Harry Potter became a worldwide sensation when the books were first published in the late 90s, which only went into overdrive when the first movie was released in 2001. It therefore comes as no surprise that authors and filmmakers have wanted to cash-in on that success. Some came up with their own fantasy series that were loosely ‘inspired’ by Harry Potter, and some made blatant knock-off versions.
One of the more ludicrous Harry Potter rip-offs was the 2004 Bollywood movie Aabra Ka Daabra. The movie features a 12-year-old boy called Shanu who goes to a magical school. To be fair, there are a few differences to one of the best fantasy movies. Shanu lives with his mother and believes that his father died or disappeared during a magic trick. It turns out that the headmistress of the magic school is evil and has been holding Shanu’s father prisoner.
Another notable difference is that the Quidditch-like sport is not played on broomsticks, but rather on magic carpets. There’s also a very weird purple floating head with wings attached to it, which is a demon called Zulu.
Because Aabra Ka Daabra is a Bollywood movie, there are of course plenty of song-and-dance numbers. It has to be said, the school uniforms are a lot more fun than the Hogwarts uniforms – with bright royal blue/purple jackets, bowties, brown jodhpurs, and boots with curled toes.
Harry Potter isn’t even the only kids movie that Aabra Ka Daabra liberally borrows from – there is also a Golden Ticket plot straight from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, as well as a friendly ghost character who looks exactly like Casper. How they weren’t buried under lawsuits, we’ll never know.
Despite its use of cutting-edge special effects and being India’s first 3-D movie, Aabra Ka Daabra was a box office bomb. From a budget of over $1 million, it only made $130,000 when it was released. One of the issues was the overwhelming amount of product placement that had been shoe-horned into the movie to raise the budget needed.
So, if you thought that everything that Harry Potter touches turns to gold – there are a few exceptions. For an exploration of the official version, check out our guides to the best Harry Potter characters and the Harry Potter houses explained. For more supernatural and fantasy, we’re looking forward to Wednesday season 2 and House of the Dragon season 2.