The fame of Shirish Kunder’s short film Kriti was short-lived indeed, as he was accused of plagiarising Nepali filmmaker Aneel Neupane’s film BOB just a day after Kriti released online.
Kunder has denied the allegations and sent a legal notice to the makers of BOB, but the incident once again shines light on the Indian film and music industry’s bane: Plagiarism and lack of originality.
Other notable examples include the song Khallas in Ram Gopal Varma’s Veerappan that was “inspired” by Dillon Francis & DJ Snake’s track Get Low.
Salman Khan’s Bajrangi Bhaijaan was hit with a plagiarism lawsuit in 2015, and 2010’s Knock Out, starring Sanjay Dutt, Irrfan Khan and Kangana Ranaut, was proven in court to be a copy of Hollywood’s 2002 sniper-thriller Phone Booth.
Says director Vivek Agnihotri, “People would go to DVD libraries and make films based on those DVDs. ‘Arey yeh kyun leke ja rahe hai, yeh toh Ramu leke gaya hai.’ ‘Ramu ne bhi li, Mahesh Bhatt ne bhi li hai, Vikram Bhatt ne bhi li, Anurag Kashyap toh teen-char baar le li hain.’ This is how conversations would go.”
He adds that there was also a time when production companies and film stars were “afraid to judge an original script” and would only accept remakes of hits.
This lack of originality is in fact a by product of the way the film industry works, says Pyaar Ka Punchnama director Luv Ranjan.
`“Not wanting to give people their due is a social mindset. Everyone cribs about having no writers or original scripts in the industry, but what are you willing to pay them? You’re ready to pay a star and a director but not a writer,” says Luv. He also says that plagiarism is an issue that arises mostly with new directors and writers.
The problem can be solved in multiple ways, filmmakers say. Neeraj Ghaywan adds that social media and digitisation of content has made it easier to spot and shame plagiarism.
“People must discuss publicly if anyone’s content is plagiarised so that the social shame can be a deterrent. However, it’s upon artistes to protect other artistes by appropriating due credits if they get inspired by their work,” Neeraj says.
Luv also thinks that while copyright laws exist in India, it’s the judicial system that is helps plagiarism thrive. He says, “I know stories of writers who have spent decades trying to prove that a story is theirs. Because a film gets ready in 10 or 12 months and gets released. Once that happens, you are not getting your credit and a little money doesn’t solve the issue.”
Director Onir says that movie actors too need to be more aware of the projects they take up: “I think we as an industry should stop celebrating films or music that infringe on copyright laws. Why hand out awards to them if it is stolen? I think as an industry we need to grow a spine, and do away with films and music that are copied. Only then will things change. Actors, too, know when content is being stolen. They simply need to put their foot down.”
‘Industry needs to take a stand’
Abhigyan Jha, writer of the unreleased film Phir Zindagi, had alleged that Vikas Bahl’s Queen was a copy of his film in 2014: “We culturally elevate people instead of ridiculing them. Barfi!, for instance, won accolades and awards, but scenes from Barfi! were taken from so many films. It is this ridiculous mindset that helps people get away with plagiarism. No credit should be given to people who copy. R.D. Burman has lifted so many tunes. Why is he celebrated? I think this is a cultural issue instead of a legal one. If big names in the industry don’t take a stand, no one will take the issue seriously.”
— With inputs from Julie Sam...