Monday, June 09, 2008

Watching Leon: And on plagirism

I am watching Leon for the first time. I have been staving off the last half an hour for almost a day now. I'd hate it if Leon dies. But there is this imminent finality hanging over the movie like a cloud. And I was thinking, Natalie Portman, due to turn twenty-seven this month, has already starred in the Star Wars, Closer, V for Vendetta, Heat and Leon - among other films.

I didn't watch Leon for all these year coz i watched the first hour of its stomach-churning remake - Bichhoo (Guddoo Dhanoa's brilliant take on Luc Besson). For me, reducing the beauty of the complexities of a relationship between a 40 year old hitman and a 11 year girl to the blaring Bollywoodian mediocrity of a horrible Rani Mukherji and an uber-asshole Bobby Deol is blasphemy -- punishable only by stoning to death.

I watched Aamir today. It is based on a movie from Phillipines , as I read in a review, with all the complexities of choices that the hero makes cut down kindly for the retarded bunch of us, and the director smugly claiming to be the writer of the script. and Anurag Basu actually got the indian answer to Oscars (as prestigious and rare as a kudos card in my company) for Metro's screenplay - probably the committee wisely reasoning out that even if the Apartment's writers were still alive, they would hardly take the pains to accept their calls, leave alone fly down to accept the award.

There is an inspiration; and there is a plagirism. Of course, everybody claims the former innocuous alternative, but Midnight's Children was inspired by Tin Drum, Metro's BPO plot was a lift from the Apartment. The difference may be expressed in words but I feel that it's like comparing a honest genuine man with a charlatan - you just know it.

And actually honesty is at the heart of it. We have created a bunch of rhetoric to extenuate dishonesty ("It's just business","He also does it.") but basic ethics have remained the same for millenia and, thankfully, a part of our moral being and not the intellectual: and, hence, impervious to rhetorics. A liar claiming a story that is not his: the problem with people like me is that we can't get to the story part after the liar bit.
There have been great remakes and they have been properly referenced: Scent of a Woman, for example. (Interestingly, the director of the Italian movie it was based on passed yesterday.)
I am a bit extreme on this and, to me, even if Anurag Basu goes on to make the greatest movie ever, he will always be a thief: and a petty one at that. If you have to borrow, reference it.

Also, do we really need recycled stuff? Was Zinda really more Indianized than OldBoy? and what is this Indianization? Dubbing and cliche shots of Indian nukkads in place of alleys and sidewalks? Brown for white and yellow?
Do we really need localisation to enjoy great art? Has the power of Shakespeare ever diminished in any tongue, except by a few nuances lost in translation? (Please note: Translations are a different proposition here, the motive being to facilitate interpretation.) As an Indian, is my experience of Marquez and Dickens naturally diminished?
Great art trancedes context. I bet that the ending scene of It's a Wonderful Life can flood the Indian drawingrooms with more tears than a Shahrukh hamming remake. And the most contemporary example is one man: Mel Gibson. Has the raw power of The Passion of the Christ and Apocalypto been diminished, or immensely enhanced by keeping the dialogues in the native tongues of those times?

As a nation, do we really need to experience the beauty of world cinema from the insensate cataract-riddled eyes of Bollywood?

1 comment:

The Mediocre Me said...

With due respect to your feelings against plagiarism and taking the liberty to be devil's advocate, you probably need to look at two other aspects as well.

1) Commercial and 2) Reach.

Providing art to masses is the work of local remakes. Art is not for the masses but commerce is. Masses pay for remakes without caring for ingenuity.

The choice is to
a) either provide a remake to masses who does not care of art / IP rights but is willing to pay for consumption(and forget later)
b) let the creative collaterals remain in the circles of "haves" and not be exploited, exposed, appreciated,consumed at the masses

Clearly, market tends to make the choice obvious.

Who lives in an ideal world Mate ?