The degree of plagiarism that has always existed is mind numbing. The worst part is that it exists not only blatantly, which everybody notices and comments on, but also on subtle and nuanced levels; and it is indulged in by the stalwarts of Indian moviedom. How often have we winced at the use of the James Bond theme music in the action sequences of so many Hindi movies of the sixties and the seventies or have been left bemused watching Shammi Kapoor croon Yar Dilruba, the Hindi equivalent of Elvis’s Don’t be Cruel.
How so many English songs from eclectic sources ranging from ABBA to the Beatles to Osibisa and movie theme tracks like Chariots of Fire have been shamelessly adopted and adapted by leading Indian film music composers like RD Burman, Rajesh Roshan, OP Nayyar, et al defies logic(these guys were capable of and did compose incredible music of their own).
So many of the iconic Hindi film songs are straight lifts from foreign compositions. Take the case of the famous uthe sab ke kadam which is nothing but Polly Wolly Doodle in Hindi. Then there is the self proclaimed cerebral film maker, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, in whose Parineeta, the iconic A kiss to build on Dream on by the inimitable Louis Armstrong has been rendred as kaise paheli hai yeh kaise. Sacrilege! The examples are so numerous that one can’t but wonder at the shamelessness of it all.Jab koi baat bigad jaye is nothing but, When you miss the train I am on. The song Yeh hai Bombay meri jann, which is on the lips of every conceited Mumbiakar is plagiarised from My Darling Clementine.
One could go on and on about the songs, but what about other aspects of our often vaunted film making. Taking the example of Jodha Akbar, the much acclaimed historical bio-pic by the much respected Ashutosh Gowarlikar. The contrived final one on one duel between Akbar and his would be nemesis is almost a replication of the duel between Hector and Achilles in the movie Troy.
Or take the case of the cult movie Agnipath where Amitabh’s character basically rehashes Al Pacino’s potrayal in Scarface, down to the raspy voice. Really what all this shows is two things. One that our movie makers and comoposers are lazy people who would rather play safe and tweak world class content conceptualised elsewhere. And second they take advantage of the gullibility and ignorance of the average Indian film-goer who is not aware that his idols are taking him for a royal ride.
It is no wonder then that the leading film makers of the country including the motor mouth and always with an opinion Mahesh Bhatt oppose the release of dubbed international movies into the Indian market, as that would expose them to their core audience. By some strange coincidence the Mumbai based film industry much in the fashion of the erstwhile Mumbai club of industrialists who resisted the entry of world class products into India (remember the kind of cars we used to drive two decades back), would want the great Indian people to continue to be satisfied with plagiarised re-hashed and borrowed ideas and themes passed on as original content.