Plagiarism in Bollywood: Chori mera kaam!
Monojit Lahiri investigates Bollywood’s skilled art of plagiarism down the decades without batting an eyelid
If imitation is the finest form of flattery, then no industry on planet earth can match the largest film producing country in this area. Their relentless, consistent & shameless lifting, copying & getting inspired – by Hollywood films and now other sources too – is a classic case of wide-eyed adoration mixed with brain-dead initiative at jugaad in terms of short-cut to rake in the bucks. Win some, lose some, transcreation, Indianisation or frame-to-frame zerox, Bollywood has mastered the art of bromiding from other films. Don’t believe us? Here’s a quick peep into some of their masterpieces, across decades, will provide ample proof.
Forget Ashok Kumar’s Mr. X lifted from The Invincible Man of the 50’s, the recent decades have witnessed a tsunami of this rampant disease. There were no ifs & buts in Vikram Bhatt’s Fareb, a salute to An Unlawful Entry. Suitably charged by seeing the Kazan-Brando classic On the Waterfront, Bhatt hit the ‘inspired’ mode, one more time, with his version, Ghulam. His subsequent film Kasoor borrowed heavily from Jagged Edge.
Bright and sharp Tanuja Chandra too must plead guilty in this area too. Both her early films, Dushman and Sanghursh were compliments to Eye for Eye and Silence of the Lambs respectively. Even the gifted Mansoor Khan’s Akele Hum ... had Kramer v/s Kramer written all over and wasn’t Josh a Bollywood version of the fantastic Westside Story?
Hey c’mon, you really can’t ace the ultimate romantic Grant-Bergman An Affair to Remember, right? Wrong. Genius Dharmesh Darshan threw his hat in the ring with Mann! Wonder what went through talented Rahul Rawail’s (Arun, Dacait) mind when he did a syrupy version of Parent Trap with Kuch Meethi, Kuch Khatti? Even Kajol’s bravura performance couldn’t un-peel it off the ceiling!
Fatal Attraction of course attracted several versions. Pyar tu ne kya kiya was only one. Same with Sleeping with the Enemy. Except Agni Sakshi, alas, none woke up. Other examples include Tera Jadu chal gaya (Picture Perfect), Har Dil Jo Pyar Karega (Wedding Singer), Kahin Pyar Na Ho Jaye (While you were sleeping), Murder (Unfaithful), Raaz (What Lies Beneath), Sauda (Indecent Proposal), Sarkar (Godfather), Baazigar (A Kiss before Dying), Aitraz (Disclosure), Mere Yaar ki Shaadi hai (My Best Friend’s Wedding), even the much-touted Black was alleged to be an Indian version of White Nights made in three versions by Visconti as Le Notte Blanche! There are a zillion more.
Is nothing sacred? “No, nothing! As the great Billy Wilder once famously said: If you are looking for art, go buy yourself a Picasso. If its entertainment, come over this side!” That was the irrepressible Mahesh Bhatt, who goes on to elaborate: “Let’s get real. Movies – of the mass appeal kind – is not about originality and creativity. They are about entertainment. The art of engaging a distracted and promiscuous new-age viewer to focus on content that keeps him hooked to the screen in a simple, uncomplicated, non-intellectual, feel-good manner is the real task. Films don’t run or bomb due to originality or plagiarism. My film Dil Hai Ki Maanta Nahin was indeed taken from the Raj Kapoor-Nargis classic Chori-Chori and the original Hollywood masterpiece It Happened One Night, but we gave it a fresh, new and lovely spin which made it a super hit. Get one thing straight: Brand loyalty is dead and today’s audiences are into instant gratification. Grabbing audience attention in these times when tons of alternatives prevail is the biggest challenge. Movies are a consumer perishable – Buy. Consume. Chuck. No one gives a crap about plagiarism, copy, imitation, immortality, etc. They are looking for solid, diverting entertainment ... and may the best man win.”
Coming from the maker of Arth, Saransh, Daddy and Zakhm, these words could surprise his die-hard fans, but taken in context, Bhatt has a point. The aam junta is really not too fussy, selective or even knowledgeable about copied content and will only throw-up if it’s a total lift & badly executed. Fortunately, in recent times, due to tough infringement laws or new film makers bursting on the screen, this disease seems to have considerably lessened.
While there will always be the bozos looking for shorthand & cut-paste jobs, a whole new crop of (successful) films like Andhadhun, Badhai Ho, Badla, Manmarzian, Raazi, Article 15, Mulk, Section 375, Dreamgirl, Bala, have proved that chori need not be your kaam and good, original content, smartly made & pitched to an eager audience, will come through.
So, Chori Chori Chupke Chupke is pirating, lifting, jhadoing bye-bye? Not quite, insists the local hawk-eye while pointing to the hordes of Southern remakes – after the sensational success of Kabir Singh – that are all set to blitz the screen very soon. Be it Kirik Party, Vikram Vedha, Prasthanam, RX 100, Laxmi Bomb, Dear Comrade, Jersey, Pulimurugan, its Southern Comfort that our B-town bozos are wooing. So, guys, Chor-eo-graphy – in the avatar of remakes – is alive and kicking, thank you!