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The interesting case of Rajiv Kapoor's directorial debut PREM GRANTH (1996) and its link with earlier films - By Bobby Sing

29 Oct, 2019 | ALL ABOUT INSPIRED MOVIES / Inspired Movies (Alphabetical) / P

A few days back, in a discussion over films going over-budget, a young excited producer expressed his shock and disbelief knowing how films used to cross their assigned budget in the past unnecessarily. Incidentally, the one example I thought of giving from the 90s happened to be of PREM GRANTH, because of a recently posted video of its on-shoot report on Youtube.
For friends who might not be aware of the film, PREM GRANTH is the directorial debut and the only film directed by Rajiv Kapoor under the banner of R.K Films, who reportedly thought of this title hearing a verse in a song from Subhash Ghai’s HERO as “Par Prem Granth Ke Paano Par Apni Taqdeer To Zero Hai”. 
Initially started in the mid-80s with a different cast (including Sanjay Dutt), the film revolving around a rape victim got later revived with Rishi Kapoor and Madhuri Dixit in the lead roles along with Anupam Kher, Prem Chopra, Shammi Kapoor, Om Puri and more. Besides, it’s also the last film from the RK Films banner in which Laxmikant Pyarelal gave the music and Lata Mangeshkar sang a song keeping the tradition alive of a Lata song in every RK film.
Coming back to the main subject of films going over budget unnecessarily, would first like to give a gist of the film’s subject that was loosely adapted from Thomas Hardy’s nineteenth century novel TESS OF THE D’URBERVILLES. Rajiv Kapoor admitted the inspiration in his interview published in G-star magazine and stated that the entire story was completely indianized with references of caste differences, untouchability and exploitation by the pandits or the affluents. 
So PREM GRANTH was a film entirely focusing on Indian rural regions - its people and the clashes between rich and the poor with a backdrop of villages, farms, temples, powerful priests, the traditional rituals, festivals and more.
And yet (you might find it hard to believe) that one of its main song was shot in the picturesque locations of not India but South Africa.
In other words, even when the story or the subject had nothing to with foreign locations, the director, artists and key technicians all travelled to South Africa (in the mid-90s) and shot a song there with both Rishi Kapoor and Madhuri Dixit wearing typical Indian ethnic wears in some open fields. To be honest, they went to South Africa and found some locations that actually shouldn’t look like a foreign land with all greenery around and shot the song there making it appear to be shot in India only.

I hope you get the irony as this was not the only film doing it in that era. As a matter of fact you will find numerous examples of this in Hindi cinema of those times with songs shot abroad, mismatching with their otherwise completely Indian themes and backdrops adding to the budget.
PREM GRANTH is specifically being mentioned here as thankfully an on-location video of both the shoot and short interviews of the lead couple and the director can easily be found on youtube searching with ‘Prem Granth Shooting’ phrase. And you can literally feel the irony witnessing them shoot in the fields.
Watching this video and seeing the film at a glance, the young producer was really stunned to see the mismatch and kept wondering how on earth they thought of doing it. Looking it at his amazement I told him to better forget, and don’t even dare to study how most of the mainstream Hindi films were being made in the mid-80s.
Switching over to the inspirational chain related to Thomas Hardy’s novel TESS OF THE D’URBERVILLES. Post some reported adaptations in the silent films era in the west, the novel was again adapted by the renowned director Roman Polanski for his film TESS in 1979. 
But interestingly even before that, the novel had already been adapted in Hindi cinema in 1967 by writer-director Dharam Dev Kashyap for his film DULHAN EK RAAT KI featuring Dharmendra, Nutan, Rehman and Johny Walker in key roles. 
Decades later it was again adapted in 2011 by the west as a British-Swedish film TRISHNA directed by Michael Winterbottom, having an Indian backdrop with Frieda Pinto and Riz Ahmed doing the lead roles.
Recalling the film's public response, PREM GRANTH didnt do well at the box office, because it had an outdated kind of familiar theme/storyline coming in the mid-90s, when the people were experiencing a new wave in cinema as well as TV with the introduction of many entertainment based Cable TV channels.
And it was declared a non-performer despite having Madhuri Dixit - one of the most successful actress of those times.
(26th Dec-2019)

Copyright – Bobby Talks Cinema / Bobby Sing (Harpreet) 

Tags : The interesting case of PREM GRANTH (1996) By Bobby Sing at Bobbytalkscinema.com, Inspired Movies List at Bobbytalkscinema.com, Films based on old Novels, Hindi films adapted from foreign novels.
29 Oct 2019 / Comments ( 4 )
sudarshan pandey

Very nice and interesting article 

About foreign locales and adaptation of foreign films and stories for Indian audience,  I have a question that why these Convent educated directors look towards west for interesting stories ? It is all about the treatment  and direction to a subject which works. Those were the days when there was one popular subject for every film maker barring few, Boy & girl meet, one villain to spoil their love or some Zamindar boy, poor girl and vice versa and happy ending. Lot of films were made. Why these producers don't take time to read novels, stories etc written by Indian writers in Hindi or regional languages. Even Gulshan Nanda's few novels like Ghaat Ka Patthar and other few titles are better for film making.
But for RKfilms few slices from 'Nukkad' serial, I found still better which can suit them. Even few sets of Nukkad was fantastic. But these producers directors cant see the child in their lap.........Rajiv Kapoor was not RajKapoor and that is why LP who were already exhausted in Bobby, could not repeat its glamour in their later films like Prem Rog, & Satyam Shivam Sundaram for RK then how they would be in mood to oblige a 'Nausikhiya' like Rajiv Kapoor ? 
For us and many RKfilms last film is Aa Ab Laut Chalein.........Rishi Kapoor was very good director, but he took Rajesh Khanna when he was facing his bad periiod. I still lament the business of AALC. Nadeem-Shravan could not take pressure of giving music to the standard of RKfilms. They failed miserably for big banners like B R Chopra also. Otherwise the film could have done better on box office. Don't know why all the Kapoor sons are just reverse of their father Raj Kapoor and cant dare to make a film under the banner, they don't want to take risk. Perhaps there will be no film 

Bobby Sing

Thanks for the kind words of praise Sudarshan Ji.
Regarding the points raised.

1. Adaptations of foreign films have been right there from the earlu decades of film-making and it never stopped since then. There were all types of directors then and there are all types of directors now and the fascination of the west continues as ever.

2. Both Prem Rog and SSS were great soundtracks and SSS is among one of the best soundtracks ever included in the Best 100 by various music historians,

3. Lastly history has never supported the fact that the sons are always equally talented as their fathers. Their are numerous examples that they are not even 25% of their fathers and their are also examples that they go far beyond their fathers. So its all different in different cases.

Keep Visiting and Writing in.


Interesting article. I personally love this movie so much sadly it "flopped". It does make me sort of sad he didn't direct after this single movie, it would have been interesting to see what route he would take next. Sadly we'll probably never know.

Bobby Sing

Hi Navy63,
Thanks for visiting and writing in.

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