Idiots vs The Book

The “3 Idiots” controversy seems to be dying down – this is evident from the declining column centimetres devoted to the issue and the reduced decibel levels in the television channels. So, in keeping with my predilection for lagged responses, I have decided to wade in when the brouhaha seems to be fading.
First, a disclosure. I have seen the movie but haven’t read the book. I don’t particularly admire Chetan Bhagat or his style of writing or even some of his ideas that seem to appeal to some youngsters. A recent piece he wrote for the Sunday Times of India (Don’t Fix History, Look At The Future, August 30) seemed particularly strange. Anyway, Bhagat cannot be denied his share of adulation. He has many fans across the country and, like every citizen in this country, he too is entitled to his views. And, if he finds support – as well as admiration for his work – then he is jolly well entitled to it too.
But, to come back to “3 Idiots”, my daughter has both read the book and seen the movie. She seems to think that the book is indeed the launch pad for large chunks in the movie. Sure, there are some dissimilarities and some deviations, but that’s cinematic licence. She seems to be convinced that the movie is based on the book “Five Points Someone”, and there’s very little chance that you can use ‘technicalese’ (such as, the legal agreement brandished by the movie director and purported to have been signed by Chetan Bhagat) or spin to persuade a 15-year-old to change her opinions.
Assuming that the book has indeed laid the foundation stone for the movie, then a larger Bollywood malaise seems to be rearing its head again – scant regard for intellectual property. The issue has plagued most musicians and producers over many decades now but Bollywood seems unable to shake off the indolent habit of copy-paste. Sure, there are directors like Vishal Bharadwaj who have juxtaposed famous plays from Shakespeare into a contemporary Indian setting, and acknowledged their true source of inspiration. But, as an industry, by indulging in its addiction for a regular fix of “lifted” tunes, plots and scripts, Bollywood is doing itself great disservice.
If Chetan Bhagat’s claim is indeed true, then it once again shows up a twin-faced Bollywood — which doesn’t respect intellectual property rights but immediately gets into a huff when pirates hawk a copy of the latest release. If the makers of “3 Idiots” are indeed in the clear, then society should reflect whether it should continue endorsing a revolting persona who has been weaned on easy publicity.

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