Thursday, August 09, 2007

Plagiarism redefined...

If somebody watches advertisements very carefully and on a regular basis, it is impossible for him/her to notice the fight of Bollywood against piracy. It says piracy kills the originality, that the lost money makes producers turn into their graveyards and that with every pirated version of a VCD or DVD we are only killing the original goose. So, kill piracy and save the originality.
Not so long ago, India didn’t have a full fledged patent law to protect original inventions (it had for processes though) and recent Madras High court order showed that there is a clear fight between original intellectual monopoly and pirated copy cats. Hence, if you believe in original version, shell out more to get such exclusivity.
I almost take that argument for granted. For Novartis, but not for Bollywood.

On numerous occasions, I had an argument with majority of my friends about Bollywood and its quality. Without even a semblance of chance, Bollywood loses out on quality, screenplay, direction and script/story. The argument then shifts to an emotional plane – that “people need pure entertainment”. This is as vague as it sounds as by definition entertainment is personal and hence couldn't be the goal for a mass medium. That we believe in fooling ourselves and believe that some god send heroes and extraordinarily beautiful heroines would make our society livable is good enough to cast a shadow on our logical thinking. Then the discussion changes into “we” versus “them”. They are they, so why should we copy them, why should we not have our own dance and song item numbers and that by doing such great service we would be a proud producer of Indian culture and social values. Simply put, we can never argue with the emotional majority.

But I would have accepted their emotionally charged, patriotic sentiments if I would have got some originality in Bollywood. From the day I remember, best and most of the mainstream Bollywood movies (or so called successful movies) are nothing but an “inspired version” of either some regional ones or of some Hollywood flicks. To illustrate my point I give below a sample list of such inspirations.
Agneepath -- Scarface
Aitraaz -- Disclosure
Agni Shakshi -- Sleeping with the enemy
Ajnabee -- Consenting Adults
Baazigaar -- A kiss from dying
Black -- The miracle worker
Chalte Chalte --- Forget Paris
Criminal --- The Fugitive
Dil Chahata Hain --- St.Elmo's Fire / Reality Bites
Dhoom --- The fast and the furious
Dushman --- Eye for Eye
Raaz --- What Lies Beneath
Roja --- Frantic
Saajan ---- Roxanne
Satte pe satta ----7 brides for 7 brothers
SHOLAY ----The magnificient 7/ The wild bunch
/ Butch classidy / Sundance Kid
Tezaab ----The streets of fire
Jo jeeta wohi Sikandar --- Breaking away
Josh --- West side story
Ghulam ----- On the water front
Hera pheri ---- The sting
Humraaz ---- A perfect murder
Hum Tum ---- When Harry met Sally
Murder ---- Unfaithful
Munnabhai MBBS ---- Patch Adams
Life in a Metro ---- The Apartment
Bheja Fry ---- Diner au cons
Partner ---- The Hitch
(Source --
In such a case, where even the best of the outcomes are nothing but far from original, what purpose is served for the audience is far from my understanding. An industry whose own products are nothing but a duplicate copy of some other products, an industry which even doesn’t admit its reckless copying attitude or an industry which doesn’t have a scant respect for other’s originality and creativity – boasts of creating a platform for being the flag bearer of a country’s culture. For them “copyright” means – “right to copy” when it comes to foreign movies. That the numbers of critically acclaimed movies are mostly out of bounds for mainstream audiences and directors is a testimony of the stakeholders considering this medium only as a business and not as a creative expression. The very fact that Bollywood has been horribly poor in making good movies for children and comedy classics shows their incapability of creativity as well as originality.
Except the fact that Bollywood has produced most memorable music, songs, musicians and singers (even though personally I think songs are mostly a no no in movies, music should be the only expression) I hardly see any other benefits from this huge industry.
If it is an industry then its products need to be original and world class, or if it is a medium of expression then it should have a quality output – in my book they are neither here nor there. Fortunately they have an audience which is largely unaware of the beauties of world cinema and also entertaining emotion get better of their logical and artistic senses while viewing the products. It hates the English version only to gobble up the desi “inspired versions” for their entertainment purpose.
That the basic purpose of any industry is moving up the value chain has got defeated in this Bollywood story. Yet they continue to fight against piracy and unauthorized copy cats.
This might sound like a snobbish and intellectually charged statement but I support pirated Hindi movie VCDs/DVDs – as these movies are nothing but a plagiarized version of a better creative mind. An industry which thrives only on plagiarism deserves nothing better than piracy from its own customers – after all brand value comes only from what the brand itself stands for.

P.S. – I am looking forward to the recent news of SONY Pictures suing the Indian producer of “Partner” for alleged unauthorized copy of “The Hitch”. Somewhere the Bollywood needs to be taught a lesson about respecting the originality.