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Pay homage, pay damage

Art is either plagiarism or revolution, they say. And, Bollywood — that a-film-a-day ‘factory’ — has never shied away from lifting a plot or tune, revolution be damned.

india Updated: Apr 12, 2008 00:47 IST

Art is either plagiarism or revolution, they say. And, Bollywood — that a-film-a-day ‘factory’ — has never shied away from lifting a plot or tune, revolution be damned. The result of such ‘well-researched’ activities (solemnly known as ‘inspiration’ and ‘paying homage’) is a slew of cases in the courts where ‘creators’ fight it out with ‘cheaters’ over scores and plots. The recent controversy regarding two songs in the just-released Krazzy4 is a case in point. On Thursday, jingle-writer Ram Sampath reached a ‘settlement’ with producer Rakesh Roshan after the Bombay High Court upheld Sampath’s claim prima facie that the songs were his and restrained the release of the movie with two songs, Krazzy4 and Break-free.

Krazzy4 is not the first case, and neither will it be the last. How are we so confident, you ask? Read what Jaideep Sen, the director of the film, has to say on this ‘inspiration-is-not-copying’ debate: “Two creative minds at a time can always think alike.” Yes, we agree; that’s called real-time telepathy. And sorry, mere mortals like us will never be able to fathom the depth of this emotional connect. In fact, it is embarrassing to list the films and scores that have been copied from foreign films. Go to www.itwofs, which provides a comprehensive list of ‘inspirations’ of Bollywood composers, to check out how deep-seated the malaise is. And, no one, even from the great RD Burman to the iPod generation’s hero, Pritam, is out of this. The twist-a-minute film, Race, which was released last month, is a rip-off of Goodbye Lover. Last year, Sony Pictures Entertainment threatened to sue producers K Sera Sera and Eros Entertainment for $30 million for copying Hitch into Partner. In 2003, Sahara Television had to fight a legal battle after Barbara Taylor Bradford filed a suit against it claiming that the serial Karishma was a copy of her novel, A Woman of Substance.

But what takes the cake is the bravado with which Bollywood plagiarists face criticism. At a TV show, music director, and he is known to be frequently ‘inspired’ by other’s compositions, Anu Malik justified his habit by saying that “everyone from RD Burman to today’s composers have lifted from here and there.” Two wrongs don’t make a right, does it, Mr Malik? In fact, Bollywood’s badshahs don’t leave our regional film industries either; they dip frequently into its huge reservoir of storylines and music without a by-your-leave.

Cases like the one involving Krazzy4 will, hopefully, force Bollywood to pull up its socks. Movie-watching is no more a regional or sub-regional fare; while we watch Western films, people out there watch Bollywood too. Our copyright laws need to be toned up. But more importantly, we need to develop respect for the effort that goes into making an original film and a score.