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10 Bollywood Movies Inspired/Remade from South East Asian Cinema

With the impending release of ‘Ek Villian’ and it’s more than certain similarities with South Korean thriller, ‘I Saw the Devil’ (2010), we take a look back and see all the times when Bollywood has been either “inspired” from or remade South East Asian cinema.

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Kaante (2002) & City on Fire (1987)

The Plot: A bunch of criminals plan to rob a bank, but one of them is an undercover cop.

Place of Origin: Hong Kong

Remake Legitimacy: Unofficial

My two Cents: Sanjay Gupta has been pretty candid about being “inspired” from Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Reservoir Dogs’ but he has also often quoted being influenced by the Hong Kong thriller ‘City on Fire’ (which was the source of Tarantino’s movie’s inspiration). And he does indeed pick up more than his share of scene from the Chow Yun Fat classic.

Kaante Trailer

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City on Fire - Trailer

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Murder 2 (2011) & The Chaser (2008)

Place of Origin: South Korea

The Plot: A former cop now must track down an unnaturally shrewd and calm serial killer who’s been bumping off prostitutes.

Remake Legitimacy: Unofficial

My Two Cents: The Indian remake had a terrific performance from Prashant Narayanan as the serial killer and they even made him a cross dresser which added an unneeded characteristic to the role. Since it was made by the Bhatts, the movie was more of an erotic thriller than a straight forward one like the original movie.

Murder 2

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The Chaser

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Naina (2005) & The Eye (2002)

Place of Origin: Hong Kong

The Plot: A girl who’s been blind since a young age receives cornea transplants and hopes to lead a normal life. However post the surgery, she starts seeing ghosts and having visions of impending tragedies.

Remake Legitimacy: Unofficial

My Two Cents: The Pang brothers original was an effective but not great horror movie and though Naina doesn’t quite measure up to the original, it’s still one of the better Indian horror films. Though they had to add a solar eclipse in the plot, didn’t they, thought it would resonate with Indian audiences.

Naina - Trailer

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The Eye - Trailer

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Ugly aur Pagli (2008) & My Sassy Girl (2001)

Place of Origin: South Korea

The Plot: Desperate loner starts dating a hot girl, who is way too crazy for him to handle, turning his life upside down.

Remake Legitimacy: Unofficial

My Two Cents: Never much understood the love for the South Korean original and absolutely despised the Indian remake. Other than adding the usual Indian kitsch of songs and melodrama, the movie’s plot remains quite faithful to the original.

Ugly aur Pagli - Trailer

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My Sassy Girl - Trailer

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Aatish (1994) & A Better Tomorrow (1986)

Place of Origin: Hong Kong

The Plot: A reforming ex-gangster tries to reconcile with his estranged policeman brother, but the ties to his former gang are difficult to break.

Remake Legitimacy: Unofficial

My Two Cents: Serial remake hack, Sanjay Gupta, started off by adapting John Woo’s ultra-stylish Hong Kong action flick. The plot minus the romantic tangent is pretty much the same while many of the other scenes are picked up shot for shot. To add to the mix, Gupta also adds scenes from Scarface, Lethal Weapon 3 and much of the background score from The Terminator 2.

Scene from Aatish

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A Better Tomorrow - Trailer

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Aamir (2008) & Cavite (2005)

Place of Origin: Philippines

The Plot: A person arriving from abroad is handed a cell phone as soon he steps out of the airport. He’s informed that unless he participates in an act of terrorism, his entire family will be killed.

Remake Legitimacy: Unofficial; the makers of Cavite sued UTV and got paid about Rs. 75 Lacs.

My Two Cents: I thought both movies were pretty evenly matched, featured great turns by the main protagonists, maintained a high level of tension throughout and were tightly paced. Though Aamir does at times pander to many clichés associated with Muslims in India.

Aamir - Trailer

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Cavite - Trailer

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Zinda (2006) & Oldboy (2003)

Place of Origin: South Korea

The Plot: A man is locked up in a hotel room for many years, without ever being told why or by whom and then one day suddenly released. Now in less than a week he has to find out the why and whom to reclaim his former life.

Remake Legitimacy: Unofficial

My Two Cents: Sanjay Gupta ran amok yet again with a South East Asian classic, resulting in stylish yet highly watered down remake. In the original, the man is locked up for 15 years and has five days to find his captor upon release, in the Indian remake, he’s locked up for 14 years and has four days to find his captors. These are the minor changes made in the remake which otherwise borrows liberally scenes, shot-to-shot recreations of the original. Of course being India, they had to side-step the incest angle and shoe-horned in a flesh trade element.

Zinda - Trailer

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Oldboy - Trailer

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Citylights (2014) & Metro Manila (2013)

Place of Origin: Philippines

The Plot: Seeking a brighter future, a villager and his family flee their poor life and head to the bustling lights of the metropolis. But the city's bustling intensity quickly crushes their hopes and dreams, and they fall prey to the manipulations of its shrewd locals. The villager catches a lucky break when he's offered steady work for an armored truck company. Soon, though, the reality of his new life forces him to confront the perils he has put before in his family.

Remake Legitimacy: Official

My Two Cents: Though both movies have almost identical plots and very strong actors in the central roles, Metro Manila is a way grittier and moving experience. Citylights at times gets caught up in melodrama overkill and the background score can’t keep things subtle. Even the ending of Metro Manila has a far more poetic quality to it than the emotion heavy sledgehammer style of Citylights.

Citylights - Trailer

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Metro Manila - Trailer

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Inkaar (1977) & High and Low (1963)

Place of Origin: Japan

The Plot: A police detective helps a wealthy shoe company owner search for the young son of the owner's chauffeur who’s been kidnapped by a disgruntled ex-employee and his gang for a large ransom.

Remake Legitimacy: Unofficial

My Two Cents: Inkaar is a terrific thriller, one of the best Bollywood has ever churned out but it Kurosawa’s Japanese original has not just the thriller elements but a strong socio-political commentary which gives it the obvious edge.

Inkaar - Trailer

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High and Low - Trailer

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Koshish (1972) & Happiness of Us Alone (1961)

Place of Origin: Japan

The Plot: A romantic drama spanning twenty years chronicling the life of a deaf-mute couple.

Remake Legitimacy: Unofficial

My Two Cents: Gulzar’s heart wrenching movie had its origins in this Japanese movie which he had watched during an international film festival. The major difference in plot being that in the Japanese movie, the female protagonist is widow of war, when the movie starts out. From then on much of the plot is the same, including an evil brother, the death of the first child and the helpful mother. Little can take away from Gulzar’s masterpiece but the Japanese one is just as good equally if not more.

Scenes from Koshish

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Unfortunately, I couldn't find a clip from 'Happiness of Us Alone'. So what did you think of the list? Do you know any movies I might have missed out on? Do let me know.

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