INTERVIEW: “The challenge was to take something as huge as ‘Suits’ and make it our own”
LONDON: An Arabic adaptation of the hit legal drama “Suits,” starring Egyptian star Asser Yassin, is set to launch in Ramadan 2022. Produced by Cairo-based TVision in partnership with OSN Original and Universal Studio Group, the he show will be one of the biggest adaptations of an international television show in Arabic.
Speaking to Arab News, Tarek El-Ganainy, CEO of media production TVision, spoke about the adaptation. “The ‘Suits’ journey began almost five years ago. While we were producing SNL, NBC Universal asked us to take a look at their catalog and ‘Suits’ of course struck me the most because I’m such a big fan of the show.
“At the time, I thought it was going to be an easy adaptation. We negotiated the rights and got the deal done pretty quickly. But the development process soon turned out to be more difficult than expected. The first writer that we boarded literally translated the script,” El-Ganainy said. “There was nothing different or creative about it.”
Much of the appeal is in the cultural references, the context, and the nature of the dialogue between the characters.
“We tried to adapt the show to make it Arabic and appeal to an Arab audience, without losing its essence. For example, we were very interested in keeping the movie quotes, it was always fun in the American version,” he said in reference to the scenes where the two main characters exchange movie quotes.
“Doing this in the Arabic version will attract viewers even more because you will see the two main characters making jokes through movie quotes, but in Arabic and quoting movies that we all know.”
Remaking a popular TV show in a different language is a difficult process that requires a strict balance between fidelity to the original text and preserving the culture of the context in which the adapted show is set.
Recently, Netflix released its first Arabic film, an adaptation of the Italian film “Perfetti Sconosciutti” or “Perfect Strangers” featuring renowned actors from Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan.
There was a strong reaction from Egyptian audiences and the film was accused of “promoting homosexuality” and “destroying family values”, despite being the most-watched film in Egypt within days of its release. A Lawyer Even Argued That Netflix Should Be Banned Completely
“I didn’t have that problem with ‘Suits’ because ultimately it’s an office drama, and it’s also a TV show,” El-Ganainy said. “Unlike movies, TV shows have their own set of rules and there’s more freedom and room for adaptability and originality.”
While the Arabic version is heavily based on the American show, El-Ganainy insisted that audiences will be able to see the originality of the remake, which tried to maintain Arab values and culture.
“For example, the story of the main character Mike and his grandmother. In the Arab world, nobody puts his grandmother in a nursing home, you would be considered a bad person, even if in the American version , Mike was doing everything he did to keep paying for his nursing home and care.
“The biggest challenge for us was taking something as huge as ‘Suits’ and making it our own,” El-Ganainy said. “I believe the people who are waiting for us to fail are just as important as the people who are cheering for our success because they are the people we want to prove to us that we can do it because we care about the show.”