The Great Indian Barfi and Other Anomalies
If you are looking for an unbiased view, you are not going to find it here. Depending on the perspective and your capacity to absorb opinions, the perspective could belong to just one man or shared by many. Having stated that let me begin.
A month ago (if my memory has not failed me completely), I watched Barfi! The story of a mute and deaf man with an inclination for love and recklessness seemed to work wonders with the audience. But what began as an earnest movie progressed in a different manner altogether. I was beginning to see Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin; mannerisms too many to ignore. As the movie went on, there were scenes from The Notebook and probably many other classics. No doubt the audience cheered and even burst into fits of laughter now and then. Why wouldn’t they? After all, it was Charlie Chaplin in desi action. By the time the movie had ended, it was pretty clear the movie would set the box office registers ringing. But do all the fame and glory have to come at the cost of plagiarism and blatant imitation of classics?
Director Anurag Basu knew how to woo the audience with Barfi!, but failed to tone it down. Perhaps subtlety is not Basu’s cup of tea. The worst news came in the form of the Academy Awards Best Foreign Language Film. The film is yet to be sent as the official entry. As expected, there were bashings on social media networks, accusing the film makers of letting down the face of Indian Cinema and requesting a revoke on the decision. On a personal note, I do not think the movie deserves to be selected as an official entry. But a disturbing thought lingers. For a long time, we have taken a comfortable and less controversial designation – The Spectator. We have watched and applauded for hordes of movies that have either been inspired or ripped off from Hollywood flicks. When the Indian audience turned their eyes towards Hollywood, the less-fortunate directors got their movie transcripts from the Japanese, Swahili, Korean and even Mexican cinema.
This reminds me of a yesteryear popular song with lyrics that goes something like this…
Naanga cycle yeriye vandhaaka
Neenga motorbike than paarpeenga
Naanga motorbike la vanthaaka
Neenga maruthi ku maaruveenga
Naanga jeans pantu than potaaka
Neenga baggi panta than paarpeenga
Naanga baggi panta than potaaka
Neenga veatiya than theduveenga
Loosely translated, the chunk of lyrics reflects the relationship between the audience with an ever-growing knowledge and the hapless film makers who have resorted to search every unexplored corner of foreign cinema for seeking inexcusable inspiration.
Does imitation or inspiration determine movie’s worth? Maybe, maybe not. For instance, one of the most successful and popular movie of all times in Tamil Cinema is Basha. Starring none other than Rajnikanth, the darling of the masses, the movie went on to become a cult, with thousands of youngsters still mouthing its dialogues. For the ardent fans of the movie, here’s the major glitch. The movie was inspired from a Hindi movie titled Hum, which in turn was inspired from Samrajyam, a Malayalam flick starring Mammooty. The Hindi film starred Amitabh Bachchan, and ironically Rajnikanth himself in one of the fiddle roles. The list does not stop with Basha. Over a dozen of the Superstar’s massive hits were either inspired or directly remade from its Hindi counterparts starring Amitabh Bachchan and other Bollywood stars. Does this make Basha a bad film? Definitely not! Andaz Apna Apna, another cult comedy flick has its roots in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. Godfather and Scarface have served as an inspiration for a bunch of Indian films. In a country diversified by language, the landscape of Indian cinema does suffer from the possibility of remakes.
Barfi! is no exception. On all probabilities, the movie is an entertainer and nothing more. All the ‘Tramp’ mannerisms do not make Ranbir Kapoor a bad actor. He is still a well-groomed actor. Amidst all the accusation of plagiarism, here’s one actor who can pull off a meaty role that any other actor would have easily discredited. All said and done, the movie cannot be sent for the Academy Awards; not because it’s a rip-off but for the sole reason that there are far more deserving movies to be recognized.
Are the Academy Awards the final frontier of all awards? We are talking about a jury that put Scorcese on the winners list for a movie he blatantly copied (The Departed), leaving all the original works he had previously done. It’s the same jury that has still not bestowed an award for a genius like Christopher Nolan. So there you go….. All I’m saying is even if your least favorite movie won an Academy Award, it wouldn’t be the worst thing on earth! :D :D