I am angry.
It was just another day until I came across a video by a YouTube channel called – Pieces of Work by Corrie Hinschen. His video was titled – India, we need to talk about plagiarism. He spoke about how a Malayalam film Chaappa Kurishu, that he was recommended, turned out to be a copy of Korean film Handphone.
I then proceeded to carry out my own research to find out exactly how Bollywood steals? By the end of it, I was shook. I was angry. I was amazed.
I was amazed at how brazenly our revered filmmakers have just outright stolen the creative works of others! Now, believe me, I don’t use the word – ‘steal’ lightly. The films that I came across were those Bollywood films that were made without purchasing the rights of the originals. They are unauthorized copies. The filmmakers may call their movies being ‘inspired by the originals’, but they need to be educated on the word ‘inspired’.
You can find a list of ‘inspired’ films here.
After this distressing revelation, I went back to the source and talked to Corries Hinschen. His opinion was that – “The reason plagiarism has been so popular is because it has been going on for so long that it has become somewhat accepted and much of it goes undetected. For instance, the plagiarised films are often South Korean or Japanese films, which makes it harder to detect – many Indian viewers would not have seen the films that have been copied, and likewise, South Korean/Japanese viewers are unlikely to see the films that have been plagiarised. If a large Hollywood movie were to be duplicated, it would be much more noticeable because more people are familiar with them. There also haven’t been any consequences when it does get detected – the directors/producers of the original films don’t call the copied films out, and they don’t take legal action.”
But how do you determine if a film is plagiarised? Corrie believes – “I consider a film to be plagiarised if the director/writer/producer borrows too heavily from other content. If a filmmaker has copied the plot, characters, dialogue, shots, and/or sequences from another film without acknowledging or giving credit to the original source, then its plagiarism. It’s also plagiarism if the rights to the original film have not been acquired legally and the film is made regardless.”
But guess what? Films is not all, Bollywood has been stealing music as well! I know everyone thinks of Pritam and Anu Malik (why these people even bother to put their names on the songs, I will never know) when they hear the term- copied songs, but there are incredible and talented musicians who have also indulged in this despicable practice.
Given below is a list of copied Hindi songs:
1. 500 miles – Copied by Jab Koi Baat Bigad Jaye
2. Theme for a dream – Copied by Pal pal har pal har pal
3. When I need you – Copied by Tum Se Milke Aisa Laga
4. The man who plays the mandalino – Copied by Ye Kaali Kaali Aankhen
5. Say you love me – Copied by Mehbooba Mehbooba
6. Where Do I Begin – Copied by Raja Ko Rani Se Pyaar Ho Gaya
7. Chella lla'- Copied by Sala Main To Sahab Ban Gaya
8. All my love – Copied by Neend Churayi Meri
9. Chicano 1975 – Copied by Laila O Laila
10. Percy Montose – Copied by Yeh Hai Bombay Meri Jaan
11. Roll Down Di Rubber Man – Copied by Tip Tip Barsa Paani
12. Zigeunerjunge – Copied by Dil Bar Mere Kab Tak Mujhe
13. Take That Look Off Your Face – Copied by Koi Mil Gaya Mera Dil Gaya
14. Come Into My Life – Copied by Dheere Dheere Se Meri Zindagi
15. If It’s Tuesday – Copied by Chura Liya Hai Tumne Jo Dil Ko
For proof, you can check out these videos.
I know this list is completely disheartening. I felt the same way.
Everybody knows and loves the song “Tamma Tamma Loge” by Bappi Lahiri, originally heard in Thanedaar. What we don’t know is that it was copied from Mory Kanté’s song ‘Tama’. It was appreciated then, and the new reboot in Badrinath Ki Dulhaniya has also been received very well. In fact, it was nominated for Zee Cine Awards as the song of the year. All this fame, money, and appreciation for this song, but what does the original creator get? Nothing.
So the question arises, why do the filmmakers and music directors do it?
Well the most glaring reason is because they can! The audience will not realize if these works are a copy. We may see Hollywood movies nowadays, but the other cinemas of Asia – Japanese, Korean, and Chinese are still unexplored by the common man. Apart from this, although the reach of Bollywood is increasing day by day, these movies may often go unnoticed by the original creators.
Apart from this, another huge reason is the inability of our law to help the original creators. In the first case of copyright infringement against a work copied by Indian makers was the Bradford v. Sahara Media Entertainment. Here, an English novelist Barbara Bradford alleged that an Indian television series entitled Karishma—The Miracle of Destiny was an unauthorized adaptation of her novel, A Woman of Substance. This matter went to the Kolkata High Court and it proclaimed that Bradford did not have copyright protection over the subject because the material was “too common” to the topic at issue.
The plot of Karishma had been completely lifted from Bradford’s book where the protagonist is a poor woman who gets burdened early in life with an illegitimate child, has a best friend who is an ordinary worker. She marries an army officer, and then goes on to own a successful chain of stores thereby making her rich.
This story was held to be “too common” and “uncopyrightable” by our courts. With this kind of precedence set, it is immensely risky for any foreign party to have a copyright infringement case against Indian makers because they might not be fairly heard.
We have to understand that the internet and globalization is a pretty recent phenomena. Before this, the only people who would have access to foreign music and movies would be the travelers, the ones who could afford to go out and see the world. This included big filmmakers, producers, and other rich people. They would like a song/movie from another country and instruct others to make the same.
Another factor is the mentality of the filmmakers, there is a common belief that once the film/music has released, it becomes open to copying. This notion is completely wrong and very damaging to the original creators. Ek Villain, which is a copy of Korean film I Saw The Devil, grossed more than 100 crores on the box office. The makers did not buy the rights and so the original Korean creators didn’t receive any benefit of this money.
So what is the cure for this “Plague of Plagiarism”? According to Corrie, “To begin with, Indian film critics and entertainment media need to be more critical and open with the public when plagiarism comes up. Additionally, prominent directors need to be more vocal in regards to this issue. Further, the artists who have had their work copied need to take legal action and not let plagiarism go blindly.”
The problem is not copying. The problem is copying illegally. Remakes are a good idea, there are many stories across the world that need to be told. There are many reasons why watching the originals is difficult – language and culture gap, censor issues (many Korean films would never pass through our censor board), difficulty in accessing the films etc. But the fact remains that filmmakers need to give due credit and compensation to the original makers.
We, at Media Konnect do not condone the “copying” of any creative works. If you are a filmmaker who wants to create or even re-create a story, you are welcome to approach Media Konnect to do so the right way. Just drop a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get back to you.