Inspired not 'Plagiarised'

Since time immemorial, the malaise of plagiarism is very prevalent in Indian Film Industry especially in Bollywood. We have more than often seen directors (read Sanjay Gupta, Mahesh Bhatt etc amongst others) stealing films frame by frame and passing off as their own.  However certain minor changes are made in the script. So that when their theft becomes public, they can defend themselves by saying that the particular film is inspired not copied. And they have those minor changes to defend their (false) claims.

However there also have been times when the director has truly taken an inspiration from a certain film and has made an effort to make a film that is quite different from that respective film.  Here’s looking at some films that fit the above mentioned description.

Dombivili Fast/ Falling Down

Falling Down directed by Joel Schumacher features Michael Douglas as an ordinary American citizen who, frustrated with the flawed system sets out to violently fight the same only to end up as an anti hero

Similarly Dombivli Fast directed by Nishikant Kamath tells the story of Madhav Apte played by Sandeep Kulkarni who plays an average Mumbaikar. Frustrated with the problems faced in his day to day life such as corruption, bribery etc. He sets out to fight the same only to meet with a tragic fate.

Though the basic plotline of the film is similar to Falling Down, Kamat has taken enough care to make adequate changes in the script. By tackling issues such as bribery, corruption, water scarcity, pathetic conditions of people travelling in local trains etc. the film becomes much more identifiable and identifiable with the Indian audiences especially those living in Mumbai. And for this reason alone, this film deserves to find a mention in this post.

Nishikant Kamath even went on to remake Dombivli Fast as Evano Oruvan in Tamil with R.Madhavan in the lead.

Kaminey/ True Romance and Snatch

In the film Kaminey, director Vishal Bharadwaj (VB) borrowed subplots from films such as Snatch and True Romance and made a nice amalgamation of it.A couple (Shahid Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra) while trying to elope get stuck in a drug racket involving a stolen consignment of drugs. This was very similar to the situation faced by the lead pair in the Tarantino written movie ‘True Romance’ directed by the late Tony Scott. The couple is being pursued by a dozen odd shady characters who want to lay their hands on that particular consignment of drugs. The situation is somewhat similar to the dozen odd shady characters that are in pursuit of the stolen diamond in Snatch.

However VB adds another unique subplot of a pair of twins (Shahid Kapur and Shahid Kapur) who hate each other but have to depend upon each other to save their lives during their worst crisis. Vishal Bharadwaj nicely mixed all the three subplots to give us one hell of an entertaining movie. Despite taking inspiration from the above mentioned movies, Kaminey stands out as a unique and well made film.  That is due to the fact that VB has taken care to make in the film in his own style rather than copying Snatch or True Romance blindly. This is why one doesn’t see flashy editing patterns like those used by Guy Ritchie in Snatch. Although unlike Bharadwaj’s earlier films, Kaminey bears a much more stylish and slick look.  Apart from extracting a brilliant performance from Shahid Kapoor, the writing of Vishal Bharadwaj and team results in a dozen odd memorable characters that stay with you even after the movie has ended. Such as Bhope Bhau (Amole Gupte), Sweety (Priyanka Chopra),Mikhail(Chandan Roy Sanyal), Inpsectors Lele (Hrishikesh Joshi) & Lobo (Shiv Subramaniam) amongst others.

Chachi 420/Mrs Doubtfire

Mrs Doubtfire featured the versatile Robin Williams as a divorced parent who disguises himself as a female housekeeper so that he can get to spend time with his children who are staying with his ex-wife.

Similarly Chachi 420 featured Kamal Hassan as a divorced father who disguises himself as an elderly female caretaker so that he can spend time with his daughter who stays with his now ex-wife played by Tabu.

However Kamal Hassan has added enough subplots and masala that helps the film to acquire a local flavor and also adds to the overall comic moments of the film. The film nicely shows the relationship being developed between Tabu and Kamal Hassan prior to them getting married. The film also featured quite a few versatile actors who featured in some superb roles such as Amrish Puri – the arrogant father in law of Kamal Hassan , his lecherous assistant played by Om Puri and Paresh Rawal as Kamal Hassan’s shrewd landlord amongst others. These characters were not present in Mrs. Doubtfire. Moreover Kamal Hasaan has nicely weaved these characters in the main story and hence their subplots don’t stick out as sore thumbs in the movie. In fact it only adds to the fun quotient of the film. And this shows the amount of hardwork Kamal Hassan and his team have put in the film. This results in the film turning out to be a tad better than Mrs. Doubtfire.

Before directing Chachi 420 in Hindi, Kamal had starred in Avvai Shanmughi a Tamil version of the same film directed by K.S Ravikumar (Dashavatharam)

City on fire/Reservoir Dogs

City on Fire directed by Ringo Lam features Chow Yun Fat as an undercover cop who infiltrates a gang of robbers who are planning to carry out a  jewellery store heist. Quentin Tarantino used the same storyline in Reservoir Dogs and made an entirely different film.

City on Fire focused more on the moral dilemma and test of loyalty faced by the undercover cop.  Whereas the entire conflict in Reservoir Dogs is focused on the identity of the undercover cop which is unknown to the audiences till the end.  And what you get is a kickass film which etched Tarantino’s name permanently in the minds of moviegoers.

Munnabhai MBBS/Patch Adams

Patch Adams tells the true story of Hunter Doherty who is a doctor and a social activist apart from doing many other tactivities. Robin Williams plays the role of Doherty who used many unconventional methods (including making them laugh ) to cure his patients which found a lot of criticism from the medical fraternity. Raju Hirani used this as one of the many subplots in the endearing Munnabhai MBBS in which a gangster (Sanjay Dutt) vows to become a doctor to avenge the insult his parents endure at the hands of an egoistic dean of a medical college (Boman Irani).

Ghajini/Memento

The cult film by Christopher Nolan tells the story of a person suffering from short term memory loss (Guy Pearce) who uses his body tattoos and notes to hunt down the killer of his wife. Director A.R Murugadoss used the same storyline and made Ghajini adding a lot of elements such as love story between the protagonist and his wife, action etc thereby making a complete a masala entertainer.

I  also wanted to include Dasvidaniya in which a terminally ill Vinay Pathak makes a wish list of things he wants to do much like Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman from The Bucket List. But apart from the basic plotline( which could be a mere co-incidence) I didn’t find any similarity between the two films hence I refrained from mentioning the same in the post.

It would be good to hear from you all about some more films which could have been added to the list.

 

Redefining Cinema The 'Tarantino' Way

Quentin Tarantino – the name  represents machismo, style & loads of attitude. And a good deal of the same can be found in the strongly etched out female protagonists in his films. They are tough, sexy, sassy, smart and hard as nails . Who will stop at nothing before they get what they want. They definitely aren’t what they look like. An aura and an element of mysticism surrounds them. There is always a hidden agenda which they have and which makes them enter potentially dangerous situations willingly. And these traits or nuances make these characters so memorable. Be it Pam Grier as Jackie Brown, Lucy Liu as O-ren Ishii(Kill Bill Vol-I)Uma Thurman as The Bride or Melanie Laurentz as Shosanna Dreyfuss(Inglorious Basterds).

His films have some great characters who despite having a short screen time make a lasting impression. Their performances  add a lot of sheen to the proceedings.

Case in point being Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz(Til Schweiger) in Inglourious Basterds. The way his character is introduced is superb. Especially the narration of his flashback.

“The reason for Hugo Stiglitz’s celebrity among German soldiers is simple.
As a German-enlisted man, he killed 13 Gestapo officers.
Instead of putting him up against a wall, the High Command decided to send him back to Berlin to be made an example of.
Needless to say, once the Basterds heard about him, he never got there.

Stiglitz may not have a very big role but the way his character is introduced and presented, it stays in your mind long after the film has ended. Other such characters that come to my mind are Gogo Yubari the crazy assassin hired by Lucy Liu in Kill Bill or Chris Tucker as Beaumont Livingston in Jackie Brown.

The protagonists in Tarantino’s films are more than often involved in shady deals or business. Be It Samuel L Jackson in Pulp fiction or Jackie BrownHarvey KeitelMichael Madsen etc in Reservoir Dogs. Even if they are gainfully employed, they are often engaged in achieving a particular sinister mission. Like Brad Pitt and the basterds in Inglorious Basterds.

Morality has never been a point of conflict in Tarantino’s films. There is never a sense of dilemma in the protagonists mind regarding right and wrong. The protagonists in Tarantino’ s film are most of the times amoral. They go about doing the job because that’s what they are supposed to do without thinking about the consequences of their actions. For instance, Lt Aldo Raine(Brad Pitt) in Inglourious Basterds is concerned with one thing only ‘Killin Nazis‘. That is his way of extracting revenge from the Germans for the atrocities committed by the Germans on the Jews. There is no argument on whether the means justifies the ends or not, neither in the protagonists minds nor that of the audience.

There is just the hunter and the hunted on two opposite sides. The viewer is also therefore spared from endless sermonizing on the clash between good and bad unlike many other films. The protagonist is always concerned with achieving his/her mission , morals be damned.

More than often the protagonists get involved in some crazy mishaps leading to some unexpected but funny situations. Like the trigger pulling incident of John Travolta in Pulp Fiction.

Music plays a very important role in Tarantino’s films. The way he integrates music into the proceedings is simply exemplary. The way Tarantino uses Background Music or retro songs to shoot or build up a scene is orgasmic.

Take for instance the famous ear chopping scene in Reservoir dogs featuring Michael Madsen. When Madsen ties the cop to a chair and thereafter turns on the radio, there is a nice retro song playing on the radio. Thereafter, Madsen coolly swings to the song while he chops the ear of the cop with a razor. And all you can hear is helpless grunts by the cop, helplessly trying to fight off a maniacal Madsen. The way the song is used in depicting the scene gives you goose bumps. Notice that Tarantino doesn’t use any BGM apart from the above mentioned song in the scene. This gives it an even more chilling effect. Trust someone like Tarantino to use music for executing scenes so uniquely yet effectively.

Kill Bill is one film which very well displays his brilliant sense of music. The whistle tune played by Elle driver while she goes to kill The Bride in the hospital  changes from being sweet sounding to absolutely menacing in a spur of a second. The theme music playing in the background when The Bride and O-Ren Ishii are heading for a lethal confrontation creates an excitement amongst the viewer indicating that there is a lot of action that is waiting to happen.

Even the action in Tarantino’s’ films is brief but very well staged & executed. Be it the shootout scene at the bar in Inglourious Basterds or the clash between the bride and a dozen odd henchmen of Lucy Liu in Kill Bill. Or the fight between Vernita Green and The Bride in Kill Bill. The action scenes are very quick , they don’t last for much long yet it is very effective and gets the desired reaction from the audience.

Dialogues are the mainstay of any Tarantino enterprise. Tarantino effectively uses dialogues for some specific purposes : to carry the story forward or to establish that though his protagonists are engaged in unscrupulous activities yet they are very normal and ordinary human beings. Or to establish the presence of a certain character. Like the opening scene in Reservoir dogs, the thugs (led by Harvey Keitel ) are planning a robbery yet they find all the time in the world to engage in a trivial discussion on Madonna’s song “About A Virgin”. Or be it the conversations between Samuel L Jackson and John Travolta in Pulp Fiction. Or the iconic scene in which Jackson threatens the business associates of Marcellus Wallace .

The iconic scene of Samuel L Jackson

Or sample some of the lines of Samuel L Jackson from Jackie Brown

“I’m serious as a heart attack.”
“My ass may be dumb, but I ain’t no dumbass.”
“Somebody with a grudge blew Beaumont’s brains out…
Oh, shit.That shit rhymes…Blew Beaumont’s brains out…”

The way Tarantino builds up a scene and ends it  is also remarkable. He takes his own sweet time to build a scene and ends it quickly even before you can say “Whoa”. Like the bar shootout scene in Inglorious Basterds. Or the scene towards the climax in Jackie Brown between Louis Garra (Robert De Niro) and Melanie (Bridget Fonda). While exchanging the bag, Garra knows that there was some goof up and he has misplaced his car keys. All the while, he is being constantly taunted by Melanie for misplacing his keys. Initially Garra tries to ignore her while frantically searching for his car keys. But when he cant bear her taunts any longer he simply shoots her leaving her dead and leaves the spot calmly. The way the scene begins and ends is simply amazing.

However, the greatest strength of Tarantino is that he manages to extract uniformly spectacular performances from his actors. I mean, have we ever heard any actor putting up a mediocre show in any of his films ? Hell no. Be it Samuel L Jackson in Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown, John Travolta in Pulp Fiction or Christoph Waltz in Inglorious Basterds, most of the performances in his films turn out to be iconic and truly memorable. He also has a thing for re-inventing icons or stars of yesteryear’s. Such as Pam Grier with Jackie Brown or the late David Carradine in Kill Bill.

Gary Oldman in True Romance
Samuel L Jackson in Jackie Brown

The looks which the characters sport in his films are indeed different and go a long way in adding to the overall feel of the characters. The looks sported by the actors convey a lot about the characters. For instance Samuel L Jackson in Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown adds to the overall menace which the character exudes. Or be it Gary Oldman as Drexl the pimp in True Romance ( the movie which was written by Tarantino). Oldman plays a loathsome pimp in the movie and the way in which he has been styled adds to the overall creep factor of the character.

Come to think of it, a Tarantino film is like an experience . There’s so much you can observe and enjoy in his films. And most of the times you end up asking for more. With every viewing, the film gets all the more enjoyable.

Quentin Tarantino can be truly be called as ‘an auteur’ or ‘a maverick film maker’ . He has in more ways than one redefined various genres with his uber cool movies which often has a unique storytelling pattern. Be it the heist flick genre with Reservoir Dogs. Be it the gangster movie genre with an uber cool Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown. Be it the action movie genre with Kill Bill. Or be it the war movie genre with Inglourious Basterds.

And now with his next venture Django Unchained which stars Jamie Foxx & Leonardo Dicaprio amongst others, it seems Tarantino is all set to redefine the Western movie genre. As the trailer is due to be released soon, all the Tarantino bhakts are eagerly awaiting Django Unchained to see what it has to offer for us.