Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Plagiarism in Bollywood

Saw Body Heat (a 1981 noir by Lawrence Kasdan) yesterday and realized that the Hindi film Jism (a 2003 film by Amit Saxena, who hasn't directed before or since) is an almost exact sequence by sequence copy of this film, albeit with a lot of song and dance and poor acting.

What is surprising is that Jism was written (sic) by a top writer/director in Bollywood: Mahesh Bhatt (incidentally one of the closest followers of the anti-guru U G Krishnamurti). Mahesh Bhatt has made a lot of good films, and this blatant plagiarism (obviously without any attribution) has finished any respect that I had for him.

Plagiarism in Bollywood is quite prevalent. There is a specific website devoted to tracking this phenomenon: Bollycat.


Surbhi Goel said...

The proclivity to copy Hollywood, European and other world Cinema led to the circulation of the term Bollywood, which is denegrating to the Hindi Film Industry's resistance to Hollywood conventions. The Early cinema language in Hindi films (also the popular Indian Cinema, even now) was a direct resistance to the realistic elements in European actualities. Phalke's flat mise-en scene, complete with spectacle drew mostly from the Theatrical conventions. Song and dance sequences are part of the film story and stiched to it. It is nothing like the song/dance sequences in Musicals of the west.
It is the copycat culture which often reduces Hindi Films to a mere farce and kitch production. And some of these Copies are awful. Ek Choti si Love Story butchered Kieslowski's A Short story about Love. However, Mani Ratnam only borrowed the film technique/ story technique in Yuva from Iñárritu's Amores perros. I cringed when Bhansali had misused the whiplash in Devdas which he picked from Ghatak's Meghe Dhake Tarra. "Nakal main bhi to akal lagani chahiye"( why send the brain on vacation even if one is copying???)

Susan said...

The movie Jism might be a copy of some other movie, but can that really be considered as a criterion for respecting or disrespecting a person...Mahesh Bhatt as you agree has made some good movies ( one of them being Saransh that i recently happened to watch). when the intention of a man is to make a movie with the best of his abilities, he might come up with something to satisfy his creative instincts....but if his intention is to make some guaranteed money for whatever purpose, it definetely would be wise to make a movie that he believes would be liked by the majority. The question of "morality" might be brought in but that again is debatable.

Harmanjit Singh said...

"The movie Jism might be a copy of some other movie, but can that really be considered as a criterion for respecting or disrespecting a person..."

# Yes, if the writer blatantly plagiarises without attribution, then obviously he deserves no respect for originality or depth of the story (since it is not his own). When I read more about Mahesh Bhatt, seems like he has done it in the past as well (The films "Murder", "Hum Hain Raahi Pyar Ke" etc.)

His following UG is incidental. Other directors in India are not following any particular guru but they also plagiarize.

"but if his intention is to make some guaranteed money for whatever purpose, it definetely would be wise to make a movie that he believes would be liked by the majority. The question of "morality" might be brought in but that again is debatable."

# It is not a question of morality at all. He is not a "bad" person. He is just not an original author, and is now catering to mass tastes. And it is a question of portraying oneself as the original writer when one is anything but. I can respect him as an adapter if his adaptations are good, but not as an author.

Susan said...

fair enough...he does not deserve respect for his originality....my point is, he doesnt need to be disrepected either. and as far as i beleive, mahesh bhatt has never claimed any originality over his film "jism".

i again fully agree when you state that his following U.G. is incidental and infact is not relavant in this context.

again "morality", "good", "bad" are all quite debatable....if one defines morality as the common rules that everyone agrees upon for common benefit, plagiarism might be considered as immoral (i know it is a very crude way of defining it and is pretty much arguable).

Anonymous said...

Mahesh Bhat kind of got his sanction for plagiarization through the philosophy of UG. The two main themes in UG's teaching which has influenced Mahedh Bhat are that there is no such thing as originality and the second the importance of making Money.
UG always maintained that there is no such thing as creativity and originality. All creative stuff is a modified continutity of existing stuff. UG also encouraged people close to him not to fall prey to romantic ideas of art and aesthetics and instead exhorted them to be practical and make a lot of money.

Anonymous said...

pretty rich coming from a blogger who has plagiarized the title of the Blog....:-)

Harmanjit Singh said...

For what it is worth, I happily acknowledge the title as a phrase I vaguely remembered from a film by Merchant Ivory Productions.

I hadn't seen it when I started my blog, and found the phrase to be apt for the thoughts and words one leaves as the day is gone.

Anonymous said...

Merchant Ivory production was a film based on a renowned novel. Of course you know that:


of course your defense can be that you dropped the article. as far as worth is concerned, none if you do not care, but a lot if plagiarism is something you are discussing. Of course one is free to copy, borrow and lift, just that i found it funny that you point fingers at others.
good write ups on your blog!

new kid makes a good point about the term Bollywood. Susan too, about judging Bhatt, however i agree with your response to Susan.

best wishes


Anonymous said...

The practices could be considered unethical for a number of reasons. One is that no credit is given to the original author or the director/producer who has adapted the original work. The copiers have often lifted entire scenes from the original movies. This is very reprehensible. They have put very little effort in their own movie, and are reaping huge rewards. This is nothing but thievery and exploitation. Secondly, the copiers have not taken the risk that the original producers have in trying to adapt a particular work and hence this is pure calculativeness and shrewdness at best and repugnant at worst. They are also sapping the creativity in 'Bollywood' by setting a very low standard.

If U.G. Krishnamurti's philosophy leads to this base behaviour then I would say that U.G. Krishnamurti is a bad influence in India and for everyone else who follows him. "There is no creativity and nothing original," and "one should be practical and just make lots of money." What absurd phiosophy! What mindless people would follow this sort of idiocy? I haven't read U.G's stuff, but I might, just to verify some of these statments. I would suggest that if readers want original and 'delivering' philosopy, they should try Jiddu Krishnamurti.