Planet Bollywood
Criminal Composers. Why do they steal?
- Aakash Gandhi           Let us know what you think about this feature article

In this day and age of mass film production and relentless audio launches, we can’t help but notice a degradation in the standards of our beloved Industry. Yes, we are privileged to witness modern classics such as Black and My Brother Nikhil. Yet, we cringe at the over-powering releases of sleazy flicks like Hawas, Julie, Girlfriend, and Double Cross.

Producers are not only demeaning Indian cinema by the lack of quality content, but also by the lack of creativity. The Bhatt camp is a perfect example of such illness. When was the last time Vikram or Mukesh Bhatt came up with an original screenplay? Whether it’s Raaz (Inspired by What Lies Beneath) or Zeher (Inspired by Out of Time), the Bhatt’s, along with other filmmakers, increasingly find it necessary to borrow heavily from their western counterparts. However, the blatant lifting of films in Bollywood is a subject that has been debated numerous times in the past.

Music…it’s the basis of a unique reputation that Indian films have. Musicals are what the west likes to call our films. We’re accustomed to seeing new audio releases every third day in India. With so much music being produced, wouldn’t there be a high chance of repetition? It’s safe to say that the music scene is flying high with some great tunes in the recent past. We’ve heard Shantanu Moitra’s dazzling score in Parineeta. We heard Himesh Reshammiya lend his voice in his top-selling album, Aashiq Banaya Aapne. And we’ve heard Pritam re-energize our souls with the flashy soundtrack of Chocolate.

Yeah, we got a lot to be proud of. What if I told you that TWO songs from EACH of those three albums were stolen? Not so proud anymore eh? It’s true. Shantanu Moitra, a man who has seemed to captivate music lovers this year with Parineeta has stolen two of the seven tracks. Kaisi Paheli Zindagani was lifted straight from Louis Armstrong’s 1951 track “A Kiss To Build A Dream On.” And a line from Soona Mann Ka Aangan was plagiarized straight from Tagore’s “Phoole Phoole.”

Himesh Reshammiya’s hit soundtrack Aashiq Banaya Aapne has two lifts in it also: 

  1. Dillagi, which is taken straight from Pakistani pop singer Ali Zafar’s “Rangeen,” from his 2003 album “Huqa Pani.”
  2. Marjaawan is a blatant lift from Fakhir’s “Marjaawan” from his 2002 album “Aatish.”
  3. Oh yeah, Gela Gela (Aitraaz) was copied note for note from R. Kelly’s Thoia Thoing from his 2003 album “Chocolate Factory.”

What’s sad is the fact that our composers go on and on about cleansing our industry of plagiarism. Yet, they seem to have no problem taking tunes from right across the border! And as you will come to find out, Reshammiya isn’t the only culprit in this hideous case.

Pritam is known as the King of Dhoom. Well, he stole a track in there also, Shikdum. Personally my favorite piece, I was disgusted when I found out that he took it directly from from Turkish singer Tarkan’s “Sikidum.” And when asked about the word Shikdum, Sameer and Pritam never once stated the original piece. Where’s the justice?

In the just recently released Chocolate, yet another hot selling album, Pritam steals Zahreeli Raatein and Bheega Bheega. The former lifted from Pakistani pop band Jal’s “Aadat.” The latter is lifted word for word from Abrar Ul Haq’s “December.”

As is the case throughout Filmi Music’s infamous history, most of the tracks that stand out as classics in the mind’s of music lovers are the ones that are plagiarized. You start to question the talent and competence of some of these composers…respect is soon lost. To add insult to injury, the originals (especially the Pakistani originals) are far better than there uncredited Hindi versions.

Only a fraction of “inspired” tracks are legitimate ones. Recently, Dharma productions paid a hefty sum for the rights to recompose Pretty Woman in 2003’s Kal Ho Naa Ho. If others do have the common sense to credit the originals, they’ll simply put a name beneath the song. What’s in a name? Proper acknowledgment and citations include the name of the original composer, the title of the track, the year it was composed, and to what album it belonged. A name. Ha!

Just recently, there was a popular soundtrack that released with all sorts of speculation and controversy. Zeher was the name of the film. Apparently none of the songs belonged to the composers of the album (mainly Anu Malik, who is one of the kings of plagiarism). I guess that’s why there’s no surprise as to why the score was a success. Anyways, the original score was credited to Roop Kumar Rathod. Is that so? It turns out that two of the popular tracks, Agar Tum Mil Jao and Woh Lamhe belonged to, guess who….Pakistan. I think it was just a way for the Bhatts and Anu Malik to get out of any plagiarism allegations. Anyways. Agar Tum Mil Jao was in fact a Pakistani ghazal by Tasavvur Khanum with the same lyrics, NOT Roop Kumar Rathod’s. Woh Lamhe was created by Pakistani pop band “Jal,” NOT Roop Kumar Rathod. Mr. Bhatt, it’s shameful enough you copy every one of your films, at least leave our music alone. Please!

Here are just a few pieces of the past that were blatantly lifted from composers all around the world:

  1. Ram Laxman’s Didi Tera Devar Deewana (Hum Aapke Hai Kaun) – Inspired by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s “Saare Nabian.”
  2. Ismail Darbar’s Nimbooda (Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam) – Stolen note for note from Ghazni Khan Manganiya’s “Nimbooda.”
  3. Reshammiya’s O Priya O Priya (Kahi Pyar Naa Ho Jaaye) – Taken directly from Santana’s chartbuster “Maria.”

You may have been aware of Bappi-Lahiri’s date with plagiarism but were you aware that most of the industry has played with the law? After reading this article, I guarantee you that at least one of your favorite tunes doesn’t belong to an Indian composer. And probably doesn’t even belong to India!

Anu Malik

It’s mind-boggling to understand how this man has held his position for so long. Not only does he compose mediocrity after mediocrity, with maybe one good soundtrack a year, he breaks the law over and over again by plagiarizing everything but the kitchen sink! Hey, don’t’ take my word for it. Here is just a handful of evidence for why he should be booked for grand theft!

  1. Mera Piya Ghar Aaya (Yaarana) – Ripped off of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s “Mera Piya Ghar.”
  2. Raja Ko Rani Se Pyar (Akele Hum Akele Tum) – Taken from the love theme of “The Godfather.”
  3. Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhen (Baazigar) – Inspired by Dean Martin’s “The Man Who Plays The Mandalino.”
  4. Neend Churaayi Meri (Ishq) – From Tolga’s “Sending All My Love.”
  5. Soldier Soldier (Soldier) – Blatant lift from The Modern Talking hit “Cheri Cheri Lady.”
  6. Bheegey Hont (Murder) – Lifted note for note from the Pakistani track “Menu Tere Naal” by Najam Sheraz
  7. Jaana and Kaho Naa Kaho (Murder) – The former is from the Bengali pop band “Miles”’ track “Finiye Dao.”

Anu Malik has no shame in taking credit for pieces that aren’t his. These seven are just a small portion of tunes that Mr. Malik has ripped off in his lifetime. What a shame!

Nadeem-Shravan

Nadeem-Shravan are actually known to plagiarize anything that actually sounds decent. We all know that these two reached their peak in the mid 90s. It seems as if they’ve become so frustrated that they just plagiarize any tune that fancies them. Since 2000, these guys have only come up with three solid soundtracks, Dhadkan, Raaz, and Tumsa Nahin Dekha. And guess what. The first two are copycats. I tried to keep this list small but in reality, one could write a book on these two!

  1. Yun Hi Kat Jaayega (Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke) – Lifted from Greek singer Demis Roussos’s “Lady Love of Arcadia.”
  2. Mujhe Ek Pal (Judaai) – Blatant lift from Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s beautiful “Sanu Ek Pal.”
  3. O Mere Sapnon Ke Saudagar (Dil Hai Ke Maanta Nahin) – From Cliff Richard’s “Bachelor Boys.”
  4. I Love My India (Pardes) – From Kitaro’s “Dance With Saraswati”from his 1994 albums “Mandala.”
  5. Kitna Pyaara (Raaz) - Beghum Akhtar’s ghazal “Aye Mohabbat Tere.”
  6. Aayega Mazaa Ab Barsaaat Ka (Andaaz) – Lifted from Pakistani singer Khalil Haider’s hit track “Naye Kapde Badal Kar.”

It’s quite sad that Barsaat’s audio distributors, Shree Krishna, had to add the tagline “Nadeem-Shravan’s best music yet” just to encourage sales. It’s obvious to anybody that this isn’t even close to Nadeem-Shravan’s best. And I mean come on, the claim was made by the distributors of the audio! Oh and by the way, the song Nakhre was stolen.

Sanjeev-Darshan

The story of Sanjeev-Darshan proves that a criminal life can’t and won’t lead you anywhere along the path of success. These fellows made their debut in 1999 with the film Mann. Ever since, they haven’t even tasted success. Not once! Well, it seems as if these guys mapped out their future with the score of Mann. FIVE of the NINE tracks were ripped off from composers all around the world! What a way to make a first impression. Take a look for yourself… 

  1. Kaali Nagin Ke Jaisi – Lifted from “Ya Rayah” by Rachid Taha
  2. Tinak Tin Tana – Blatant lift from Malaysian track “Yang Sedang-Sedang Saja” by Iwan
  3. Chaha Hai Tujhko - An exact lift from tamil compoer S.A. Rajkuma’s “Etho Oru Paattu.”
  4. Nasha Yeh Pyar Ka Nasha Hain – Note for note from L’Italiano by Italian composer Toto Cutugno.
  5. Kehna Hai Tumse Kehna Hain – Inspired by “Liquid” by band “Jars of Clay” (1995).

And from that score forward, they plagiarized happily ever after.

The list of composers who feel they can get away with breaking the law goes on and on. From Jatin-Lalit (who most recently lifted Chake De of Hum Tum from Middle Eastern singer Ragheb Alama’s “Yala Ya Shabab”) to Sandeep Chowta (one example: Kambakth Ishq of Pyar Tune Kya Kiya was taken from “Eireann” by Afro Celt Sound System) to Anand Raj Anand (His two most popular tracks from Kaante, Maahi Ve and Rama Re, were taken from Israeli singer Zaheva Ben’s “Ma Yihye” and Brazilian singer Nana Vazconselos’ “Bird Boy,” respectively).

Well, if that didn’t get your jaw to drop then maybe this will. The older generation may read this and act as if they’re not surprised. I mean, the new generation of music is corrupt and cheap right? Well, it wasn’t much different in your days either. Legendary composers such as R.D. Burman, S.D. Burman, Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Shankar-Jaikishen, O.P. Nayyar, and others have all cheated in their times.

Here are just a few incidents of grand larceny by the father-son duo:

S.D. Burman

  1. Saala Main To Saab Ban Gaya (Sagini – 1974) – A direct lift from 1957 Italian track “Chella Lia” composed by Renato Carosone.
  2. Yeh Dil Na Hota (Jewel Thief) – Taken from “River Kwai March” from the 1957 classic “The Bridge On The River Kwai.”
  3. Ek Ladki Bheegi Bhaagi Se (Chalti Ka Naam Gadi) – Inspired by the 1955 track “Sixteen Tons.”

R.D. Burman

  1. Mehbooba Mehbooba (Sholay) – From Demis Roussos’ “Say You Love Me.”
  2. Chura Liya Hai Tumne (Yaadon Ki Baarat) – Inspired by the theme of the movie “If It’s Teusday Then This Must Be Teusday.”
  3. Ek Main Aur Ek Tu – Inspired by the nursery rhyme “If You’re Happy.”

As you can see, Bollywood’s obsession with “inspired” material doesn’t end with films. I guess that’s why it’s earned the nickname “Copycat Cinema.” It seems that an even newer copying paradigm has made its way into our industry. Suddenly, modern filmmakers want to show us their take on unforgettable classics. Farhan Akhtar is remaking Don. Ram Gopal Varma is remaking Sholay. And J.P Dutta is remaking Umrao Jaan.

Are we just now appreciating last generation’s epic classics? Or are we losing the ability to come up with new and innovative ideas? This question leaves room for debate but the blatant lifting of tunes from all over the world without giving due credit is unjustified. Not only is it not justified, it’s shameful and humiliating. We must value composers like Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Vishal-Shekhar, and M.M. Kreem among others who don’t feel inclined to steal from across the border or across the ocean (at least there aren’t any signs of it). Some of the current rip offs such as the ones in Parineeta, Dhoom, Aashiq Banaya Aapne, and Chocolate are quite good. But that doesn’t make it right. I wont stop listening to Hindi Music just because some of it is plagiarized, and I wont stop liking it. But at least now I know where it’s coming from and who deserves the credit.

It’s just a matter of time before a lawsuit is slapped on one of these composers. It boggles my mind as to how they’ve gotten away with it decade after decade. Bollywood isn’t as innocent as some make it out to be. I’d like to thank Mr. Karthik S. for helping me in compiling all these “inspired” pieces and discovering their original roots.


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