The 'shocking' news from Bollywood earlier this month was that Sony Pictures may sue K Sera Sera Pictures and Eros Entertainment for Partner, a rip off of their Hollywood production Hitch, which starred Will Smith in the lead.
The number bandied about was 30 million dollars.
The shocking bit was that someone is actually thinking of suing Bollywood for something that has been going on for so long that it is almost an accepted business practice.
Why now? Bollywood has been ripping off Hollywood for years. Loosely terming it ‘inspiration’, fledgling directors have taken the easy way out and lifted plots, situations and sometimes whole frames off movies from the west. Off the top of my head, I can remember ‘Pyar to hona hi tha’ a Kajol-Ajay stinker that was a frame-by-frame remake of ‘French Kiss’ and ‘Zinda’, a copy of ‘Oldboy’.
That is hardly limited to lazy Indian directors and scriptwiters. Martin Scorcese’s Oscar-winning ‘Departed’ was in itself a remake of the Korean ‘Infernal Affairs’. The ‘Magnificent Seven’ was a remake of the ‘Seven Samurai’. The list goes on and on.
What has changed is that what used to be a closed, secretive, mafia-funded industry has come out of the dark. With the movie business being declared an industry, the doors have been opened to publicly listed companies like UTV and Adlabs to enter this profitable arena and inject some level of professionalism. Unfortunately, the downside is increased scrutiny, especially since international investors like Sony have made serious inroads into the entertainment business, both in television and the movies.
Directors like Mira Nair and Gurindar Chaddha have also been instrumental in turning the spotlight on Bollywood. Even though movies like ‘Bride and Prejudice’ were released to a limited western audience, the damage was done as the exotic and colorful world of Hindi movies started to attract the attention of mainstream directors and actors. Our very own Ms. Bachchan( nee Rai) has also been a gorgeous ambassador for Bollywood, regardless of her box-office success back home.
It stands to reason that blatant plagiarism is going to be much more visible here on. Will Smith, who has made high profile visits to Mumbai, was probably astounded at the lifestyle of the rich and famous movie families. His production house Overbrook Entertainment is expected to tag along with Sony Pictures as they take on Eros.
And it is not just the increased visibility. The entry of professional production companies means there is someone concrete to sue. After all, one can hardly imagine entertainment companies going after a shadowy underworld figure based out of Dubai. Suddenly the whole world can see there’s money to be made and they are flocking in droves to Bollywood to see who they can put the screws on.
Does this mean scriptwriters will have to shelve their foreign DVDs and start thinking of original stories for a change? I certainly hope so, but the cynic in me is expecting the focus to simply shift to remakes of our own movies and obscure foreign languages that filmmakers hope can’t be found out. If translators are suddenly in demand in Mumbai, you’ll know why!