Inspiration seems to be doing wonders to some of the Malayalam filmmakers at the moment. One may be forced to ask: what has inspiration to do with film-making? The answer is simple.
Inspiration does not have a copyright.
Some of the recent crowd-pullers that have rocked Mollywood were inspired from Hollywood movies. Does this point towards a dearth of novel ideas in Malayalam cinema, which was once admired for its original stories, craft and uniqueness?
It was Priyadarshan, considered the ‘inspired’ one among Malayalam filmmakers, who successfully converted several Hollywood films like 'Class of 1984' and Milos Forman’s 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest'. The latter was made into 'Thalavattam', one of the monster hits of Mollywood.
In the last few years, the trend of getting inspired from Hollywood movies has re-entered Malayalam cinema. Director Amal Neerad’s 'Big B' is said to be inspired from 'Four Brothers', while 'Anwar' is taken from 'Traitor'. The critics also questioned the similarity of director Sameer Thahir’s 'Chappa Kurissu' with Korean film, 'Handphone'.
“When Amal Neerad told me the story of 'Big B', he said he was inspired by 'Four Brothers',” says R Unni, who wrote the dialogues for 'Big B'. “But till this day, I have not seen 'Four Brothers’. I penned the dialogues for the characters created by the director that have their roots in Mattanchery.”
Interestingly, it was Unni who penned the dialogues for 'Chappa Kurissu' too. “After the allegations that the film is inspired from 'Handphone', I watched the latter,” he says. “But I did not find any resemblance. So I will say to those critics to watch Handphone and then criticise 'Chappa Kurissu'.”
Other copycat films include Arunkumar’s notable movie 'Cocktail' which was adapted from 'Butterfly on the Wheels', while Saji Surendran’s film, 'Four Friends', is said to have got its spark from 'Bucket List'. The latest addition is 'ChinaTown', where the director duo of Rafi and Mecartin incorporated the plot of the Hollywood hit, 'Hangover'.
Arunkumar said that selecting 'Shattered' (US title for 'Butterfly on the Wheels') for his maiden venture, 'Cocktail', was merely coincidental. “I did not want to do a formula film,” he says. “Many writers told me stories, but I did not find them impressive. At that time, actor Anup Menon told me about 'Shattered'. I found it fascinating. I watched the original, but never copied shots from it. I just treated 'Cocktail' as a different movie. To be more precise, a Malayalam movie.”
Arunkumar says the trend of getting inspired is nothing new in Indian cinema. “Many commendable hits in Bollywood, as well as Kollywood, have been inspired by Hollywood and other language movies.” “'Partner' was inspired by the Hollywood movie 'Hitch', and the producers of the latter demanded royalty charges. Even the Tamil movie, 'Ghajini', was inspired from Christopher Nolan’s 'Memento'. But director Murugadas was successful in narrating a story in an entertaining way.”
In literature, copying another’s work and publishing it as one’s own is regarded as a crime. But fortunately or unfortunately, in films it is not regarded as a heinous offence. If the trend continues and more Hollywood movies are going to get Indian versions, royalty and copyright will become major issues.