Why is Anand Gandhi irked by allegations of 'plagiarism' in Ship of Theseus?
Anand Gandhi's defensive reactions to supposed accusations of 'plagiarism' shows how Bollywood scrambles the brains of the best and the brightest
By Chicken Khurana
Before I give you my take on Anand Gandhi ko gussa kyon aata hai, I should get a few things out in the open. I'm very small Bollywood fry, which means I'm sh*t scared that writing this is going to cost me professionally. I told the editor who made me write this article that she should write it herself, but she said something about there being more credibility if it comes from an ‘insider’. Which basically means she’d prefer that if a career is tandoori-ed tomorrow because Gandhi has become the next Rohit Shetty, she’s making sure it’s mine rather than hers.
Well, as much as I want to make the most of this chance to air my views, I also want to make a living so that’s why I’m not putting my name to this. Yes, I am a coward. I admit it. We’re good that way in Bollywood, we own up to our failings. Which is not something you can say about the arty, non-Bollywood types.
Whether it’s Anurag Kashyap or Dibakar Banerjee or Anand Gandhi of Ship of Theseus (SoT) fame, these guys have a devotee base that could rival Baba Ramdev’s. I figure that’s why these filmmakers behave like skunks when they face criticism. The moment they think they’re being attacked, out comes some stinky hot air. Take Gandhi, for example. When Fight Club (a blog run by a bunch of guys who are amazingly full of themselves but do love the movies for all their attitude) put up a post in which they pointed out similarities between one of the stories in SoT and a short film by Akram Hassan, Gandhi went a little crazy.
Suddenly, there was a video diary put up on YouTube, showing Gandhi hanging out with a blind photographer. Gandhi had no beard and less hair in the video, so it was obviously old and it was meant to be proof that Gandhi had come up with his story without any help from Hassan’s film. As far as I’m concerned, what the video diary proves is that Gandhi was full of himself even before SoT made Indian intellectuals gasp like a porn actor having an orgasm. What kind of a director puts himself in his research video? Are you documenting research or making a diary of your own amazingness?
Anyway, the day after Fight Club put up its post, there was an article in Midday, in which Gandhi was asked about the blog and the post about his and Hassan’s films. Gandhi’s reply:
"Firstly, an accusation of this kind is highly disappointing, not because of its pettiness but because of its complete incapability in gathering relevant information. It's complacent, vacuous and sensationalist and a representation of the state of faux film enthusiasm masquerading as commentary in, well, Versova."
Before I get to the plagiarism bit, I’ve got to say how amazed I am that someone is so desperate to belong in Versova. If I knew Gandhi, I’d send him a message saying, “Chill, broseph. You made a wank-fest of a film, yes, but we’ll still play with you.” Or at least we’ll consider playing with you once you learn to play with others. Because here’s the thing – no one accused Gandhi of plagiarism. He’s the one who brought it up and then went on to point fingers at his own cheerleaders.
Fight Club have been pimping SoT like crazy for months. The blog and its bloggers behaved like insane groupies and I wouldn’t be surprised if they attacked those who said they didn’t like the film in dark alleys (of Versova maybe). All Fight Club did in their post was say, “Look, someone else had a similar idea.” Hassan, incidentally, has worked with Aamir Khan's production company and let's just say it's very, very likely that Gandhi and Kiran Rao have seen his film. So far, Hassan's only comment has been a Facebook post where he's written that rather than say anything, he's going to "leave it to the maker's integrity". The maker being Gandhi, not God (which isn't the same thing unless you're one of Gandhi's groupies).
If you’ve seen Hassan’s film about a blind painter who discovers she’s lost her ability to paint after getting a cornea transplant, then you’ll know that while there’s a lot of similarity in story, but there’s no comparing it to Gandhi’s film. In SoT, the story of the blind photographer – who like the painter in Hassan’s film, gets a cornea transplant and then can’t take good photographs – packs the most punch because everything from acting to cinematography works in it. In Hassan’s short film, the acting is bad, the mood is melodramatic, the dialogue is awkward and it’s painful in a very bad way. If Gandhi hadn’t been so defensive, no one would have thought of plagiarism. Now all we can see is that Gandhi's plot moves like Hassan's did and ends where Hassan stopped, only with less melodrama and prettier settings.
Of course, it’s possible Gandhi is a victim of Midday wanting to be sensational. But if that’s the case, Gandhi could have come out and made it clear that he isn’t bitter about not being voted Versova’s favourite filmmaker. The internet is his oyster. After all, he was on an NDTV program on Friday that was full of praise for his film and his use of social media and the internet to promote SoT.
Incidentally, not a squeak about Fight Club or the Twitter backlash against Gandhi in response to the Midday article, in that NDTV show. The anchor didn’t ask Gandhi if Fight Club’s gushing praise for SoT was “complacent, vacuous and sensationalist and a representation of the state of faux film enthusiasm masquerading as commentary”. Maybe she was scared Gandhi would throw words like “non-prescriptive” at her. Or ask her to rename her program “Ship of NDTV”.
All we got from that program is that Gandhi’s ego is the size of Andheri now that SoT has made some money. I wish someone had told Gandhi, “Boss, your film has made the money it has because Bollywood (ie Kiran Rao and UTV) backed it and made sure it didn’t end up with show timings like Love in Bombay has (one show, in the middle of the day).” And the box office is an indicator of how awesome SoT is? Then what about Raanjhanaa, Race 2 and Aashiqui 2? Why is it that box office success means one thing for SoT and something else when it’s a Bollywood film?
Anyway, now there’s all this gossip about that SoT not being so awesomely original after all and I, for one, am thrilled because every critic who wanted him to be the poster boy of arty cinema is now looking embarrassed. And then there are the Bollywood hotshots who gushed that they've never seen anything like SoT. Yeah, well, maybe if you saw the films of the hopefuls who work in your studios and productions, and listened to their ideas. But it's easier to turn on the drool when it's a film presented by the wife of one of Bollywood's biggest and smartest stars.
Also in circulation: Gandhi's previous films are copies too, but of Gujarati stories that he didn't credit; Aamir Khan edited SoT and changed it totally from what Gandhi had originally made; Gandhi is a prick; no one has been able to sit through SoT in its foreign screenings (of course, it’s the foreign dude who can really tell you if a film is good) and so on. All because Gandhi behaved like an idiot. This is scary because SoT shows Gandhi is obviously not an idiot, but he reacted like one in response to Fight Club's post. Half a step inside Bollywood seems to be enough to scramble his brain. Because that really is what Bollywood does to people.
This is a crazy industry. You talk to directors, producers, scriptwriters and so on, and they seem so clever. Then watch the stuff they make and write, and it’s so totally idiotic that you’ve got to wonder whether everyone here is schizo. Gandhi thinks he’s nothing like the Ayan Mukerjis and Kabir Khans of Bollywood, but news flash, he totally belongs here. Not because he finds 'inspiration' in other people's work but because he’s as contrary as Bollywood's brightest. Those guys sound smart but their films are stupid. Gandhi’s film is sophisticated but Gandhi the person has behaved like a smartass teenager. Maybe that’s the power of Bollywood – to give every Dr Jekyll his Mr Hyde.
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