Inspired not 'Plagiarised'

Since time immemorial, the malaise of plagiarism is very prevalent in Indian Film Industry especially in Bollywood. We have more than often seen directors (read Sanjay Gupta, Mahesh Bhatt etc amongst others) stealing films frame by frame and passing off as their own.  However certain minor changes are made in the script. So that when their theft becomes public, they can defend themselves by saying that the particular film is inspired not copied. And they have those minor changes to defend their (false) claims.

However there also have been times when the director has truly taken an inspiration from a certain film and has made an effort to make a film that is quite different from that respective film.  Here’s looking at some films that fit the above mentioned description.

Dombivili Fast/ Falling Down

Falling Down directed by Joel Schumacher features Michael Douglas as an ordinary American citizen who, frustrated with the flawed system sets out to violently fight the same only to end up as an anti hero

Similarly Dombivli Fast directed by Nishikant Kamath tells the story of Madhav Apte played by Sandeep Kulkarni who plays an average Mumbaikar. Frustrated with the problems faced in his day to day life such as corruption, bribery etc. He sets out to fight the same only to meet with a tragic fate.

Though the basic plotline of the film is similar to Falling Down, Kamat has taken enough care to make adequate changes in the script. By tackling issues such as bribery, corruption, water scarcity, pathetic conditions of people travelling in local trains etc. the film becomes much more identifiable and identifiable with the Indian audiences especially those living in Mumbai. And for this reason alone, this film deserves to find a mention in this post.

Nishikant Kamath even went on to remake Dombivli Fast as Evano Oruvan in Tamil with R.Madhavan in the lead.

Kaminey/ True Romance and Snatch

In the film Kaminey, director Vishal Bharadwaj (VB) borrowed subplots from films such as Snatch and True Romance and made a nice amalgamation of it.A couple (Shahid Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra) while trying to elope get stuck in a drug racket involving a stolen consignment of drugs. This was very similar to the situation faced by the lead pair in the Tarantino written movie ‘True Romance’ directed by the late Tony Scott. The couple is being pursued by a dozen odd shady characters who want to lay their hands on that particular consignment of drugs. The situation is somewhat similar to the dozen odd shady characters that are in pursuit of the stolen diamond in Snatch.

However VB adds another unique subplot of a pair of twins (Shahid Kapur and Shahid Kapur) who hate each other but have to depend upon each other to save their lives during their worst crisis. Vishal Bharadwaj nicely mixed all the three subplots to give us one hell of an entertaining movie. Despite taking inspiration from the above mentioned movies, Kaminey stands out as a unique and well made film.  That is due to the fact that VB has taken care to make in the film in his own style rather than copying Snatch or True Romance blindly. This is why one doesn’t see flashy editing patterns like those used by Guy Ritchie in Snatch. Although unlike Bharadwaj’s earlier films, Kaminey bears a much more stylish and slick look.  Apart from extracting a brilliant performance from Shahid Kapoor, the writing of Vishal Bharadwaj and team results in a dozen odd memorable characters that stay with you even after the movie has ended. Such as Bhope Bhau (Amole Gupte), Sweety (Priyanka Chopra),Mikhail(Chandan Roy Sanyal), Inpsectors Lele (Hrishikesh Joshi) & Lobo (Shiv Subramaniam) amongst others.

Chachi 420/Mrs Doubtfire

Mrs Doubtfire featured the versatile Robin Williams as a divorced parent who disguises himself as a female housekeeper so that he can get to spend time with his children who are staying with his ex-wife.

Similarly Chachi 420 featured Kamal Hassan as a divorced father who disguises himself as an elderly female caretaker so that he can spend time with his daughter who stays with his now ex-wife played by Tabu.

However Kamal Hassan has added enough subplots and masala that helps the film to acquire a local flavor and also adds to the overall comic moments of the film. The film nicely shows the relationship being developed between Tabu and Kamal Hassan prior to them getting married. The film also featured quite a few versatile actors who featured in some superb roles such as Amrish Puri – the arrogant father in law of Kamal Hassan , his lecherous assistant played by Om Puri and Paresh Rawal as Kamal Hassan’s shrewd landlord amongst others. These characters were not present in Mrs. Doubtfire. Moreover Kamal Hasaan has nicely weaved these characters in the main story and hence their subplots don’t stick out as sore thumbs in the movie. In fact it only adds to the fun quotient of the film. And this shows the amount of hardwork Kamal Hassan and his team have put in the film. This results in the film turning out to be a tad better than Mrs. Doubtfire.

Before directing Chachi 420 in Hindi, Kamal had starred in Avvai Shanmughi a Tamil version of the same film directed by K.S Ravikumar (Dashavatharam)

City on fire/Reservoir Dogs

City on Fire directed by Ringo Lam features Chow Yun Fat as an undercover cop who infiltrates a gang of robbers who are planning to carry out a  jewellery store heist. Quentin Tarantino used the same storyline in Reservoir Dogs and made an entirely different film.

City on Fire focused more on the moral dilemma and test of loyalty faced by the undercover cop.  Whereas the entire conflict in Reservoir Dogs is focused on the identity of the undercover cop which is unknown to the audiences till the end.  And what you get is a kickass film which etched Tarantino’s name permanently in the minds of moviegoers.

Munnabhai MBBS/Patch Adams

Patch Adams tells the true story of Hunter Doherty who is a doctor and a social activist apart from doing many other tactivities. Robin Williams plays the role of Doherty who used many unconventional methods (including making them laugh ) to cure his patients which found a lot of criticism from the medical fraternity. Raju Hirani used this as one of the many subplots in the endearing Munnabhai MBBS in which a gangster (Sanjay Dutt) vows to become a doctor to avenge the insult his parents endure at the hands of an egoistic dean of a medical college (Boman Irani).

Ghajini/Memento

The cult film by Christopher Nolan tells the story of a person suffering from short term memory loss (Guy Pearce) who uses his body tattoos and notes to hunt down the killer of his wife. Director A.R Murugadoss used the same storyline and made Ghajini adding a lot of elements such as love story between the protagonist and his wife, action etc thereby making a complete a masala entertainer.

I  also wanted to include Dasvidaniya in which a terminally ill Vinay Pathak makes a wish list of things he wants to do much like Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman from The Bucket List. But apart from the basic plotline( which could be a mere co-incidence) I didn’t find any similarity between the two films hence I refrained from mentioning the same in the post.

It would be good to hear from you all about some more films which could have been added to the list.

 

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23 thoughts on “Inspired not 'Plagiarised'

  1. A topic that often sets off heated debate about that fine line separating plagiarism from inspiration. I would add a few films to this list:

    Nayakan – A story and film of its own, but references scene constructs from The Godfather films heavily.

    Agneepath – One of my favourite Bachchan films. Borrows scenes & elements from Scarface, albeit, weaving them into a different story. The background score of the film in fact is almost a straight rip off.

    No Smoking – There’s a lot to like in this film and it has several aspects helping it stand as an original piece of work, but there’s no denying the similarity to one of the stories of Cat’s Eye.

    • Nayakan apart from The Godfather has scenes that are inspired from Once Upon A Time In America especially the scene in which Kamal Hassan smartly hides the smuggled goods beneath water when the police come searching.
      In Agneepath the Scarface influence is also very visible especially in the mannerisms of Bachchan. But yes it is nevertheless a classic in its own right.
      No Smoking was beyond my comprehension after an engaging first half. But yes would like to watch Cat’s eye someday and if possible also would like to rewatch No Smoking someday.
      Thank you for pointing out the references. Would love to hear about more such examples from you if you can point out the same.

  2. nice post.. i haven’t seen City on Fire or Dombivali Fast, so can’t make the comparisons.. the only case where i didn’t like the inspiration (among the films above) is Ghajini.. to me, Memento remains a classic and Ghajini isn’t even close.. i didn’t find any similarity between Kaminey & True Romance, though the former bears an obvious similarity (in treatment) with Snatch.. but as you mentioned VB’s way of handling made it stand apart.. i think we can include Dead Poets Society & Mohabbatein as one combination here.. Though DPS is classier, Mohabbatein was fun.. even Life in a Metro – though borrowing themes from Apartment & In the Mood for Love – Basu weaved them seamlessly and presented a really nice film..

    • Even I am not a fan of Ghajini either though it’s fun to watch at times. But the fact that A.R Murugadoss actually made an effort to not copy Memento blindly deserves a mention. On second it would not be possible for him to do that and a rip-off of Memento would b too much for the audiences to handle.
      I found the similarity between Kaminey and True Romance with regards to the storyline as mentioned in the post. But then Kaminey was quite a good departure for Vishal Bharadwaj from his intense works like Omkara, Maqbool etc. With Kaminey Vishal Bharadwaj showed that he can make an enjoyable gangster/heist film.
      You are right about mentioning similarity between Mohabbatein and Dead Poets Society. But then I just cant stand Mohabbattein. I found it way too annoying.
      I was aware about Life in a Metro having similarities with The Apartment. But since I hadn’t seen the film , i thought this example was best avoided.
      Regarding In the mood for love, I am still unaware about the similarities since I haven’t seen the film.Nevertheless thanks for pointing out the same.
      Souvik Da once again thanks for your constant praise and appreciation.

  3. Didn’t like Ghajini or Memento.But Ghajini was an easy watch,Memento was pure head-ache with all the Nolan-genius stuff 😛

  4. Loved the way you haven’t limited the post to the films from a particular language.

    Kedar Shinde’s film ‘Aga Bai Arechya’ was also a fairly good adaptation of ‘What Women Want’.

    • I actually wanted to point out Aga Bai Arrechya but it just skipped my mind while writing the post. Indeed Aga Bai Arrechya was a very good adaptation of What Women Want. The entire POV of the protagonist was nicely changed with regards to his hearing of the thoughts of woman’s mind.
      Kedar Shinde made a very good debut in Marathi cinema. Unfortunately thereafter it has been a downhill journey for him, the worst being Galgale Nighale which was simply unbearable.

  5. Ghajini i feel is good adaption of basic theme from Memento.By the way Tarantino did not credit city on fire,in his movie he credits Chow Yun fat.Do you think,Directors should mention like Ramu did Sarkar that it was inspired or tribute to godfather.

  6. Aditya,

    Waiting to read such posts from you all at madaboutmoviez. Its very relevant and topical and nice that you took it up. I like your approach to the article.

    There are so many films which can be compared like a whole post can be done on the films of Kurosawa,Ford and modern american directors and the inspiration either ways.

    Also the understanding of the topic of tribute to great classics which was a very integral element of the French New Wave and understanding how it works. And maybe pre and post French New Wave as an exploration.

    • Thank you for your modest appreciation Oorvazi.
      I am very sure there will be a huge list of films that are inspired by Kurosawa, John Ford and other such cinematic legends. However having hardly seen any of the Kurosawa, Ford films, French new wave make me rather unsuitable for a similar post.I feel you could do a very good job of the same. Since you also have watched a large number of the above mentioned films, i feel you should do a post on the same. Since i feel you will be able to do ample justice to the same.
      Regarding Kurosawa’s Rashomon – Vantage Point (2008) and Kamal Hassan’s Tamil film Virumaandi also used a story telling technique which employs multiple viewpoints. I have not seen Vantage point. But having seen Kamal’s Virumaandi I can confidently say that it is undoubtedly one of the best of films to be ever made in Indian cinema.

  7. Chak de India- “inspired” from Miracle( 2004). Fortunately, Shimit Amin does a better job here and adds the much needed soul to it’s lame phoren counterpart.

    JO Jeeta Wohi Sikandar- “inspired” from Breaking Away(1979). Again director Mansoor Khan does a better job by creating an adorable protagonist,tender moments of teenage love that fit “just” right into the Indian context. It’s a beautiful flim that I watched last Sunday,and enjoyed it just as much.

    Agneepath- This one wasn’t inspired- It was a straight rip off- It seems like Senior B had mirrored Tony Montana’s mannerisms to the T.From the gruff voice, to the droopy lips and sunken eyelids- from the way he sits with his hand on the chair, to the dinner table fight- it was a rip off- all the way. The only thing that Tinu Anand did to separate this from it’s inspiration was to add the most memorable antagonist ever- Kancha Cheena.The sparring between Vijay and Kancha is legendary.

    • I unfortunately haven’t seen Breaking Away and Miracle. However Chak De India and Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar as you rightly mentioned is simply beautiful.
      Regarding Agneepath there is no doubt that AB was heavily inspired by Al Pacino’s performance from Scarface.
      However Mukul Anand in my humble opinion (and not Tinnu Anand) did amke an effort to localise and make Agneepath different from it’s counterpart.
      Danny as KAancha Cheena undoubtedly remains one of the most legendary characters of Hindi cinema. The scnes between Vijay and Kancha as you rightly said is legendary.
      Thanks for commenting on the post Shreeraj.

  8. Out of the ones listed here… the one I did not like is Ghajini, esp the Bolly version which was toned down from the Tamil version…

    Otherwise, I’d like to know what people think about Manorama SFU??? & for that matter Departed/Infernal Affairs…

    • I personally found The Departed much better than Infernal Affairs. The intensity and the volatility which one saw in The Departed and also in a lot of other Korean Gangster films was missing here.
      Also the character of the cop played by Mark Wahlberg in The Departed doesn’t have much screen time in Infernal Affairs. For me Wahlberg’s character was one of the best things about The Departed.
      Manorama was definitely a well made movie , though I haven’t seen Chinatown.

  9. Aditya- you missed out a lot of films man. Its safe to say that almost 50% of films are copied. You missed the following

    Zinda-Copy of oldboy(Scene by scene copy)
    Sangharsh-The silence of lambs
    Rafoo Chakkar-Some like it hot
    Ghulam-On the waterfront
    Majboor-Zigzag

    This are just few of them which come to my mind.
    here’s a nice compilation -http://www.imdb.com/list/itxBl1zJgbM/

      • Ah yes Rasik.This is my favorite topic and I forgot that Adi was talking about some decent hindi films and not junk.but neverthless all of the Hindi films I mentioned in the comment were good no? of course when we watched the original we were flabbergasted. I apologize for the comment.Its disfficult to read and comment when you are at work:(

  10. oh, there are two more that suddenly struck me.. first, Kramer vs Kramer and Akele Hum Akele Tum – i loved both the films.. the latter was much more detailed with scenes elaborating the reason behind the mother’s departure, but the former was equally heart wrenching and had Dustin Hoffman at his best..
    the other is Silence of the Lambs & Sangharsh – the similarity is very thin and Tanuja Chandra definitely did not copy the Oscar winning psycho thriller.. though i have to say, i didn’t SOTL much, while i found Sangharsh entertaining (though inane at times)

    • Yes Akele Hum Akele Tum was also good though it went overboard in a few places. Sangharsh is again a film I didn’t take much of a fancy to. Though it had a restrained performance by Akshay, Ashutosh Rana was good for most of the times and the film had a gritty feel. But at many of the places it was loud and was it necessary to have a dozen songs and a unwanted love track between Preity Zinta and Akshay Kumar?

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