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We, the rippers

movie-reviews Updated: May 04, 2012 23:23 IST

Hindustan Times
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Partners in crime
Enlighten/Under Construction, Rs.499
Rating:**** 1/2

One of the biggest bugbears of Hollywood is a hero to tens of thousands of American soldiers. Hyman Strachman, a 92-year-old World War II veteran, has been making illegal copies of hundreds of films over the years. A few years ago, he started shipping some of his 4,000 boxes of ripped DVDs, for free, to warfront soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. In a way, the dichotomy between the affection of the soldiers and the hatred of the publishing industry that ‘Big Hy’ attracts is the tension at the heart of Paromita Vohra’s documentary on modern-day piracy, Partners in Crime.

According to the filmmaker, who calls her 94-minute documentary ‘a love story’: “The art of love is not so different from the love of art.” Not just video pirates like Aziz Ansari or streetside salesmen like Sayyed Osama, Paromita trains her not-so-judgemental lens at art lovers such as Chandra Pai and Irfan, who collect years of rare music and then share with other music lovers.

The most interesting investigation is over the song ‘Munni badnaam hui’. Paromita traces the song, arranged most recently for the 2010 film Dabangg by Lalit Pandit, to a 1971 number from the film Raziya Begum, ‘Launda badnaam hua’.

Since then, it has been copied in India and Pakistan by nautanki actor Krishna Bai and musicians such as Bappi Lahiri, Umar Sharif and Hamid Chisti Jabalpuri. Whose song is it then? Even if you have a ready answer to the question, watch this documentary and enter one of the most interesting debates of our Internet Age.