The stakes are high for Hindi film The Girl on the Train, adapted from British author Paula Hawkins's 2015 bestseller of the same name.
The thriller, which will arrive on Netflix on Friday, has not only faced unprecedented delays owing to the pandemic, it will also have to contend with comparisons to the 2016 Hollywood film starring Emily Blunt.
The weight of expectations is not lost on its lead Parineeti Chopra, who wrote an homage to Blunt this week.
"You gave me the inspiration (and many sleepless nights) to do something I never had the guts to do before. Thank you for being the voice in my head when I was shooting. I hope I have done even 10 per cent of what you did in The Girl on the Train. Big shoes to fill," the Bollywood actress posted on Twitter.
But director Ribhu Dasgupta, who helmed Netflix series Bard of Blood, is hoping audiences will appreciate his version for what it is.
"We've given it our own colour," he told the Indian Express. "Before I started writing the script, I knew the things which really work and parts which won't be so important for the film. Since it was a Hindi film, we had to rewrite some portions, give some elements to the characters and write them very differently. At the end of the day, you're an Indian consumer, so they were our first priority."
While Indian viewers were the target audience, the film’s theatrical release, set for May last year, had to be abandoned as most cinemas remain shuttered. Now, it will be seen by audiences around the world on the same day on Netflix.
Here are some things you should know about The Girl on the Train.
What’s it about?
Hawkins’s psychological thriller is told from the perspective of three women whose lives become inextricably linked by a dark twist of fate. The 2016 Hollywood adaptation featured Blunt as protagonist Rachel Watson, an alcoholic divorcee who becomes involved in the lives of her ex-husband and his new wife, as well as their neighbours’.
The British actress was praised for her performance and went on to win a number of award nominations, but the film received largely negative reviews for being overly melodramatic.
The Hindi version follows a similar thread, but with a more dramatic Bollywood twist.
How will the 2021 version differ?
Director Dasgupta says he’s rewritten the script to suit Indian sensibilities. According to website Bollywood Hungama, only the central heroine will remain the same, as all pivotal plot points have been altered.
The story is also set in London, just like the book, while events in the Hollywood version took place in New York.
Bollywood actress Aditi Rao Hydari, whose character Nusrat is based on the book's Megan, says her character has been given more meat compared to the Hollywood version.
"Ribhu rewrote this character a lot. He brought a lot more of her backstory. In the original film, Megan is a mysterious girl on the balcony. But Nusrat is very much flesh and blood," she told the Indian Express.
Role of a lifetime for Parineeti Chopra
Chopra, who marks 10 years in Bollywood this year, says she's never played a role like Mira Kapoor – the renamed lead character – in her career. Known for her peppy, lively performances in romantic films such as Ishaqzaade (2012) and Shuddh Desi Romance (2013), she said she felt liberated playing a complex woman struggling with grief and addiction.
"It is rare to get roles that you might have not played before, because people tend to cast you for the things that they have seen on-screen," the actress, 32, told Indian news agency PTI. "I was grateful that the makers had that confidence in me that I would be able to do this part."
Chopra, who is the cousin of Bollywood actress-turned-Hollywood star Priyanka Chopra, also said the film took a lot out of her.
"I've never been more creatively satisfied. I've never felt like this as an actor. This film has taken the most out of me emotionally," she told Film Companion.
Chopra says she is aware of Blunt's shadow hanging over her performance, but gave it her very best.
"I relished the challenge to deliver this role at par with the earlier film. I have approached my role without the baggage of what I saw Emily do. I made the character my own and I was clear that I wanted to add my own touch to the role," she told PTI.
More remakes to come
While many Bollywood films have been inspired by Hollywood, more and more official remakes are in the pipeline.
Last year saw the release of Dil Bechara, an official adaptation of John Green's novel The Fault in Our Stars, which was first adapted by Hollywood in a 2014 film starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort. The Bollywood version featured late actor Sushant Singh Rajput and Sanjana Sanghi.
Superstar Deepika Padukone announced last year that she would produce and star in an official remake of The Intern, the 2015 comedy starring Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway. While Rishi Kapoor was initially cast to star opposite Padukone, his sudden death from cancer in April 2020 has put the project on hold. Filming is set to begin in May this year.
Bollywood action star Tiger Shroff will also star in an official remake of the cult film series Rambo. While production has been indefinitely delayed by director changes and the pandemic, the Bollywood version has received a stamp of approval from none other than star Sylvester Stallone himself.
Another coming remake is the action-comedy film series Red, originally starring Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren. Indian actor Anil Kapoor is producing, with the film set to be directed by Abhinay Deo, who helmed Kapoor's Hindi adaptation of hit American TV series 24.
Bollywood megastar Aamir Khan will soon be seen in a remake of the Oscar-winning film Forrest Gump, which originally starred Tom Hanks. Titled Laal Singh Chaddha, the film was scheduled to be released last year but production was halted because of the pandemic. It will now hit screens on Christmas Day this year.
The Girl on the Train is on Netflix from Friday, February 26