Early this week, Salim Merchant, an Indian music director, was accused by Farhan Saeed from Pakistan of blatantly stealing one of his songs without giving due credits.
Whether that’s true or not can only be decided in the courts, but the Indian music industry has been infamous for allegations of stealing art from places like Pakistan, South Korea, US, Middle East and repackaging it as it’s own.
And many of those allegations are not without merit. While I understand that the principle of ‘Innocent until proven guilty’ should be applied to anyone accused of committing a crime, it would not be entirely false to say that there are musicians (like Pritam and Anu Malik) who have had serious allegations against them of having made their careers by plagiarising the work of other artists without giving them any sort of credit or even royalty.
What is baffling to see that a practice like this has never been condoned or that none of the accusations has been investigated (as far as I can remember) by our own judiciary. Seems to me that no one is really bothered about the means as long as we get to the end we so desire i.e. money and fame.
It’s true that there is a lot of genuinely good original work done by Indian musicians for which they should receive all the credit they deserve. But it is equally true that our industry has become the laughing stock of the entire world and there is a real concern among many about the authenticity of our songs, however popular or melodious they maybe. And that is not the kind of reputation to be proud of.
Plagiarism is something that entire generations of those who follow Indian music (read Bollywood) have been exposed to.
And the message that goes across to anyone who wants to make a career in music is really simple – if you have the ability to plagiarise and if your tunes sound catchy enough to help the movie make money, Bollywood will welcome you with open arms and you will achieve celebrity status within no time. You will also be looked upon as the beacon of original music even if half of your work is not your own. You will be invited to be a judge in musical reality shows and entrusted with giving shape to the careers of young musicians when your own career has been shaped by ‘Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V’.
It’s up to the courts of this country to decide whether any of these allegations are true or not. It’s up to Bollywood whether they want to address it or not. It’s up to us whether we want to listen to the original work which an artist, in some corner of this world, has painstakingly created or do we want to listen to the plagiarised version (which may or may not sound better) of it.
But maybe you can try to at least empathize with the artist who created something that was truly their own, only to watch in frustration as someone else is taking the credit for that work. If this is not stealing, then I don’t know what else is.