I was watching an old hollywood movie on TV when I realized it looked very familiar. One old hindi movie was a copy of the one I was watching ( yeah I looked up in wikipedia- the hollywood movie predated the other by approx. ten years !! 😦 ). No, not just the broad storyline…..the scenes, the characters and even the dialogues were copied!! I was disheartened because the hindi movie in question was among my favourites. The only original bits in that movie as compared to the hollywood original were few extra family members of the main actors and the song and dance routines.
You only have to do a quick google search to find out which hindi or let’s say Indian movies have been “inspired” by the hollywood (or world) movies and for a movie lover like me it is so disheartening.
While growing up my movie intake was mostly limited to hindi films barring a few malayalam and bengali movies that I watched with my parents. Movies defined an era for me. Movies like Mother India and Hum hindustani defined the challenges and aspirations of my young nation. Chupke-chupke and Golmaal made me laugh again and again, , Madhumati and Mughal-e Azam spoke of everlasting love and Hum Apke Hain Kaun and Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge made me sing and dance. Parallel and commercial movies defined the national mood of the 60’s and 70’s for me. I delightfully lapped up all the movies our local cable operator had to offer – be it B/w movies from the 40’s to movies of disco era. The songs and dance routines often provided not only a good pastime activity (antakshari – for those of you know it and charades!) it was also a relief in a tense situation and a way to escape out of tricky situations.
Any ways my knowledge of hollywood movies was limited before I moved to this part of the world. And then we subscribed to (new and old) hollywood movie channels ………and now I don’t think it was a good idea at all ! I have not only realized that some of the well loved movies were ‘inspired’ by their hollywood counterparts (some in part and some frame by frame), but memories of some of my favourite songs have been muddied. It is said ‘ignorance is bliss’ and blissful it was!
I might anger few of you out there by what I am going to say next . I am not totally opposed to feeling inspired by a story but I strongly feel you have to make it your own – you might call it ‘value-addition’ . I feel there are stories and emotions that are universal in nature, but there are people, methods and situations that are unique to a region. One good example that comes to mind was the hindi movie adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello …. it was a movie called Omkara. Though the storyline is the same, the characters are rooted in rural india. They were not just caricatures but were made very real and identifiable.
In our super-legalised culture, where any misstep is an opportunity for somebody to sue somebody else for money, we are forgetting the universality of human experience to some extent. The Holy Book says, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Copyright infringement laws have scared so many of us into inaction. So many times, I feel like writing on a particular subject , but give up on it after a quick google search. Much has been written before and expressing a similar thought to someone may lead to accusation of plagiarism. Here is an interesting quote I came across:
I wake up from dreams and go, ‘Wow, put this down on paper.’ The whole thing is strange. You hear the words, everything is right there in front of your face. And you say to yourself, ‘I’m sorry, I just didn’t write this. It’s there already.’ That’s why I hate to take credit for the songs I’ve written. I feel that somewhere, someplace, it’s been done and I’m just a courier bringing it into the world. I really believe that. I love what I do. I’m happy at what I do. It’s escapism.
“Michael Jackson – Life in the magical kingdom” – Rolling Stone (February 17, 1983)
Coming from a Musical superstar, those are weighted words. The Song writer said in the book of Psalms:
As they make music they will sing, “All my fountains are in you.”
I realize that even after my due-diligence & crediting my (known) sources, there is a chance that someone somewhere else is either thinking or has already thought of something like this . Like fingerprints and DNA that are unique despite millions of other similarities I share with others, through my life experiences some creative endeavours could be called mine.
Finally, even though those scenes and movies were not 100% original, my experience of them- the tears that welled up in my eyes or the laughs I shared with friends were really genuine.