Saturday, January 02, 2010

Khan Bhakti

Come New Year and controversies cannot be too far behind. I switched the TV on today morning and while surfing through the channels, paused at the one of the otherwise avoidable Hindi news channels. Ah! There’s the Mumbai senior police officer caught on tape, dancing at a party organized by a seasoned convict, a Don, who was let out of jail after many years. Why do policemen get to have all the fun? Had my parents sensitized me to the harsh realities of the world very early on, I would’ve worked hard from a very young age to get into either The Civil Services, The Police Services or the best of all, Politics. Of course for the latter, I’d have to change my name to something more acceptable. I mean, how popular is George Fernandes. Ah! Can’t say, maybe he just didn’t have the caliber of Manmohan Singh, the following of Vajpayee, the pedigree of a Gandhi or simply the charisma of…err…err…Mayawati (well at least for the people of her constituency)??!! There were rumors going around that she might become Prime Minister; have people lost their minds? But then I feel that without mindless people, rumors wouldn’t exist.
However I’m glad my parents didn’t do that, I can now sit in the balcony on a cold, foggy winter morning and judge the world on my keyboard while the birds sing the morning ragas and nudge me to write some more. What bliss!
Anyway, lets move on to the more interesting controversy; Aamir Khan Vs Chetan Bhagat. I appreciate them both to a certain degree but am no fan of either. In fact I used to like Khan much more than Bhagat till I saw the news today. Khan and Bhagat pitted against each other, the former calling this a publicity stunt and the latter demanding acknowledgement for the script of Khan’s blockbuster hit, “THREE IDIOTS”.
Khan was addressing a press conference and very confidently saying that this was a controversy generated by a very publicity-hungry man. The media should put a stop to all this and not let him succeed anymore than he already has.
Bhagat says that the movie is no less than 25-30% directly copied from his novel, “FIVE POINT SOMEONE”, which includes one liners, dialogues etc.
The fans on both sides are at war too, Bhagat’s claiming that the story is 80% copied from the novel and Khan’s referring to Bhagat as a publicity beggar. Sometimes I feel that it’s the high powered fans in our attics that need to be subdued first (read fanatics).
I have neither read the novel nor watched the movie but have met people that swear by both, I will therefore only focus on the claims of the controversy. Indians don’t really care about copyrights unless they’re brought to task. Unlike the west where it’s a serious offence even at the school level, plagiarism in India, is a subject of little importance everywhere from schools, colleges and even publishing houses. We therefore, are brought up to disregard it. We have a system in which the teachers would give us less marks if we form our own sentences and put in our thoughts into what we study. Verbatim reproduction of the book sentences is rewarded and creativity is nipped in the bud. So was the case till the time I completed post graduation, some five years ago. Interaction with students has revealed that the situation is no better now. Bhagat alleges that there’s not as much as a mention of his name in the acknowledgement of the movie. The script writers of the movie acknowledged on TV that the movie has been inspired from Bhagat’s book but a lot has been altered. This situation is analogous to what they call reverse engineering in IT terms, something that’s a serious copyright offense. You pick up someone else’s creation, say MS-Windows, crack it’s code and manipulate it here and there to form an operating system that you claim is your creation. Then, if you have no fear of the law, you go on to sell it as your own creation with no mention of Microsoft anywhere. I assure you, Microsoft will nail you hard enough for you to suffer some serious soft-tissue damage (read brain).
We need to educate ourselves more on Copyrights, Trademarks and Patents and I suggest that everyone who has an access to a computer and the internet, visit the website and spend some time to enroll for their free coursework. It’s not very lengthy or time consuming and it will definitely add to your knowledgebase towards the contemporary world of patents and copyrights. You’re given ample time to finish the course, if you’re mildly tenacious, you shouldn’t have a problem. If that is too much for you, you can search the net for these subjects but like everything on the internet, search only websites run by authentic agencies. WIPO is an arm of the UN and therefore the contents of the website are authentic. So they never taught you in a lucid manner why cheating is bad, I guess they’re right when they say, it’s never too late to learn. Many sleeping consciences out there might even wake up; knowledge empowers.
With the movie makers accepting on TV that the story has been inspired from Bhagat’s book, not acknowledging it in the movie was an unconscionable act. It is wrong on Aamir Khan’s part to attack Bhagat saying that he’s just doing it for cheap publicity and there are laws in place to prove that. It seems like Khan, like most of us, neither has the knowledge, nor the conscience to give regard to someone else’s creativity. Some news channels are “implying” that Bhagat is doing it for money; I never heard him claim any money in any of the conferences they aired; he should. So is Khan one of those people who know how to mint money using soft targets present in the brains of the general public (who can forget Taare Zameen Pe and Rang De Basanti). Make them weep, make them cry and make them pay while you happily drive to the bank in your big SUV. I would like to think otherwise; I’ve been his admirer for the past 22 years since the release of “Qyamat se Qyamat tak” (despite finding him a little too stiff, even today, while delivering dialogues but maybe that’s his Style).

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