Hello Friends,Is there a sense of déjà vu when you go to see Hindi films? After watching movie like ‘Partner’or ‘Ghajini’ did you feel a sense of familiarity?The first reaction of my friend after watching ‘Teen Patti’ in a nearby theater was “watch 21instead”. This one sentence summed up everything about the film.So, Bollywood, $2.2 billion-a-year film industry, which churns out some 800 movies annually,continues to borrow plots, sequences, ideas and sometime the whole movie from Hollywood.This trend, which gained speed in mid 90’s refuse to slow down. Every year a large no. ofHollywood films are recycled in one way or another and presented to the Indian audience. Themedia, critics and diehard cinema lovers complain but filmmakers refuse to budge. Few notableexamples of copied/inspired films are Zinda, kidnap, Josh, Race, Kaante etc.Anupama Chopra, a film critic in Mumbai, said. "Personally, I am really glad. It got to the pointwhere I said to one director, Where is your artistic skill? And he looked right at me and said:My skill is knowing what to steal. "Bollywood has often been accused of being plagiarising – not only movies but music as well .Some believe upto 60% of Indian movies are simple remakes – mainly of English and Americanfilms, thus causing originality crisis in Bollywood. Why do Indian filmmakers copy Westerndirectors? Do they suffer from a lack of originality?Few Hits, many MissesBollywood directors and script writers often choose a good foreign language film but fail toproduce a quality film in India. Most of the times we see these films biting the dust at the boxoffice. Some recent failures are Dil Bole Hadippa, God tussi great ho, Thoda Pyaar ThodaMagic, Ugly aur Pagli etc. (Inspired by She’s the Man, Bruce Almighty, Mary Poppins and MySassy Girl respectively) but even after the debacle of these films, the copycat bug continues tobe a nemesis of the originality in Hindi film industry. The reasons are pretty simple. It is easierto pick up a foreign film, indianize it in one way or another, complete the shoot in quick timeand you have a product ready to be delivered. If the film clicks then they are a happy lot. Even ifthe film misses out at the box office, the maker don’t lose much since the distributors are theone who endure all the losses.
A no. of big Bollywood hits in the previous years have been inspired or copied from someforeign film. Films like Welcome, Raaz, Heyy Babyy were inspired from Mickey Blue eyes, WhatLies Beneath and 3 Men and a Baby respectively.And the greatest flick ‘Munnabhai MBBS’ is copied from ‘Patch Adams’. The mega success ofthe copied films makes the filmmakers even more brazen thus leading to a spate of new copies.Copying and InspirationThough copying and inspiration are two different things, but, in India, the distinction betweenthe two has blurred – thanks to our filmmakers. Getting inspired from a foreign film is notsomething new here. Many old Hindi films like Parichay, Dharmatma and even Sholay wereinspired from a foreign film. For e.g., Parichay was inspired from The sound of Music but therewas a lot of difference in the narrative. Copying means lifting the characters, scenes, and plotsetc. from one movie and putting it in another movie with minor or no changes. For e.g. themovie Partner was a copy of Hollywood film Hitch since not only the major characters and thebasic plot of the film was lifted but many scenes were copied as well. List of such copied films isvery long. But most of the filmmakers deny it. Today many good films, which were actuallyinspired from some foreign film, are put in the same bracket as the copied ones. The reason isobvious – copied films outnumber the inspired flicks.Is Inspiration Bad?Inspired cinema is not bad if the quality of the film is good. A good inspired film is one which,though having similarities with original, stands out on its own. One recent example that comesinto my mind is that of Ram Gopal Verma’s Sarkar. Those who have watched this movie as wellas Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘The Godfather’ would know the similarity in the basic plots betweenthese two films. But the similarity ends here. ‘Sarkar’s script is very different from theHollywood film. This is one good example of inspired cinema which has its share of originalityand is loads better than the copied cinema.Reasons for CopyingThere are various reasons behind the copycat business in Bollywood. The biggest reason is thedesire to earn quick bucks without investing too much time and efforts.
Omar quereshi, a famous critic, said that "The biggest motivation for making a successful movieis that it brings money and appreciation. So filmmakers go for a tried and tested formula bytaking inspiration from Hollywood." These days Indian cinema is being driven by the brain and not by the heart. Producers look fora sure-shot formula and aren’t willing to try something new. They believe that the combo of ahit foreign film script and big stars will pay rich dividends. Though it doesn’t always happen andfilms like Naksha (inspired by Welcome to the Jungle) fail badly . Script writers are to beblamed too for this since this trend of copying was given the initial momentum by few of theirfraternity.Today many young and promising script writers suffer due to this since there are very fewproducers who are willing to try a new and original script. Star system too plays a role here.After signing a big star for a huge amount, most of the producers don’t wish to take any sort ofrisk.Winds of ChangeAll is not gloomy out there. Slowly things are changing in Bollywood as well. The crop of youngfilmmakers along with the entry of corporate world has produced some rich cinema in last 2-3years. Directors like Anurag Kashyap, Vishal Bharadwaj, Imtiaz Ali and Rajkumar Hirani writetheir own scripts and take time to develop it. The films like Dev D, Kaminey, A Wednesday, JabWe Met, Wake Up Sid etc. are few notable examples of a good quality cinema.Some credit should be given to the vigilance of the Hollywood film industry as well. In the pastfew years the producers in the west have objected the blatant copying of their films by theIndian filmmakers. The makers of Hitch had slapped a legal notice on the producers of Partner.Due to increasing awareness in Hollywood about the copying business going on here, Indianproducers these days are showing interest in buying the copyrights of the original films.We do not mind hindi movies being inspired from english ones. But we have heard of actorsbeing shown videos of the original film and being asked to perform in the same manner. Surelythat can be avoided and directors will certainly fare better on Intellectual Property by beingmore subtle in their approach.Whether good or bad, there’s definitely one positive point which benefits those Indians whocannot understand English or do not enjoy watching Hollywood movies. With the indianizedversion of these movies, they certainly enjoy some incredible ideas born in Hollywood minds,live on Indian theatre and television screens. A recent announcement that Bollywood wants toremake "The Hangover" prompted an MTV India call-in show to be flooded with text messagesand calls of support.
Finally, I would like to say that ‘It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.’Good quality cinema based on original works can give Indian cinema the recognition it cravesfor, and not the copying act.Thank You.