The fact that “Selfiee” is a remake of “Driving Licence” is made clear before we see a single frame of the movie. I haven’t seen a lot of movies do this, and it was certainly cool to see Raj Mehta convey this bit of information to the audience before following the story to the T. Vijay Kumar is a superstar, and RTO Inspector Om Prakash Agarwal is his superfan. Kumar needs to get a fresh copy of his driving license in order to get permission to perform the climax of a movie that has already gone over budget. Om sees this as an opportunity to get a selfie with his favorite actor and asks Vijay to pay a ceremonial visit to the office. Vijay agrees to it, despite his tight schedule, as he has to leave for New York with his wife because he thinks Om is a nice human being. But when he arrives at the RTO office and notices that it’s filled with people from the mainstream news channels, he thinks that Om has used him to get his two minutes of fame. This altercation breaks out into an all-out rivalry between the star and the fan while their families, friends, assistants, politicians, and the media look on.
Akshay Kumar in ‘Selfiee’ versus Prithviraj Sukumaran in ‘Driving Licence’
While comparing “Shehzada” with “Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo,” I said that if a movie is centered around the very specific style of the star, just copying and pasting it into your remake is not going to work. Since Hareendran in “Driving Licence” was an exaggerated version of Prithviraj, it seemed perfect. And I was afraid that “Selfiee” was going to make the same mistake as “Shehzada” by forcing Akshay Kumar to act like Prithviraj. However, I was surprised to see that they modeled Vijay Kumar after Akshay Kumar. From the entry sequence itself, which didn’t mimic the one from “Driving Licence,” we get a taste of the brand of sleaze and action that Akshay Kumar has become synonymous with. Every piece of Akshay Kumar’s dialogue was a reference to his history as an actor and the kind of comedy that he has done in the past. The constant reminders about Kumar’s preference for quantity over quality were kept at the forefront. Only Vijay’s costumes were probably similar to Hareendran’s outfits. But that’s it. So, there’s really nothing to compare here. Akshay’s Vijay Kumar and Prithviraj’s Hareendran are two completely different characters, despite having the same scenes.
Emraan Hashmi in ‘Selfiee’ versus Suraj Venjaramoodu in ‘Driving Licence’
Suraj Venjaramoodu’s Motor Vehicle Inspector Kuruvila Joseph in “Driving Licence” was a very quiet character. He even seemed like a pushover at times, which was why his turn as the intense hater of Hareendran seemed so wild. Meanwhile, Emraan Hashmi’s RTO Inspector Om Prakash Agarwal was a comparatively outspoken, over-the-top, and wise-cracking individual. But I have to say that Kuruvila was probably more of a fan of Hareendran than Om was of Vijay. And that largely came down to the treatment of the character by the directors. Kuruvila’s red car was the one that Hareendran had used in one of his movies, and Om’s car was just a regular red car. Kuruvila’s home was littered with images of Hareendran. He even had a cutout of his favorite actor at the dinner table so that it seemed like he was eating with them. From certain angles, Om’s home didn’t even look like a shrine for Vijay. The biggest difference was in the song where Kuruvila imagined Hareendran spending time with him and his family and then taking him to his set. Om got the revamped version of “Main Khiladi Tu Anari,” where he kind of got to do the same. However, since it was relegated to the end credits of “Selfiee” like a typical song, it didn’t really feel like something Om was imagining, thereby making his adoration for Vijay seem a little surface-level. Still, Emraan Hashmi gave a great performance without trying to echo Suraj Venjaramoodu’s work, and hence, they stand out in their respective movies in their own ways.
Abhimanyu Singh in ‘Selfiee’ versus Suresh Krishna in ‘Driving Licence’
Abhimanyu Singh’s Suraj Diwan and Suresh Krishna’s Bhadran are literally poles apart in terms of their tone and characterization. Yes, both of them were portrayed as has-beens. But given the prominence of mass action movies with aging actors in Malayalam cinema, we see Bhadran still trying to launch himself as an action star while acting alongside actresses much, much younger than him. Suraj Diwan, on the other hand, was shown to have little-to-no acting roles, and he was barely surviving on advertisement money. FYI, those fake ads were hilarious. In the one scene where we saw Suraj acting in a movie or a web series, he expressed so much displeasure at being forced to blurt out such sleazy lines. In fact, the line that he uttered seemed to be a version of what Akshay Kumar had said in “Bhagam Bhag.” It went something like, “If you respect a woman, then the woman will give you her respect.” Suraj said, “If you think you are losing your respect, then rob it from someone.” And that led me to believe that even Suraj was a reflection of Akshay Kumar, as he relies heavily on advertisements while delivering one flop after another and even resorts to pulling down his peers on social media. In addition to all that, giving Suraj and Vijay a personal connection (they used to live together when they arrived in Mumbai), something that Bhadran and Hareendran didn’t have, gave their eventual resolution a positive touch. So, again, big points for not simply copying “Driving Licence” and doing an original take on the fading superstar trope.
Nushrratt Bharuccha in ‘Selfiee’ versus Miya George in ‘Driving Licence’
One of the biggest criticisms labeled against Miya George’s Elsa was that she seemed caricaturish. It didn’t seem like that to me because I have seen people like Elsa who get too excited about the prospect of getting their two minutes of fame, regardless of the reason for getting that attention. It also made sense for Elsa to say so much and so often because Kuruvila never spoke up for himself. Nushrratt Bharuccha’s Minty was a completely different character, and she came off as a supportive wife and a concerned mother. Now, that felt like a stereotype in comparison to Elsa. Also, that change in the characterization came at the cost of screen time. No matter how you feel about Elsa, she was present in every other scene and had lines that fleshed out her character and her dynamic with Kuruvila. The lack of such scenes made Minty forgettable.
Diana Penty in ‘Selfiee’ versus Deepti Sati in ‘Driving Licence’
Just like Miya George and Nushrratt Bharuccha, Deepti Sati probably got a lot more screen time than Diana Penty. Although their characterizations were similar, the calming effect of Sati’s Bhama on Hareendran came across clearly, while Diana’s Naina had a pretty generic relationship with Vijay and hence felt forgettable. But one significant change in “Selfiee” made Vijay and Naina more relevant than Hareendran and Bhama. So, while watching “Driving Licence,” I was irked by the fact that the filmmakers wrote Bhama to be the dying wife and made that the reason for Hareendran’s trip to the USA. I’m not saying that’s not a thing that usually happens, but in the film, it seemed like a cheap tactic to give the narrative a sense of tension. In “Selfiee,” Naina and Vijay’s reason for going to the US was the birth of their surrogate child. Given how surrogacy saw a massive uptick in Bollywood, incorporating that trend in the plot felt logical, and it didn’t weaken Naina in any way. All in all, it was a welcome alteration to the character.
How Does The Verbal Test In ‘Selfiee’ Differ From The One In ‘Driving Licence’?
Except for the query about the traffic signal, all the questions of the verbal test in “Selfiee” were completely different from those in “Driving Licence.” I think that helped in maintaining the tension of the scene. Repeating the questions from “Driving Licence” would have clued in the viewer as to how the scene in “Selfiee” was going to play out. But as soon as the lines began to differ, I became unsure of how that moment was going to end. Of course, the conclusions were the same. However, since “Selfiee” managed to make me doubt the outcome despite being a remake, I have to applaud it. Another big difference is the concluding moments of that scene. In “Driving Licence,” Kuruvila began to walk away as soon as Hareendran had passed the test. However, in order to deflate Kuruvila, Hareendran called him back to finish the questionnaire, and the superstar left after answering the final question. In “Selfiee,” Vijay started to walk away as soon as he had passed the test, and Sunil Awasthi started to tell him about the next steps in the process, but Om told him to complete the questionnaire before leaving. It was a small change, but it showed who was more petty and who was more arrogant.
How Does The Driving Test In ‘Selfiee’ Differ From The One In ‘Driving Licence’?
Apart from the implementation of certain rules for qualification, the driving test in “Selfiee” and “Driving Licence” played out similarly. But they concluded very differently. After driving through the H, Hareendran made some minor mistakes. Kuruvila pointed them out and failed him. Kuruvila’s superiors intervened and changed his decision. All this while, Hareendran stayed silent and observed Kuruvila’s theatrics. In Vijay’s case, Om Prakash did the same thing and stated the reasons why he was failing the superstar. However, instead of staying silent, Vijay rebutted all of Om Prakash’s criticisms, with the most interesting one being the compulsory rule about keeping the tyres at an angle when the car is on a slope. The other interesting change was how Kuruvila and Om Prakash reacted to the oncoming horde of fans, which Hareendran and Vijay knowingly or unknowingly unleashed on the police. Kuruvila ran for his life, but Om Prakash stood his ground. You can say that Kuruvila ran because he was afraid, and Om Prakash didn’t move because he was too afraid to run. Either way, it told different things about the characters, and that’s what remakes are for.
Does ‘Selfiee’ Have Big Cameos Like The Ones From ‘Driving Licence’?
The cameos in “Driving Licence” featured Vijayaraghavan, Idavela Babu, Mafia Sasi, and the voice of Innocent. But the big cameo in “Selfiee” was that of Ajay Pal. For the uninitiated, Ajay Pal is the actor who plays Nandu in the sanitary pad advertisement alongside Akshay Kumar. Apart from the importance of the subject, that advertisement has achieved “meme” status because of how many times we’ve seen it at the theater. So, seeing Pal with Kumar in a film that was already a meta takedown of the superstar’s persona was entertaining. And it showed that, instead of using a cameo to get big cheers, the filmmakers of “Selfiee” used that opportunity to make yet another funny reference to Akshay Kumar’s career.
How Does ‘Selfiee’ Handle Politics, News Media, Fandoms, & The Film Industry In Comparison To ‘Driving Licence’?
When it came to politics and the news media, “Selfiee” didn’t deviate too much from “Driving Licence” in terms of their depiction. I will say, though, that it must’ve been harder for “Selfiee” to portray a politician in Madhya Pradesh as one of the villains of the movie while giving the news media the caricaturish treatment than “Driving Licence” because I’m not sure if politicians and news anchors are as antagonistic towards their stars in Kerala as it is in Mumbai, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh. The fandoms and the film associations saw some big alterations, though. “Driving Licence” showed that fan clubs and celebrities share a pretty amicable relationship. They are given access to the star’s private residence, and they are treated like an integral part of the film promotion and PR process. As far as I know, there’s no such thing in Bollywood. Yes, there are fan clubs that meet the stars during promotional or fan events. But that’s about it. I don’t know if they get unfettered access to the sets and the stars’ house. The major criticism against the role of the film association in “Driving Licence,” which supported Hareendran during his hour of crisis, was deemed unrealistic and an attempt to whitewash the inactivity of that film association’s real-life counterparts. In “Selfiee,” nobody came to support Vijay, thereby pointing at the lack of unity in Bollywood, which was absolutely realistic. So, these little changes showed that the makers hadn’t copied the film culture of Kerala and had actually paid attention to what goes on in the Hindi film industry.
How Does ‘Selfiee’ Differ From “Driving Licence” In Terms Of Tone, Cinematography, And Music?
“Driving Licence” was very efficient when it came to the technical aspects, and, as mentioned before, the “Fan Fantasy Song” was so personal and intimate that it stuck in my mind. The same can’t be said about “Selfiee.” It had some weird editing choices, and the cinematography was too unimaginative. In regard to the tone, “Driving Licence” had a more gritty and serious tone, with occasional bursts of humor, while “Selfiee” was largely a comedy, with occasional bursts of seriousness. And each of those tones benefited the movies in their own ways. So, there’s that.
Does The Ending of ‘Selfiee’ Differ From The Ending of ‘Driving License’?
The ending of “Selfiee” mostly stuck to the beats of the conclusion of “Driving Licence.” But there were two changes. Firstly, Vijay didn’t give an extensive press conference to the media like Hareendran did in order to resolve his thoughts about the fans, the politician Jerry Peringodan, and his dynamic with Kuruvila. Vijay simply hugged Om Prakash and made it clear to the news media that they were on the same side. Secondly, in “Driving Licence,” the titular document was delivered by the drunkard, Agasthi, as he was the father of the auto consultant who was in charge of renewing Hareendran’s license. However, in Vijay’s case, Om Prakash ended up being the one to give the license to the superstar because he had kept it with him after Vijay threw the gift box, which had the document in it, in the first place. So, while Agasthi’s inclusion was funny and random, Om Prakash being the one to hand over the license to Vijay actually made thematic sense. Additionally, the end credits of “Driving Licence” just featured the Hareendran and Kuruvila’s selfie, while the one from “Selfiee” featured selfies of various stars with their fans.
Final Thoughts: Is ‘Akshay Kumar’s Film Better Than Prithviraj’s Film?
I can conclusively say that “Selfiee” is a good remake of “Driving Licence” and a shining example of how remakes should be done. I won’t say that “Selfiee” surpasses “Driving Licence,” and that’s mainly because of its technical shortcomings. If “Selfiee” focused on the cinematography, the editing, the production design, and the score, it probably would’ve surpassed “Driving Licence.” With all that said, “Selfiee” is worth a watch because of its Bollywood-centric commentary on politics, the news media, fans, and the entertainment industry, while also acting as a vehicle for Akshay Kumar to reflect on his relevance as a star. And since I want to get this statement out of my system, I am just going to put it out there: I think “Selfiee” would’ve been a great spiritual sequel to “Main Khiladi Tu Anari” if it had Saif Ali Khan instead of Emraan Hashmi. I’m not saying that Hashmi wasn’t good. However, the role reversal between Kumar (who was the cop in the 1994 film) and Khan (who was the star in the 1994 film), with Khan being the cop and Kumar being the star this time, would’ve been a great throwback. But, at the cost of sounding repetitive, the final product that we have in our hands is great, and you should give it a try after or before watching “Driving Licence.”