First things first. I absolutely loved Barfi. It touched me in ways not many films have in the recent times. And then all these reports started to come around. This scene is copied from here, this from here. This tune has been copied from here and so on. And just like these plagiarisms diluted the quality of the movie, it also did the same for my love for it. But I found it tough to hate Barfi. Why? One, because I had loved it already and that is the way with me. And second which I think is the more important and pertinent reason was because I am a consumer. This film did a wonderful job of rehashing past classics which I might or might not have watched. It gave me easy access to good cinema, not matter how much copied, without asking for too much money or too much time. In short, it made the consumer in me feel good. Later the connoisseur, if any admittedly felt hurt. Which brings me to my whole point that what you interpret as plagiarism or inspiration or homage depends heavily on the end of supply chain you exist on. Creator or consumer.
In the recent months, there have been three plagiarism/patent arguments I have been involved in with friends/colleagues. Apple v/s Samsung, Barfi v/s original sources and third, Gilvec/Novartis v/s Indian Government. While the first two cases received a lot of public attention, the third case is equally relevant to my point. Glivec is a life saving drug developed and owned by Novartis which is used for the treatment of Leukemia patients. This drug is better than most of the others available in Indian markets. But Glivec is not available in Indian markets since the Indian Government has refused to grant patent to Novartis for this drug. Novartis is afraid that without patent, its originally developed drug for which it might have spent millions, will be subjected to scores of generic medicine makers who will then flood the market with cheap generic Gilvec alternatives. While the generics will surely benefit lakhs of Leukemia patients, it will definitely be a case of severe intellectual property infringement for Novartis. Whereas on the other hand, government fears that if a patent is allowed, a life-saving drug will become exclusive to a coterie of rich people owing to its potentially high cost thus depriving millions of not-so-privileged of its benefits. Now, which side your heart cries for? Novartis, which wants to recover and make profit over the dollars it spent by securing the patent or for the Indian Government which is trying to make life easier for many of its blood-cancer patients? Now if your answer is Indian government, while you simultaneously say that Apple is right in hounding Samsung and Barfi suddenly became a hateful, sordid behind the screen saga , then don’t you think that this might sound a bit like ideological hypocrisy ? Because technically a patent is a patent.
But then technicalities rarely drive our perception. Otherwise, Galaxy S3 would have sold more than what iPhone5 already has. They are more driven by our practical lives. For example depending on how your life is , you can easily be miffed about Samsung copying Apple if you are a Apple-tard and then next day say that you loved Barfi and fuck those plagiarism accusations saying that it is the end product which matters. And likewise if you are a filmmaker with some original works, you can be pissed off at Barfi’s copied scenes while endorsing generic drugs on the other hand since they are cheaper and you have a human side. But in essence by doing so, you are yourself contradicting your beliefs on this matter. And you yourself might not be even aware of it.
That is why I think that this debate may not be driven more by ideological theories than by practical realities. I own an Android and I am very much aware of the fact that it’s because of Apple that world came to know about user-friendly Smartphone. But still I hate Apple for going after Samsung for patent violations because it’s because of Samsung, I am able to afford a “user-friendly Smartphone”. Since I am a consumer here, the monopoly of Apple will definitely hurt me and I am justifiably afraid of that and so want Samsung and the likes to flourish. Here I am at the consumer end of the spectrum. But then if you are going to copy this blogpost and reproduce it somewhere else without my consent, I will be suitably miffed with you. And that is also justifiable because there I am at the creator end of the spectrum. Surely both the justifications are not absolute as well. Because as imperfect human beings, our choices are driven by our needs which can greatly vary. What can be plagiarism for me; can very well be consumerism for you. And as they say in a free market, the consumer is the king. Which way are we going to argue then?
But then what is the end of this? Can we put an end to copyrights and patents? For sure we cannot, as that will sound the knell for all incentives for creativity and innovation. Can a balance be found? Does a balance need to be found? That is not for me to decide and frankly I can’t even debate properly on that. After all, being mostly a consumer I have a pro-consumer bias. But surely this is a debate we will hear more of in the times to come.