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deiva thirumagal


Deivathirumagal is a good movie! So were Nandhalala, Yogi, Ghajini and many others. The two sentences were not particularly insightful; these are things that all of us know. Another fact about these films that most of us know is that they are adaptations/inspirations or sometimes even remakes of foreign language films. Now, that too is not a revelation! How much of a revelation can one give when talking about films that are adapted from the works of others?

Now, it is a common and accepted practice in Indian cinema to be ‘inspired’ from Hollywood or other foreign language films. Of course, there are varied degrees of ‘inspiration’. Some take the central plot, work on it, make it better or worse, add things that are suited to the local tastes and bring out a final product. There are also others who prefer to make films that look like a DVD-rip of the original. It is a question of ‘the lesser of the two evils’. Something like – which is the more serious crime; Murder or culpable homicide not amounting to murder? Well, undoubtedly, the former would get the guilty a much heavier punishment than the latter, but that by any means does not sanctify the latter.

This is no attempt to compare film remakes with murder; just the inability to find a better example. So, what am I saying – should remakes or inspirations be completely stopped? Not at all! In fact remaking films is one of the finest and perhaps the only way in which good stories can be told around the globe. Without remakes and inspirations some of the best films ever made would have been confined to the viewing pleasures on a very small minority. Imagine how many people (leave out the urban classes) would have ever known a concept such as the one used in Memento had not Murugadoss used it in Ghajini. How many would have known the beautiful story of I am Sam, had it not been for Deivathirumagal? How many of us would have even known the existence of a poetic film such as Majid Majidi’s Children of Heaven had it not been for Priyadarshan’s (how much ever he messed it up) Bum Bum Bole? There is no dearth of examples to prove that remakes and inspirations actually serve a very high purpose of taking good stories to all corners of the globe; it is not to be shunned.

So, what’s the issue? The issue is one of proper and due credit being given to the intellectual property of the original holder of the idea. The most (and the only) disturbing aspect of the whole remaking business is that the makers feel absolutely no need to acknowledge the original work with even a mention in the rolling credits. I for one cannot recall a single ‘inspired’ film which had the courage and forthrightness to claim in its rolling credits as having been based on the original. It is left for the audiences and media to find and point out that the said movie is based on an original work that came out of Hollywood (mostly).

Other than the entertainment industry, there is no other walk of life where the intellectual property of a person is so blatantly violated and plagiarism so openly practiced. Can you imagine a book being translated from one language to another without credit to the original, wouldn’t the author be publicly maligned? But, the same doesn’t happen when it comes to cinema! The film maker does not care to mention the original anywhere in his work. Is there a belief that the audience won’t realize? That would have held true in the pre-internet era. But, nowadays with Indian audiences being exposed to films from all over the world, the makers of these ‘inspired’ movies do not stand a chance of escaping notice. So, if you can’t escape, why not just acknowledge the original. Unfortunately, our film makers still seem to be mulling over this.

The fact is, our film makers seem abashed of mentioning that they have been inspired from an English movie. Well, I seek to dispel their fears. You won’t be considered a lesser person for doing so. In fact, you will be respected more for giving credit wherever it is due. Even the film community will not look down upon you. The greatest of directors have made their finest films after being inspired by much smaller works. A great example is Martin Scorcese, the modern day legend of cinema. His 2007 Departed got him his only Oscar and he did not shy away from mentioning in the final credit of his film that it was inspired from the Hong Kong film ‘Infernal Affairs’. If a film maker of cult status and global standing is not ashamed of doing so, there is no reason that 3-4 film old rookies should feel so.
To sum things up; admit to sources of inspiration, it does not make anyone a lesser person. In all walks of life there are standard procedures where people mention their sources of references, like in scientific articles, cinema should be no different. Agreed, it is impossible to buy remake rights of Hollywood movies, but that doesn’t make it ethical to walk away with the concept without even a mention.

Let’s finish with a question. If a Tamil film were to be remade in Telugu without the proper remake rights being transferred will the maker of the original take it lightly and let it pass? No, there would be litigations, prosecutions and compensations. But, the same industry finds no qualms in slipping a concept or two off Hollywood without even as much as a murmur of ‘thanks’. As long as this continues, does the film industry have a moral right to question video piracy?

This article is not entirely original and owes ideas and opinions to many other blogs and articles, the links to some of which are given below.


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