It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but Bollywood seems to be taking the adage too seriously.
Rani Mukerji as a cop in a still from her film, Mardaani, that released last Friday. The film deals with the subject of human trafficking and a filmmaker has alleged that certain scenes from this film have been lifted from his movie.
A plotline here, a character there and a song somewhere else — many Hindi films have courted controversy for allegedly copying scripts, concepts, music and even posters from various sources, all in the name of ‘inspiration’. Worse still, many filmmakers do not believe in acknowledging or giving credit to the makers of the original.
Devvrat claims that some scenes from his film, Children of War (above), have been copied in Mardaani
The latest film facing allegations of plagiarism is the Rani Mukerji-starrer, Mardaani, which released last Friday. Director Mrityunjay Devvrat has has reportedly accused Yash Raj Films of lifting a few scenes from his critically acclaimed film, Children of War.
“Mardaani shares many similarities with my film, including the concept. Scenes such as the one where women are hauled into a truck, segregated and then hosed down with a pipe bear a striking resemblance with sequences from my film. I don’t mind people copying because it has been happening in the industry for a long time now.
I am flattered that people are copying from my film. But what hurts me the most is that new directors and their small-budget films don’t get appreciated. We all know that there are a few big production houses which run the industry and they just want to make movies for money. They are not at all concerned about the society and what they show on the big screen,” says Mrityunjay.
He also accuses production houses of being low on creativity. “They have to make a film within a certain time frame, which leaves little room for creativity. They have money but are highly incompetent. Cinema as an art is dying,” he adds.
As someone who has been accused of lifting tunes from other composers, music director Pritam knows a thing or two about plagiarism and related territory. “In the beginning of my career, I indulged in it on account of various reasons. Back then, such things were taken lightly and everyone in the industry was doing the same. But then I realised that it is not good thing and that it had left me in a mess. I have suffered so much because of this; most of my original work was also questioned. People would crack jokes about me and gossip about me; nobody wants that,” he says.
The music composer says that on many occasions, he has been falsely accused of plagiarism. “I think that plagiarism is no longer rampant because people are more aware about these things now. As a victim of plagiarism myself, I understand that it’s the worst thing to happen in the industry,” he adds.
Bollywood has long been a remake machine, blatantly copying Hollywood blockbusters and adding a dash of desi spice to suit the taste of the audiences here. And the plagiarism laws in the country are not quite stringent enough, though there has been an effort, of late, to make them stricter.
Vikram Bhatt, who was also accused of plagiarism in his film, Dangerous Ishq, believes there are two sides to the coin. “It’s a very debatable thing. There are many people for whom remakes are a money-making scheme. I am not saying that we don’t have plagiarism in the industry. But it’s a financial issue, not a creative one. For instance, a scriptwriter alleged that my film, Dangerous Ishq, was based on his script. The fact is that I had registered the film’s script much before he had. For these people, it’s about extracting money from reputed banners under the garb of plagiarism. Thankfully, we now have stringent copyright laws and if you do plagiarise, you have to pay a fat penalty.”
Producer-director Mahesh Bhatt defends the industry’s copying habits. “The human brain is not a creative den, it’s a recycle den. There’s no creativity left in the industry. People accused me of plagiarising from the film, It Happened One Night, when my film, Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahi, was out. But the fact is that there’s a big difference between the two films. Also, I believe in reverse engineering. You take a film, work on it and then come up with something new. Saying that every film is plagiarised is exaggeration. There has been some extraordinary work in this industry. I believe you always have to steal — either from someone or from your own life. If you steal it from someone then it’s plagiarism and if you steal it from your life, it’s a masterpiece,” he says.