Copy? No It Is Inspiration

The respectful term is ‘Inspiration’. But, to put it blandly it is, actually, blatant copying of Hollywood films, South East Asian countries and European countries. It is an age old practice found amongst almost all film industries in India, but most practiced in the Hindi industry. Small or big, all production banners indulge in it. That is one reason why the industry has no writers with caliber, no writer has been able to make a name for himself since K A Narayan and Salim Javed, way back in 1970s.

K A Narayan wrote some super hit movies, the most memorable of them being—Jewel Thief (1967), Johny Mera Naam (1970), Raampur Ka Lakshman (1972), Victoria No 203 (1972), Kahani Kismat Ki (1973), Geetaa Mera Naam (1974), Amir Garib (1974) and Yudh (1985).

Salim-Javed also gave memorable hits and three of their films— Zanjeer, Deewaar and Sholay remain etched in the history of Hindi cinema. While Narayan was in the writing business since 1957, Salim and Javed were late entrants. Salim was trying his luck at acting but gave up soon enough when he realised his good looks were not enough to make a career as an actor. He took to writing films. Javed on the other hand, did odd jobs around film sets, a filmmaker engaged him to brush up on the dialogues.

Both met in early 70s and decided to work together and form a writing team. Rest, as they say, is history. 

The duo got their first assignment from the South producer MMA Chinnappa Devar to rewrite his Tamil film for a Hindi remake as Haathi Mere Saathi.  This was on the recommendation of the superstar in the making, Rajesh Khanna. It is said that the rewritten script was so good that Devar remade it in Tamil as Nalla Neram! Animals always had a pivotal role to play in Devar’s films.

The unprecedented success of Haathi Mere Saathi set up the duo on a glorious run as this success was followed by Andaaz (1971) and Seeta Aur Geeta (1972) besides,  Zanjeer (1973), Dee­waar (1975) and Sholay (1975), all three soon to be crowned as the biggest hits at the box office.

Salim-Javed, earned respectability for the first time every for their fraternity of writers in the Hindi film industry. Film posters started carrying the initial promotion with their name. Not sure if it was their personal effort or that of the filmmaker, but, the posters read, “Salim Javed’s Trishul” or some such! Suddenly, a writer pair had become bigger than the producer, the director or even the stars in the film!

There were a few other writers who were delivering regular hits at that time, Gulshan Nanda, a Hindi pulp writer specialising in romantic cum social themes and Sachin Bhowmick, who may have delivered the biggest number of Silver Jubilee hits in the history of Hindi films. They lacked in self-promotion! And, they were better off for that. For, self-promotion backfired on Salim Javed, especially!

K A Narayan had this thing about issuing an advertisement in trade papers after each film of his proclaiming to be the king or emperor of the film writing. Rather than their repertoire speak for them, Salim and Javed decided to hit back. The duo’s Immaan Dharam (1977), which boasted of a huge star cast in Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor, Sanjeev Kumar, Rekha, Aparna Sen, Amrish Puri along with top rung supporting cast, released.

Salim Javed issued an ad in trade papers wich read:  “Salim Javed’s Answer To All Criticism: Immaan Dharam’” But, Immaan Dharam proved to be such a disaster, it took the producer, Premji, who has hits like Mera Saaya, Dushman, Dost, Majboor to his credit, to the verge of bankruptcy. His next film, Meera, directed by Gulzar, completed that task.

It is not that Salim Javed did not get ‘inspired’. Seeta Aur Geeta was the role reversal of Dilip Kumar film, Ram Aur Shyam. Zanjeer was from Death Rides A Horse. Sholay was another version of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, which has inspired hundreds of film all over the world. Mr India was, of course, Mr X which was inspired from another foreign film. The duo or one of them seemed to be a big fan of thriller writer, James Hadley Chase, since their dialogue reflected this influence.

One of the early victims of plagiarism was producer/composer Hemant Kumar. He produced a film titled Kohra (1964). The film was a remake of a Hollywood film, Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca. Foreign films released after a big gap India following their local release and, mainly in a few English knowing cities. And few knew if at all if a particular film was a lift.

When Hemant Kumar sold his film circuit wise, he did not repeat his Punjab distributor of Bees Saal Baad, a major musical-thriller hit. He ratted on the ‘inspiration’ to the original rights owners who in turn sued Hemant Kumar for copyrights violation! That was a rare case since ‘inspirations’ are thriving unabated till date.

Let alone middle rung or small filmmakers. The big ones indulged in this practice too. For instance, Yash Chopra’s swan song, Jab Tak Hai Jaan, was about everything that the Hollywood’s The Hurt Locker was. Kamal Haasan’s Vishwaroopam was highly inspired from the Frederick Forsythe’s novel, The Afghan.

There was a time after the advent of video format. A maker would approach an actor with a set of videos or discs and ask him to watch as one was the first half and the other was the second half of the film!

Coming back to why Hindi film industry has failed to produce a writer of note over so many years! It is simple. We expect a star to draw the audience rather than the content. The stars are paid exorbitant sums while the writers are poorly paid. As result, a one film hit writer accepts multiple assignments while the sun shines on him. As a result, his/her output suffers.

Late producer, B R Chopra, had a team of writers. In his films, no single writer was acknowledged in the film titles. Instead, the story was credited to the B R Films’ Story Department.

The last story/scriptwriter who did a decent job is Anees Bazmi, who had the neck. He later turned to direction. Some of those who showed promise are Rajat Arora in the film Dirty Picture (2011) but could not live up to the standard he set for himself in his films that followed.  Juhi Chaturvedi impressed with Vicky Donor and also did good work with Piku. She may deliver some original ideas if she resists turning into a script machine.

Actually, it is quite tough for copycats now that the electronic media has a worldwide reach. Copying is a bad idea. Better deliver some stuff that goes with the Indian sensibilities.

Just Google Hindi films copied from foreign films. The list will fall out like an overstuffed cupboard!

@ The Box Office

It is rather strange that while a film based on Sanjay Dutt’s life, Sanju, is a big hit having collected over 300 crore, a film starring Dutt himself,  Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster, flops miserably just a couple of weeks after Sanju! The film is a disaster at the box office. Having had a poor weekend of 3.3 crore, it just might manage a figure of around 7 crore for its first week.

When it comes to the collections of Dhadak, there is a bit of skepticism. The figures need to be taken with a pinch of salt considering the mixed reactions the film received.  The film is expected to add about 17 crore for its second week to take its two week total to 67 crore.

*Sanju should add about five crore in its fifth week to take its five week tally to 335 crore.