‘Inspiration’ Or Theft?

Music, for a majority of us, is an integral part of life. Different cultures and languages bring about a variety of music pieces. In India itself, we have so many songs being launched everyday. Perhaps, India has the biggest film industry that has an average of at least five songs per movie.

An ample number of these songs are so melodious that one wants to listen to them again and again. But, how does it feel when you get to know that your favorite song was actually inspired (if not straight lifted) from another song in some other language that you probably haven’t heard? I was shocked when I got to know that many popular songs from Bollywood movies were inspired, copied, heavily inspired or straight-lifted from Korean, Chinese or French movies and TV shows.

A majority of us would agree to the fact that plagiarism persists in the Bollywood Music Industry. One name however, crops up in most of our minds, and that is, Anu Malik. Hence, I was shocked to find out that there were a number of other composers who indulge in plagiarism, including the greats like OP Nayyar, RD Burman, Salil Chaudhry, SD Burman, Sanjeev Darshan, Shankar Jaikishen, Kalyanji Anandji, Laxmikant Pyarelal to a later generation of Anand Milind, Anand Raaj Anand, Jatin Lalit, Nadeem Shravan, Bappi Lahiri to the more recent Sandeep Chowta, Pritam Chakravarty and Rajesh Roshan.

For instance, the popular song “Pehli Nazar Mein“, from the movie Race, has beats straight lifted from a Korean song “Sarang Haeyo” by Kim Hyung Sup that was a part of the serial Delightful Girl Choon-Hyang. Songs like “Hare Ram Hare Krishna from Bhool Bhulaiya; “Ya Ali, Bheegi Bheegi and “Lamha Lamha” from Gangster; “Yeh Ishq Hai and “Aao Milo Chalo from Jab We Met; “Baatein Kuch Ankahee and “O Mei Jaan from Life in a Metro; “Chal Chalein and “Kya Mujhe Pyaar Hai from Woh Lamhe. They all have been heavily inspired from music tracks barely heard of in India.

Some of the greatest hits from the past including “Mehboobaand “Jab Tak hai Jaan from Sholay; “Chor Aaye from Machis; “Gumnaam hai koi from Gumnaam; “Suku suku from Junglee; “Yeh dil na hota from Jewel Thief and “Saala main thofrom Sagina had already-existing original tracks from which beats were lifted.

In defense, music composers give various arguments. Sometimes they blame the director of the movie, and, at other times, they try to cover it up by saying that ‘most’ of their music is original and there are just a handful of tracks which have been lifted. Does it justify the deed? Sometimes, composers like Pritam Chakraborty even refuse to accept that the music piece is similar to some other track by ridiculing the allegation, and claim to be ignorant about the original. Of course, we all believe that it was a striking co-incidence. I guess they believe that picking up tracks from Korean, Chinese or French flicks is a safe bet as not many people in India would have come across these tracks. What they forget is that even one person who comes across a plagiarized track can pass on the same to millions of others, hence multiplying the shame to the so-called composer.

Not only movies but independent artists who release their albums also indulge in lifting beats from somewhere or the other. Many popular advertisement jingles have also been composed in a similar fashion. Examples include “Oye Bubbly jingle” (Pepsi), Idea Cellular, Maggi 2-minute noodles, among others.

An extensive list of almost all such tracks can be obtained from a website www.itwofs.com dedicated to expose this copy-paste music industry.

I guess getting inspired is not a crime and is completely fair, provided that due credit is given to the original artist. But, since giving credits includes sharing money with the artist in this materialistic world, it is generally avoided. However, does it not amount to ‘theft’ rather than simply saying ‘inspired’?

For once, I thought I would start listening to all Korean, French and Chinese tracks if all our popular music comes from there but then on a second thought, I guess our doctored tracks sound better! Also, perhaps, that is the ‘skill’ our music directors possess.

Often Albert Einstein has been quoted, “The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources”.

So the next time, before you praise a music composer, think again. You cannot be too sure of his credentials.

Prateek Khurana

[image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lizerkbazerk/1325118664/]