As I write this, Kantara has already gone on to become one of the biggest commercial and critical successes of the Indian movie industry, and is still raking in money and positive reviews. And above all, the movie seems to have found an extremely loyal fanbase, which is good – for the makers, I mean. This blog is not about the movie or its quality; it’s not a review; it’s not a question of whether the hype surrounding the movie is justified or not – not at all, because that is all subjective. Especially so, since there really is no need of one more review in the sea of reviews for this movie. This blog is only about one thing – the way the makers stole someone else’s music as it is, and then went on, no, still goes on defending that, never admitting their mistake, or apologizing to the original music composers of the piece. And this line will be cue for the loyal fanbase (the handful of them who might read this, let me say with all humility) to bash me as someone who is against Indian culture, Gods, traditions, South Indian and Kannada movies in specific, and whatnot.
Let me get this cleared upfront that I am not a “Don’t you dare say anything against them!” kind of fan of Thaikkudam Bridge. I am not even a fan; I have just listened to some of their covers. There are some that I like, there are some that I totally hate, and as for originals, I really haven’t listened to much of those, simply because it’s not my preference. However, I do know that they have quite a fan following, and that their stage performances are supposed to be pretty electric and entertaining. In short, they are not a “wannabe” band that could use some limelight desperately, and would resort to cheap gimmicks by way of fake plagiarism cases to stay in the public eye. I say this because ever since they put out a statement about one of their originals called “Navarasam” being used without permission in Kantara, the biggest accusation against them from the Kantara fanbase has been that this is a cheap band, trying to steal some limelight from the phenomenal success of the movie. There have been unbelievably stupid comments and posts glorifying the “divine intervention” angle of the movie as a reality that would strike the band real bad if they went forward in this “path of sin”, much like the negative characters in the movie. There has been rage about how this band is just trying to taint the success of a flawless movie that is the “baap of all movies”.
I first heard about this whole controversy a week or so after the issue came up. And I played “Navarasam” on YouTube, because I hadn’t listened to it before. Once I finished that, I played “Varaharoopam”, the controversial song from Kantara just to see how similar it was to the other one. I kid you not, Hari and my girls told me that I was playing the same song accidentally. I myself thought that I must have made a mistake and was shocked to see that I was technically playing a different song, but it was nothing but “Navarasam” taken as it is, and maybe tweaked in hardly a couple of places, in ways that you wouldn’t even notice. In effect, they had only changed the title of the song and attributed it to a different musician, nothing else. My first reaction was that for Thaikkudam Bridge to win the case, all their lawyer would need to do was play “Navarasam” in court and then play “Varaharoopam”. Even someone with no knowledge of music would know that “Varaharoopam” is a copy. Alas! I misjudged our judicial system. Like any other case, not even a simple, clear-cut, transparent case like this can be finished off or justice served quickly in our judiciary. It has to go on and on and on, until a verdict would make no difference to anyone involved.
The very few people from the hardcore fanbase who couldn’t bring themselves to say that “Varaharoopam” wasn’t a copy (thank God for at least that much shame), went on to stupider tactics of accusing Thaikkudam Bridge of being a band which has no credibility to cry foul when it comes to plagiarism, considering how most of their songs are old movie songs that they have butchered and taken as their own. Which is lame, because good or not, butchered or not, they have not taken any old movie songs as their own. They have produced covers of old songs and the word “cover” has a meaning. If people are not allowed to sing old songs publicly, there wouldn’t be musical concerts in our country, there wouldn’t be amateur music videos which bring out newer and newer singers, there wouldn’t be music at all to a great extent. But to compare singing a cover to totally stealing someone else’s composition as their own, changing the title and thinking that no one would even know the original makers – that’s bullshit! To make this accusation even lamer, these fans went on to newer heights of stupidity of saying music is universal, it is no one’s private property, and by creating music by using the original seven swaras, Thaikkudam Bridge was committing plagiarism too. Honestly, it is all too much of crap for me to wrap my head around.
This whole controversy and people’s shameless reaction to it is proof that if people like someone or something, they will go to any extent to justify and support any wrong that they do. Imagine what the reaction would have been if it was a Karan Johar-produced Bollywood movie that had copied this song! The band would have won the social media trial in less than half an hour. Because apparently Bollywood is the seat of all evil and South Indian movies that “respect our culture” can do no wrong! Bah! I don’t think it is all that difficult to listen to these songs and know in a jiffy that one is a copy, and the year of release would suffice to prove which. No, it’s not because these people don’t understand that. It’s just because they have supported this movie to such an unhealthy level, that they just don’t want to say or let anyone else say anything bad about it.
The real question is, if this movie and anything related to it was so damn flawless like they claim, why did they need to taint it with something as petty as stealing someone else’s music? If they thought the music would suit their movie, why couldn’t they just talk to the band and work out a way to use it in the movie by giving them credit? At least when the uncanny similarity came out after the movie’s release, why did they have to give lame excuses of “same raga leading to some similarity in tune” as the reason for the controversy? They knew they could easily question the intelligence of the audience, because the way their fanbase responded showed that they were a bunch of fools who would fight a nasty battle against a band that was only trying to get credit where it was due, not claim anything that wasn’t theirs. Sticking by the thief (for lack of better words) that the music director is, the makers of the movie, including the supposed-hero of the movie, just proved that while the theme of the movie is about glorious divinity and the triumph of good and honesty over evil, the makers are nothing but the antagonists in the real-life battle between right and wrong.
Also published on Medium.
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