Tamil Features

What Ails The ‘Queen’ Remake?

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(With additional reporting by Sanjana Chakraborty)

Three years after the Queen remakes were announced, there is little to no activity on the production front. Actresses and directors walk in and out; producers squabble. Actor-producer Thiagarajan, meanwhile, likens it to a ‘family dispute’. According to a press release received yesterday, Golden Crab, one of the producers of the remakes, plans to publish an injunction against Mediente today, the other production company that claims to hold the rights to the remakes.

In the summer of 2014, a flashy pink cake held pride of place in the dingy parking lot of Prashant Gold Tower in T Nagar. A bunch of blue chairs were strewn around the cake, while a salmon pink cushioned one was specially reserved for actor Thiagarajan, who was to celebrate his birthday that day.

Thiagarajan arrived to a rousing rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’, posed for photographs, and settled down to business, addressing the rumours surrounding the remake of Queen – for which he had recently acquired the rights. “We are not in talks with Trisha.

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We have other actresses in mind for the part. Same time, next year, you can all enjoy Queen in every theatre in town,” he said.

A year later, there was no sign of the film.

Now, three years on, the Tamil remake of Queen has become a game of musical chairs.

One actress walks in, as soon as another vacates the seat. Directors too, seem to be scarce. Parvathy Menon, Trisha Krishnan, Nithya Menen, Samantha Ruth Prabhu, Tamannaah Bhatia, Amala Paul have all been rumoured to be a part of the project at different times. Currently, Thiagarajan seems to have settled on Kajal Aggarwal. The actress is yet to accept the offer.

Revathy, who was originally signed on to direct, hinted that ‘production issues’ were the reason for her exit. Tamannaah, meanwhile, refused to comment on the issue.

Now, according to latest reports, Ramesh Aravind is said to have confirmed at an event that he’s directing both Tamil and Kannada versions.

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The original Queen, with Kangana Ranaut in the lead, hit the screens on March 7, 2014. The film, directed by Vikas Bahl, was a surprise hit at the box office, and spawned an immediate race to secure its remake rights. As Thiagarajan said at the time, “This is the kind of story that needs to be told and retold.”

The main players involved in the original have all moved on from the film’s tremendous success. Lisa Haydon recently became a mother, Ranaut is on her way to portraying another kick-ass woman on screen, while Vikas Bahl has wandered far, far away from his feminist credentials due to accusations of sexual harassment.

The world has seen and admired Baahubali, Kabali and Thiagarajan’s own Saahasam, a comeback vehicle for actor Prashanth that spawned a whole variety of memes after its release.

And yet, Queen’s promised remakes still languish. Work has begun on the Malayalam and Kannada versions, but legal issues have bogged the Tamil version down.

The apparent confusion about who holds the exclusive rights to all the four South Indian languages of the Queen remake has not made things any easier. In one instance, Golden Crab Film Production – a UK based company – claimed it’s theirs by posting the timeline in a series of tweets.

While, Mediente, the production company currently bankrolling Ramesh Arvind’s Kannada remake of Queen, starring Parul Yadav, has asserted that the rights belong to Mediente and Liger Productions.

Speaking to Silverscreen, Karim Prince, one of the co-founders of Golden Crab, furnishes a timeline of the events since 2014.

June 2014:

Staar Movies (led by Thiagarajan) buys the rights to remake the movie in the four South Indian languages. Viacom, the original owner, puts a caveat in the agreement that the principal photography of any of the films must start by the 8 June, 2017, else the rights revert to Viacom.

July 30, 2016:  

Staar Movies sells the rights to Mediente International Films. Mediente doesn’t make the films either. Subsequently, a dispute ensues between the two.

April 5, 2017:

The agreement between Staar Movies and Mediente is apparently terminated by mutual consent.

April 21, 2017:

Golden Crab enters the picture. Staar Movies and Golden Crab sign the contract to acquire the rights and co-produce the four films. A concern they share is to preserve the rights. Therefore, they agree to treat each language as a standalone film.

To fulfill the clause in the original contract, which says that the principal shooting has to take place by June 8, 2017, Prince flies down to Chennai to begin shooting. This is for the Tamil version, of course. “We went back to UK to raise more money so that we can have bigger stars on board for this project,” Prince tells us. “And as far as we know, Staar’s contract with Mediente is invalid. Ours is still valid since there is no termination of contract.

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Mediente are impostors. We know we have the rights of the movies. So whatever happened between Staar and Mediente, we cannot comment on the ‘how’, but we can comment on the ‘why’.”

Golden Crab’s Prince, having learnt of the Kannada version being made, has now approached the court. “We are waiting on an injunction at the High Court of Justice in London. Tomorrow (April 13), we will publish it,” he declares.

Thiagarajan, meanwhile, prefers not to comment on the issue. “I am the only one who can,” he reveals. “But, my truth is for Mediente and Golden Crab. Not for the media.” He addresses Karim’s claims anyway, that of having intentionally sidelined Golden Crab from the filmmaking process. “Should I wait three-four days for him to get back to me? Or should I just get the job done. Unless and until the producer is in the thick of things, there’s no way he can get any idea of the troubles involved in setting up a film. With a female-centric one, the difficulty level is that much higher.”

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An industry insider, known for distributing high-budget films, opines, “Remakes are never an issue. If this project had been a male-centric one, it would have been released, and out on Tamilrockers by now. But it is led by a female. And in Tamil Nadu, at least, we are not as progressive as we think we are. There’s not a lot of traction for the Queen remake, finance-wise. And with Thiagarajan at the helm, a lot of people are wary of signing on.”

Earlier, Thiagarajan had also been quite insistent that his son Prashanth be given a role in the remake; sources close to the project reveal that his requests were consistently denied. “Prashant’s last film was a huge failure. At this point, he can only drag the project further down than it already is.”

Thiagarajan’s next demand was to make his daughter, Preethi, a producer in the film, to which Karim had objected. “The whole thing was done in a very silent, subtle manner. It was a breaking point for the co-producer,” a source tells us.

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Ramesh Aravind, meanwhile, has announced his intent to shoot the film in Europe. The prospect now made less appealing by the fact that Karim has effectively threatened to put an end to all those plans. A spokesperson for the director tells Silverscreen, “We cannot comment on such details right now. Only the production house can provide clarity.”

Thiagarajan, on the other hand, is at his ambiguous best. “This is like a problem between family members,” he says airily, “Only, we need to sort it out. Others need not know [about it].”

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