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Inspired Tunes

June 11, 2003 12:04 IST

Karthik Srinivasan uses his Web site to track plagiarism in the Hindi music industry

It is simple really. Whether you write an article or compose a song, it belongs to you. And that means nobody can use your work without permission or claim it as their own. But, it never works that way, does it?

Recent cases include the Jason Blair incident and closer home, the best selling author Barbara Taylor Bradford claiming that TV serial, Karishma: The miracles of Destiny was lifted from her novel, A Woman of Substance.

Plagiarism has been rampant in India and everywhere else, especially in the world of music. How many times have you listened to a new song and think that it sounds vaguely familiar? Inspired Indian Film Songs is one such effort to bring to light cases of plagiarism. The effort of Karthik Srinivasan, a music enthusiast from Bangalore, the site archives instances of melody plagiarism by composers of the past and present.

Karthik began as a music reviewer for the popular, run by music lovers, Suchitra Lata and her husband SR Ramakrishna. When a friend casually wrote to him about two copied songs by Nadeem Shravan for the movie Dhadkan, Karthik got hold of the original songs, uploaded them on a free server. "Then I started seriously collecting info on plagiarised songs and decided to go public with the list," he says.

The site has a separate page dedicated to different composers where Karthik writes about the songs that has been copied. Each item accompanies a brief write-up about the song and the composer. You can also listen to the 30-second clippings of both, the original and the inspired/copied song and decide for yourself. "I am sure they don't hinder the sales of audio CDs," adds Karthik.

Many popular music composers feature here including SD Burman, Laxmikant Pyarelal, Anu Malik and Sandeep Chowta. While some music composers shamelessly lift the whole song, some are 'inspired'. An admirer of RD Burman, Karthik says of the composer, "The kind of localisation he achieved, you almost think he has a brand new song with such degrees of nativity that you hate the original! Those are the ones I categorise as genuine inspirations; though he has his share of direct lifts too!"

Apart from film songs, the site also features a section on advertisement jingles that were inspired by old Hindi film songs or other sources. The trivia and the coincidences section make an interesting read. These section features songs that Karthik feels, are similar, but may not be plagiarised.

Music lovers get together to discuss these issues on an active discussion forum. The site is a favourite for all music lovers, especially fans of RD Burman and AR Rehman and within the film industry. An excited Karthik relates that one leading music director and a couple of singers have written to him expressing their amazement at the kind of lifts featured.

Karthik sources information from members of online music groups, who share information with him. One of the group member writes, "He is our kind of guy and won't speak without proper proof and explanation." Apart from this, he also finds information from RMIM/UseNet archives. "Some journalists have also helped me find new instances of plagiarism," says Karthik.

Plagiarism is so deep-rooted in the Indian film industry that it's hard to find originality. "You always end up asking,  'where could have Anu Malik lifted this from?' when the fact could be that he could have slogged hard to come up with that tune," says Karthik.

Like Anu Malik himself says in this interview, "Why can't we be original?"

More Resources:
-- Copied Tamil Film Songs
-- Copied Hindi Songs
-- How Greek composers plagiarised Hindi film songs (Link from I2FS)


Vidya Srinivasa Rao