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Inspiration, not copying

'Copying is our birthright' can well be our motto, given how people from all walks of life are 'getting inspired' by others. KV Lakshmana writes.

india Updated: May 08, 2012 23:53 IST
KV Lakshmana
KV Lakshmana
Hindustan Times

'Copying is our birthright' can well be our motto, given how people from all walks of life are 'getting inspired' by others.

For ages, people in the movie business have relied on the tried-and-tested — and successful — formula of copying from a source in a distant land. But the latest trend, it seems, is that of lifting a story, theme or tune from one's neighbour. One could get away by copying from many sources by calling it research. But copying from one source is nothing but a case of shameless plagiarism, a charge that the frontman of desi rock band Euphoria, Palash Sen, has levelled against Aamir Khan the perfectionist.

Sen's legal notice to Aamir Khan Productions and Star TV accused them of lifting chorus music from his earlier hit number 'Satyameva Jayate', which is the same as the title of Khan's new TV show, from the band's album Phir Dhoom, which was released 12 years ago.

But Khan is not the first person — and, unfortunately, won't be the last — who's been accused of copying. With this charge, he joins the long list of people in Bollywood who have been 'getting inspired' since time immemorial.

Music director Ismail Durbar's 'Nimbuda, nimbuda' from the movie Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam is based on a Rajasthani folk number done by Gazi Khan of the Manganiyar clan. SD Burman's 'Jeeven ke safar mein raahi', sung by Kishore Kumar for Munimji is inspired by a song 'Mexican Hat Dance' and Burman's peppy number 'Hum they, woh thi' sounds very much like 'The watermelon song' by Tennesse Erine Ford. The famous 'Babuji dheere chalna', which was featured on Geeta Dutt, was 'inspired' by the Doris Day number 'Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps'. Salil Choudhary also used western classical music to his advantage — Mozart's 'Symphony No 40' gave us 'Itna na mujhse tu pyar badha' from Chhaya and a Polish folk number 'Szla dzieweczka do gajeczka' gave us 'Dil tadap tadap ke' from Madhumati.

A roll call of 'inspired' Indian musicians will include, among others, the names of Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Rajesh Roshan, OP Nayyar, Kalyanji Anandji and Bappi Lahiri.

From legends to contemporaries, Bollywood musicians are keeping the Indian 'inspirational flag' flying high. What's worse is that even in this day and age of the internet, they seem to give two hoots to getting caught.

The absence of technology back in 1975 did not help the Sippy father-son duo of Sholay to hide their 'great creative robbery'. They 'looted' various elements from many movies for their blockbuster flick. Today, the ease with which script writers, singers, musicians, advertising professionals, authors and journalists make mincemeat of copyright laws makes one wonder if copying is a constitutional right.

So, let me ask Palash Sen one question: by targeting the versatile Aamir Khan, aren't you ignoring the ancient Indian tradition of 'getting inspired'?

First Published: May 08, 2012 23:49 IST