Oscars entry: Barfi! draws copycat flak

By AFP
Published: September 28, 2012
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Movie draws flak for allegedly plagiarising foreign hits in a 'mash-up' of ripped-off scenes. PHOTO: FILE

Movie draws flak for allegedly plagiarising foreign hits in a 'mash-up' of ripped-off scenes. PHOTO: FILE

India’s entry for best foreign language film at next year’s Oscars has become the latest Bollywood movie to draw flak for allegedly plagiarising foreign hits in a ‘mash-up’ of ripped-off scenes.

Barfi! has won over critics and cinema-goers for its portrayal of a love triangle between a deaf man named Barfi and two women, one of whom is autistic – not typical subject matter in the prolific Hindi-language film industry.

But since its release two weeks ago, several videos have spread through YouTube and social media sites highlighting a number of scenes that appear to draw heavily from international classics.

Film buffs spotted stark resemblances with clips from Gene Kelly’s hit Singin’ in the Rain (1952), Jackie Chan’s Project A (1983), Buster Keaton’s Cops (1922) and The Notebook (2004) starring Ryan Gosling among others.

The plot has been likened to Benny & Joon, the 1993 film starring Johnny Depp, while the soundtrack has drawn further comparisons with the musical score from Amelie, the 2001 hit starring Audrey Tautou.

One of the clearest sources of inspiration is Charlie Chaplin: one scene shows Barfi dodging a policeman through a sliding door, just as the king of silent film did in 1917’s The Adventurer.

Barfi! director Anurag Basu has hit back at critics, saying the film is intentionally paying homage to Chaplin in a similar way to The Artist, the black-and-white silent film that won Best Picture at this year’s Oscars.

“If I would have changed the shot, twisted things around and made it my own it would have been stealing,” Basu told the Indian TV show Headlines Today.

“I did shot-to-shot because they are famous iconic shots and scenes from famous masterpieces, every filmmaker knows them.”

Bollywood has come under fire before for remaking Hollywood flicks in the Hindi language, but Barfi! is under particular scrutiny because the movie-mad country is yet to win an Oscar in the foreign film category.

“So why would an Oscar jury pick a movie that reminds them of the very many movies they’ve seen before – and which include films that are now Hollywood legend?” asked online magazine Firstpost.

In one of several earlier Bollywood copycat rows, US studio 20th Century Fox submitted a $1.4-million claim in 2009 against BR Films over Banda Yeh Bindaas Hai, alleging it was an illegal remake of My Cousin Vinny. The case was settled out of court.

Image consultant Dilip Cherian worried that entering Barfi! into the Oscars could cause embarrassment for India in the long-run.

“The fact is that critics will start wondering at which stage does plagiarism end in Indian movies and at what stage is it inspiration,” he told Headlines Today.

Only three Indians films have been shortlisted in the foreign film category at the Oscars: Mother India in 1958, Salaam Bombay!(Hello Bombay!) in 1989, and Lagaan (Land Tax) in 2002.

Manju Borah, who chairs India’s selection committee, defended the latest choice.

“We selected Barfi! because of its treatment and freshness,” she told the Hindustan Times. “In any case, every filmmaker is inspired by some cinema.”

Film critic and curator Meenakshi Shedde said an “affectionate tribute” to world cinema, such as Barfi!, was not the same as stealing someone’s ideas – but she doubted for other reasons whether the film was the best selection.

“The criteria the Oscars look for is something uniquely Indian. Something that offers insights into the culture or society,” Shedde told AFP.

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Reader Comments (42)

  • GrimmJow
    Sep 28, 2012 - 3:10PM

    Many scenes were copied as is it but the film was good & very different from the usual Bollywood crap, hence I liked it.

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  • Asad
    Sep 28, 2012 - 4:18PM

    so whats new? this is another example of indian ‘ingenuity’ they may fool the ignorant local population but on an international they are easily found out.

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  • Miki
    Sep 28, 2012 - 4:21PM

    The total copied scenes are about 3.5 minutes only in a movie of 150 minutes.

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  • Ayesha
    Sep 28, 2012 - 5:08PM

    Bollywood = Copywood
    :D

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  • Sep 28, 2012 - 5:10PM

    i wouldn’t really call it outright plagarism, but saying that the movie borrows a bit more than inspiration wouldn’t certainly be amiss either, in either case, it’s good that this movie is getting all the attention, personally yes, i even hope it gets an oscar, i’m not biased, but in the long run perhaps it’s gonna make everyone wonder how we draw the line between a cheap knockoff copy from golden oldies, or a true reinvention of a legendary piece of Cinema History..

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  • mr. righty rightist
    Sep 28, 2012 - 5:14PM

    @Asad who writes “so whats new? this is another example of indian ‘ingenuity’ they may fool the ignorant local population but on an international they are easily found out.”

    It’s fooling nobody. Only fools are being fooled. But fools are too foolish to be not fooled.

    No Indian is under the delusion.

    But let me also assure you that every year, India produces great films worthy of Oscar considerations. These films are deliberately crushed by the Hindi commercial film industry.

    If only award winning Malayalam, Marathi, Kannada and Bengali films are sent for Oscars, India would have already won an Oscar.

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  • Yuri Kondratyuk
    Sep 28, 2012 - 5:15PM

    @Asad:

    this is another example of indian
    ‘ingenuity’ they may fool the ignorant
    local population but on an
    international they are easily found
    out

    Agree. That’s why you should buy more of the “original” Chinese stuff.

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  • mr. righty rightist
    Sep 28, 2012 - 5:17PM

    @Miki who writes “The total copied scenes are about 3.5 minutes only in a movie of 150 minutes. “

    I don’t think you are mature enough to understand the meaning of COPY when it comes to art and literature.

    Nobody is talking about a copy taken out of a Xerox machine.

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  • Asad
    Sep 28, 2012 - 6:09PM

    trolls getting defensive when their ‘originality’ is questioned.

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  • Killer
    Sep 28, 2012 - 6:11PM

    Typical anti Indian comments.

    What contribution has the Pakistani film industry made to the world. I suppose their best export is terrorism and keeeping their begging bowls ready when the Americans land.

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  • Yuri Kondratyuk
    Sep 28, 2012 - 7:02PM

    We, Indians, wrote and gave the scripts to Hollywood. I strongly believe India and Indians should helping out Americans with their scripts, cameras, costumes and expertise. Hollywood will go flop in less than 2 months.

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  • Asad
    Sep 28, 2012 - 7:13PM

    Oh poor you indiasn who all day long make anti pakistani comments getting upset about people criticizing some movie.

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  • Asad
    Sep 28, 2012 - 7:16PM

    @Killer: Haha show the extent of your and your fellow trolls obsession. You ppl spend whole day spewing hate here on a Pakistani site and now your getting upset over comments about a movie.

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  • mr. righty rightist
    Sep 28, 2012 - 7:29PM

    @Yuri who writes “We, Indians, wrote and gave the scripts to Hollywood. I strongly believe India and Indians should helping out Americans with their scripts, cameras, costumes and expertise. Hollywood will go flop in less than 2 months.”

    Change India, Indians to Bollywood.

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  • GrimmJow
    Sep 28, 2012 - 7:33PM

    @Asad – point is, movie was great overall, haters gonna hate. Why do Pakistanis even care, please burn down the remaining of your cinemas.!

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  • mr. righty rightist
    Sep 28, 2012 - 7:38PM

    @Asad “Oh poor you indiasn who all day long make anti pakistani comments getting upset about people criticizing some movie. “

    Well, in this case, Indians are agreeing. Some through logic and others through sarcasm. You just need to grow up to understand.

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  • Max
    Sep 28, 2012 - 7:40PM

    Copycat or not, it is a wonderful movie, with enough cinematic finesse and flair to keep the viewer engaged. No wonder its been nominated for an Oscar. Good job Basu!Recommend

  • Asad
    Sep 28, 2012 - 8:32PM

    @GrimmJow: Maybe great for you why do want everyone to agree with you? Don’t take it so personally get a life go do something useful with you time and not troll on Pakistani news sites.

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  • afzal
    Sep 28, 2012 - 8:41PM

    @Ayesha:
    what about lollywood a big LOL it is…….

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  • Zalmai
    Sep 28, 2012 - 9:11PM

    Mr. Righty Rightist is on point about regional cinema from India being overlooked by the selection committee. I don’t know why they keep on selecting crappy Hindi movies when the rest of India produces quality cinema worthy of winning Oscars.

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  • Asad
    Sep 28, 2012 - 9:59PM

    @mr. righty rightist: you need a healthy hobby this kind of obsession will turn you into a troll. Oh wait you already are one.

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  • mr. righty rightist
    Sep 28, 2012 - 10:48PM

    @Asad who writes “you need a healthy hobby this kind of obsession will turn you into a troll. Oh wait you already are one.”

    Don’t worry abt me. If you had any idea of who I am, you wouldn’t make that comment. Gud luck to you!!

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  • SaneVoice
    Sep 28, 2012 - 11:03PM

    Watching the movie I told my wife this movie should be a copycat because Indians are yet not evolved enough to make a masterpiece. My gut feelings about the Indians were true.Recommend

  • Yuri Kondratyuk
    Sep 29, 2012 - 1:52AM

    @mr. righty rightist:
    In case you don’t know, India owns 95% of Hollywood. Go and check your facts. What do you think? America is undergoing recession- they can’t pay. India’s interests in Arts & Culture compels it to pay trillions and trillions of dollars every year so that entertainment can be provided all over the world. And this is the thanks we get?
    Indian technology, expertise, scripts are used in Hollywood. Check the tags of the clothes of the actors – all made in India. We PAY – and that is what matters.

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  • gp65
    Sep 29, 2012 - 3:26AM

    Frankly there are perfectly good original movies that have come out this year in Bollywood : Kahani, Paan Singh Tomar, Gangs of Wasseypur, Vicki DOnor. I am sure there are some really good regional movies also. It is still not too late. Now that the issue has surfaced, India should change its entry.

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  • Khalq e Khuda
    Sep 29, 2012 - 5:23AM

    The usual Hollywood crap when assessing foreign works. The Artist was redundant to the point of deja vu yet it won Oscars. The only think clear here is Hollywood’s reluctance to admit another movie giant in room ie Bollywood.

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  • mr. righty rightist
    Sep 29, 2012 - 5:44AM

    @Yuri who writes “In case you don’t know, India owns 95% of Hollywood. Go and check your facts. What do you think? America is undergoing recession- they can’t pay. India’s interests in Arts & Culture compels it to pay trillions and trillions of dollars every year so that entertainment can be provided all over the world. And this is the thanks we get?
    Indian technology, expertise, scripts are used in Hollywood. Check the tags of the clothes of the actors – all made in India. We PAY – and that is what matters.”

    My god, you are more delusional than many people over here.

    Indian companies have invested in some Hollywood films especially dealing with Amblin entertainment which belongs to Spielberg. India doesn’t own diddley squat in Hollywood, let alone 95%.

    Which trillions and trillions of dollars are you talking about? You are talking exactly like Pakistanis say, they disintegrated USSR. Neways, can you please backup your “trillions and trillions of dollars” story with some valid links? Do you even know how many zeroes are there in a trillion?

    Indian scripts? Can you name these INDIAN SCRIPTS and INDIAN TECHNOLOGIES? Just because some VFX is made in India (using American softares and technology) doesn’t mean, Indian technology. I can write a lot about VFX and animation here. But it’s irrelevant.

    Next time Tom Cruise sleeps in my bedroom, I will check the tag on his baniyan. Happy?

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  • Laughing Out Loud
    Sep 29, 2012 - 6:04AM

    @Yuri Kondratyuk: ‘India owns 95% of Hollywood’? ‘Trillions and trillions of dollars’!? Are you sure you know what a trillion is? You grossly misstated the facts. Just saying.Recommend

  • jordan
    Sep 29, 2012 - 7:44AM

    Last yrs best foriegn movie THE ARITST was inspired by chaelie chapline and silent movies of thst era…… Bollywood may not be on par with hollywood but we already own hollywood many of its production house are owned by indians eg…dream works is owned by india’s reliance….even some of avatar’s special effects were given by indian vfx firm Prime focus…the oscar winning film Elizabeth was directed by Shekar kappor the director of Mister india….Recommend

  • Curious
    Sep 29, 2012 - 4:45PM

    Bollywood sucks for the most part. But they obviously make a lot of money copying other movies that were already hits.

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  • afzal
    Sep 29, 2012 - 8:45PM

    hollywood sicks…too much of action with no stroy line…yewwwwwwwwww

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  • Someone
    Sep 29, 2012 - 11:45PM

    @Yuri: Delusions of grandeur. Your delusion reflects that.
    @Killer: Please stay civil and don’t get on the offensive. Do not make others start about India being the root of all problems and terrorism in South Asia. Recommend

  • A. Khan
    Sep 30, 2012 - 12:36AM

    Why does anyone think that Bollywood has copied scenes from Hollywood movies for only this movie ? I have lost count of the number of times that I feel Bollywood has copied.

    And as for the name of the movie/main character…. Barfi…I mean come on ! That is so lame.

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  • Raj Kafir
    Sep 30, 2012 - 9:04AM

    Trivia: How many Pakistani films have released their music on SONY?

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  • Raj Kafir
    Sep 30, 2012 - 9:07AM

    Inspired by the success of Munna Bhai MBBS, Hollywood is making a film called GANGSTA MD. Any Pakistani example?

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  • Nobody
    Oct 1, 2012 - 1:20PM

    The comment war on this post seems to be a direct reflection of the current relationship between the two nations. Thought adults would have a bit more maturity & depth, but I seem to be mistaken. No wonder the relationship is what it is. Seems there is not much hope for improvement as of yet. Maybe in the far future.

    More to the point, this certainly isn’t the first time bollywood has copied Hollywood so not surprised. That being said, copy or not, I’ve heard its enjoyable so I will do just that: enjoy it and move on. Oscar worthy? Unlikely imo, but I shall give my two cents after watching it. Cheers.

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  • Jedi
    Oct 1, 2012 - 3:22PM

    Awesome… Indians fighting among themselves on a Pakistani news site…. hahahaha… What a bunch of losers… im sorry… copycat losers… hahahaha

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  • Yuri Kondratyuk
    Oct 1, 2012 - 5:02PM

    @all,

    Except for the satirical post on Chinese originality, none of the posts are mine. somebody is simply using my moniker to post nonsense. Please note.

    @mods,

    I know you are busy. At-least let this clarification be published, even if you can’t delete fake posts.

    Thanks,
    Yuri

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  • Xulfi
    Oct 10, 2012 - 2:08PM

    Even the name is copied.barfi is a kind of delicious treat that you eat.be original bollywood.come up with a proper name.Recommend

  • sahana
    Oct 23, 2012 - 11:35AM

    @Asad:
    I dont think that your comments are true..this is not acceptable…no one has fooled us…there are some scenes copied from other movies…but the director itself paid tribute to the legends…so with half knowledge commenting on others hard work is ridiculousRecommend

  • Asma
    Oct 30, 2012 - 9:26PM

    @Yuri Kondratyuk:
    Not sure if your’e being sarcastic. Or Delusional.

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  • ss
    Nov 9, 2012 - 12:16PM

    @Yuri Kondratyuk:
    Are you sure it’s 95% not 195%??

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