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Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Plagiarism at industrial scales...

There were times, when people used to respect doctors, not because they were rich individuals or professionals, but because of their innovative approach towards gaining knowledge and finding solutions. This respect pattern was visible, towards other creative and innovative persons also. Most, or nearly all, of the big names in fine arts were known to be financially weak, but their works were respected and they were respected. Figures like Confucius were never known for their material wealth, but for their originality.
All that Einstein had were new ideas, although not in the field of fine-arts, but still very artistic and mainly new. 

Ever since mankind invented writing, there have been tons of people who spent time writing, some telling verbally passed tales, others writing original works. What we see along the timeline is that those, who wrote original works, were raised to higher pedestals and the thing that was respected was their creativity. For example you can read works of Chekhov and read about Chekhov and you would not stop wondering about his genius, and every next page of his works read, would increase the level of your respect for the author. On the other hand, when you read the works of Saadat Hassan Minto, who in his own right was a great writer out of Sub-Continent, you would enjoy the writings and you would admire his genius, but just as long as you won’t read overseas short story writers like Chekhov. Because once you read Chekhov you start understanding that many of Minto’s stories (afsana) were adaptations of Chekhov’s works. It does not mean that Minto never wrote anything original, but adaptations, to put it most politely, were the backbone of his works.
One interesting fact about Minto was that he could write out a short story at a very short notice. It was like Minto had short stories on the conveyer belt and could produce a short story about any topic right away. Some of Minto’s contemporaries had mentioned his ability to write short stories on order and they had admired him for that. But probably these contemporaries had not read Chekhov and other predecessors of Minto.

My point here is not to criticize Minto, and accuse him of plagiarism, but to show you the effects of conveyer based production of art. Chekhov did not have to write stories on order and in record times and had no conveyer to feed and he himself did not come off the conveyer, so his works were original and that’s why he attained the rankings of a Classic.
When I say conveyer, I mean such things as universities producing hundreds and collectively thousands or hundreds of thousands of fine-artists every year. These university graduates earn their degrees after 4-5 years of education and practical training. Their techniques are perfected. But do we produce tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of Rembrandts every year? The answer is obvious.

Rembrandt never went to university, which means that he did not come off the conveyer, and he did not create for a conveyer belt.
It is not that university education or training of arts is bad. The point of the matter is that when you churn out “artists” you lower the margin of creativity and doing so many of them are forced to resort to adaptations or re-creations (I don’t want to be harsh today calling it plagiarism).
For example, there are just a few large, heavily funded and popular film industries in the world today. I would not surprise anyone if I would say that Hollywood leads other film industries, in popularity, reach and working potential. Hollywood has access to some of the world’s top technicians, and money just flows into Hollywood. Following Hollywood, as per size and reach, are the Bombay and the Hong Kong (Chinese) film industries. This in no way means that the aforementioned places are the only manufacturers of films (movies). Of course films today are made at different levels of grandeur in nearly every country of the world. So there is a film industry everywhere. 
The reasons, why the three aforementioned film industries deserve to be raised above others, are the number of films produced annually, the amounts of money spent and the amounts of money earned annually, and the broader reach, which these three giants share. Hollywood makes films in a language, undoubtedly most widely spoken in the world (guess which?). Bombay reaches out to more than 2 billion people who speak and/or understand Hindi in every corner of the world and Hong Kong manufactures films combining the tastes of speakers of all different dialects of Chinese and the numbers of Chinese speakers are also no lesser than 2 billion.
Now let’s come back to my point here. For example, when you watch a Bollywood (Bombay) film, you admire, enjoy, and sometimes even adore it. But you would never know that all of the Bollywood hits were already made into movies by some unknown director (with widely unknown cast) in some remote part of South India. Bollywood shamelessly copies South Indian ideas into Hindi films, knowing that not a lot of people outside India have a chance to watch or understand the South Indian films (not to mention that people within India don’t have access to South Indian films).
Now knowing of this somewhat domestic remaking, by the Bollywood geniuses, you, at a certain point of time, feeling bored of those song studded films, start watching Hollywood films, and soon you would find out that lots (majority) of Bollywood films are adaptations (remember I don’t want to sound harsh calling it plagiarism) of Hollywood films. Those films, which are not adapted from Hollywood versions are copies of Chinese (Hong Kong) films (although Hong Kong films themselves are lacking in originality). After discovering this, your admiration for the genius of Indian film makers takes a downward slide and your admiration for Hollywood film makers takes an abrupt upwards hike.
Your indulgence with Hollywood films will someday bring you to a point, where you might like to watch some other films (not manufactured in Hollywood). Now presuming that you understand only English (except for your native language) your first choice would be a British film. And here comes the big revelation!
Once you start watching British movies, you start discovering that lots of popular, great, spell-binding Hollywood movies were re-creations (my mood is still very polite, so I will not call it plagiarism) of British movies.
Death at a funeral (British)

Now let’s assume that you are lucky enough to have access to films made by French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Egyptian, Iranian etc. film-makers. After watching every film made by the not very popular film industries or let’s say not very widely popular film industries, which I just mentioned as an example, you start understanding that Hollywood makes the best re-makes. All that Hollywood does is to take a foreign film and re-make it. If you do not agree please watch “The day of the Jackal- 1976” and the Hollywood version called “Jackal”. The 2007 British comedy “Death at a funeral” and the 2010 Hollywood copy “Death at a funeral”. I would not like to waste time listing all the British, French and Spanish and Japanese and Egyptian films, which Hollywood geniuses just blatantly copied and earned tons of money in the process.
Death at a funeral (American)

What is happening currently in Hollywood or Bollywood is the Minto effect. These film industries are forced to produce large numbers of “hits” to retain their status. And as I said earlier creativity is not a process that can be as continuous as a conveyer belt. The people engaged with film making, in Hollywood or Bollywood, are probably the best technicians, but they can’t feed the conveyer with originality. 
Probably our urge for more, more, and more has brought us to a creative stand-still and we have forgotten that a good original story once in a while is a lot better than a low grade story a day. We probably have to stop running and start enjoying the moment, and to understand that maybe the Iranian film industry cannot make as many films as Hollywood, but Iranian movies are original and bring more pleasure for the viewer than all those re-makes of early or mid-20th century favourites, produced around the world. Maybe it’s time for us to understand that a better movie is not the one which makes more money in the first week, around the world, but the one which leaves an impression on a heart.

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