Big remade

Naani is a 2004 Telugu remake of the Tom Hanks film Big. I gotta tell you, though… it gets weird.

Walking piano, like the one in the film Big.
Dudesleeper, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Bollywood, Kollywood, and Tollywood sometimes remake American films for the Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu-language markets respectively. Such adaptations include thrillers (2005’s Chocolate is a remake of The Usual Suspects), comedies (2010’s Crazy Kutumba was based on Little Miss Sunshine), and horror films (2003 film Kucch To Hai is a remake of I Know What You Did Last Summer). Some of these are official remakes; most are unofficial homages. And all are adapted for the local audience.

Naani and New were filmed together in 2004 – Naani for the Telugu market and New for the Tamil market. They share a plot and an inspiration: the 1988 American fantasy film Big.

Big is one of the classic 1980s comedies. And, like all 1980s comedies, it has some parts that are a bit dodgy in retrospect. The premise of the film, very briefly, is that Tom Hanks is a twelve-year-old who makes a wish on a creepy arcade machine. Overnight, he turns into thirty-something-year-old adult. He flees home, moves to New York, and gets a job at a toy company. He has a relationship with a co-worker (hmmm… bit dodgy there) but ultimately returns to his childhood life.

Naani has some key differences. The child in this film is four years younger. His wish is granted by a scientist rather than a fortune-telling arcade machine. And the protagonist ends up getting married and fathering a child.

Um… yeah.

I don’t have the necessary cultural context to understand why anyone would think this is a good idea for a movie plot, but there it is. The Tamil-language version New certainly ended up in controversial straits: it had its film censor’s certificate revoked and the director was arrested a couple of times.

Naani pops up on YouTube every now and then. At the moment you can see the whole thing here:

It ends, touchingly, with the child / man remaining married and toggling between his younger and older ages in perpetuity.

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