situate the film in a milieu familiar to the new audience. Krishna Marimuthu’s Dharala Prabhu, the Tamil remake of Vicky Donor, has a few such cosmetic changes. The Punjabi and Bengali families are replaced by Tamil and Kannadiga ones. A good-for-nothing Vicky (Ayushmann Khurrana) is replaced by Prabhu (Harish Kalyan), a footballer. The heroine, Ashima (Yami Gautam), is a banker in the original, while Nidhi (Tanya Hope) here works for a retail chain. These superficial changes don’t modify the film’s overall narrative or modulate its emotional beats. But, Krishna Marimuthu (the director and co-writer) doesn’t stop with these.
If Vicky Donor began with a quote from the WHO about sperm donation, Dharala Prabhu ends with a quote by the director about opening our hearts to science and change. Dharala Prabhu aims to be an emotionally deeper Vicky Donor. The original film used sperm donation as a pretext to talk about marriage and what happens after. In the remake, the sperm donor angle is even more muted. The film is about marriage, child adoption, and what happens after. The following five tweaks in the writing shift the spotlight from sperm donation to its meaning in people’s lives.
Prabhu doesn’t become a donor for money
Prabhu is waiting for a job in the sports quota. He doesn’t seem to have any money problems. When Dr. Kannadasan (an in-form Vivekh) approaches him to be a donor, he couldn’t care less. Vicky takes the money and spends it on himself and his family. But, Prabhu refuses gifts from grateful couples. His desire to donate sperm is tied not to money, but to attachment to his football coach.
He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named or ‘sperm’
The S word is mentioned very few times in the film. With Vicky Donor, I would be rich if I had a buck for every time someone said ‘sperm’ in the film. With Dharala Prabhu, I would barely be able to buy myself a cup of tea. Early on, Dr. Kannadasan substitutes the word ‘sperm’ with the word ‘uyir’. The meaning of the word has taken on a new…life. In a film that shows — without judgement — a same-sex couple visiting Dr. Kannadasan’s clinic, this cannot easily be chalked down to prudishness. It’s consistent with the film’s attitude of taking a more ‘spiritual’ view of sperm donation.
Prabhu and Nidhi as foster parents
At the end of Vicky Donor, Ashima and Vicky decide to adopt a child. Krishna introduces the episode earlier in the film and extends it, with a twist. The conflict in Dharala Prabhu is not just about Prabhu and Nidhi. It is also their conflict about what to do with the child. The way their families resist and then embrace the newly adopted child is well-written, and the minor emotional arcs are satisfying. Dr. Kannadasan mentions that ancient sages helped couples get babies by just uttering ‘so be it’. We subliminally think Prabhu must have been doing the same. While Vicky Donor itself did not take a risqué angle to sperm donation, Dharala Prabhu takes it a bit further by focussing on the emotional reaction of family members to the adopted child.
Destiny gets a cameo
Destiny gets name-dropped a few times in Vicky Donor. In Dharala Prabhu, it gets its own scene. When Prabhu is confused about his adopted child, Dr. Kannadasan tells him that he is a deeply spiritual person who believes in destiny. And we are shown a visual of him finding the child in an orphanage, thinking she would be perfect for Prabhu to adopt. When Prabhu loses his child in a beach, we are shown a similar visual of him feeling glad for having found her, this time with the same sense of destiny that Dr. Kannadasan felt.
It’s about the child’s security, not Nidhi’s insecurity
Vicky had hidden the fact that he was a sperm donor, and Ashima was insecure because she couldn’t bear children. That was the conflict in the original. In Dharala Prabhu, the conflict stems just from the fact that Nidhi did not know that Prabhu was a sperm donor. She has already become attached to her adopted child, and this complicated things. Given this, the scene where she sees families that are happy — thanks to Prabhu’s help — is even more convincing than in the original.