Plagiarism and the Indian entertainment industry are Siamese twins. Even outside India, there have been charges of such stealing, sometimes against celebrities like J.K Rowling, whose Harry Potter created magic in the reading world.
In India, film writers, lyricists and directors have been guilty of lifting stories or copying songs or even making a movie that could well be a frame-by-frame replication of an earlier work. The film oft quoted in this context is Mahesh Bhatt’s Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin (with Aamir Khan and Pooja Bhatt) – which was a carbon copy of the Hollywood blockbuster, It Happened One Night (Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert).
In fact, when Indians had little access to movies from other countries some years ago, many producers got hold of the cassette of a foreign film and, well, just plagiarised its story and scenes. Of course Indian actors were roped in, and Indian situations were incorporated into the narrative.
The latest to run afoul of copyright law is Sarkunam’s Naiyaandi (Ridicule), a Dhanush starrer in Tamil. The movie (reviewed in these columns) was a sloppy affair, which had been attracting a string of problems even before it opened theatrically last October.
The film’s lead actress, Nazriya Nazim, was peeved because the director had used a body double to display her bare waist. A compromise was clinched between the two, and Naiyaandi was released.
Now Sarkunam’s work has run into a fresh storm. He has been accused by the Kerala producer, Mani C. Kappan, of violating the copyright law. Kappan contended that Naiyaandi was very similar in its plot to his Malayalam hit, Meleparambil Aanveedu. In fact, 12 scenes have also been lifted in their entirety. Dialogues have been copied.
Kappan now says that Naiyaandi’s screening and video rights must be suspended.
The Kerala work, starring Jayaram and Shobana, was released in 1993.
However, it is not clear why Sarkunam or his producer did not seek Kappan’s permission for the Tamil remake. Also, why did Kappan keep mum all these weeks before raising his objection? It is possible that the two men had differed over the quantum of money to be paid for getting the okay for the Tamil version.