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Ram Sampath - Time to nurture creativity

It would be easy to say that plagiarism is rampant in current day Bollywood, but the truth is, we have, what would best be described as, a 'tradition' of plagiarism in Bollywood. It's been happening since the 40's, not just on songs, but also on scripts and ideas. We've never had the grace to acknowledge our sources of influence or inspiration, unlike the west, where composers, authors, lyricists, poets and scriptwriters talk at length about such matters and go to great lengths to acknowledge and celebrate them. This doesn't mean that we've not had our original creatives either. It's just that for every A R Rahman, there's half a million so-called 'composers' willing to sell their souls. Some have done it quite profitably too, which obviously makes them role models of the most nefarious kind.

Now, I know many would be seriously offended by my 'tradition' statement, but I find no other plausible explanation as to why big 'reputed' movie production houses would clamour to sign on these 'serial plagiarisers'. It's simply because they just DON'T CARE. In India, the real signal we're sending out to our children is that it's okay to copy, as long as you don't get caught. It's okay to get caught as long as you don't get sued. It's okay to get sued as long as you don't have to pay. It's okay to pay....and so on. Compromise to succeed.

The sister conundrum of the 'Don't Care Syndrome' is the 'Don't Share Syndrome'. We're just not built for it. A film is only worth the IP vested in it. If a film has a good script, good dialogues and good songs with good lyrics, it has the best chance of being a success. Yet, the very people who create this IP are the most disenfranchised from the profits. The backend is almost exclusively reserved for the names on the marquee. Bollywood is notorious for the way it treats the script, the scriptwriter, the dialogue writer, the lyricist and of course the composer. It makes selling out to the system, almost inevitable. So I can safely assume that my case will be the exception to the rule. Plagiarism will continue until someone gets massively sued for it. The 'new' generation is just a convent educated, glib talking version of the same old. It'll take a lot more new blood to break the mould.

Let's talk about the sorry state of Indian non-film music. The big problem with the music industry is that it just doesn't have the confidence to exist outside of Bollywood. Sure, ghazals, bhajans and traditional music have a fixed consumer base, but what about mainstream pop, rock and desi music? I'm sure the music forum will turn into a moaning ground for record company executives but the fact is that they've failed to nurture songwriters. A good song is a powerful thing. It's like a force of nature. It will make itself heard. We need songs to define our lives. Every generation needs its own soundtrack. Where are the songwriters? "Oh, we have no money for them 'cos we're making these really expensive videos".

Here's what we actually need.

* Great composers, lyricists and songwriters. We need to find them, nurture them and give them a good deal, so they feel like doing this for a living.

* Great singers/ bands that really care about the music and don't start drooling at the first phone call from Mr Bolly.

* Good Live music venues where people dont have to pay through their noses to get in.

* Have genuine marketing professionals who can aniticipate social and economic trends. It is up to the record companies to figure out new ways of monetising their products because more music is being consumed than ever before. 'Bikta nahin hai' is an excuse that just doesn't cut it anymore.

* Get the media behind you. Visibility is critical in today's marketplace and an overdose of any one flavour can only lead to a mass scale rejection. That's exactly why Bollywood's revenues are floundering. The hit rate for an all-pervasive industry is appalling, simply because the consumer wants variety. But who's going to provide the alternative?

It's not rocket science and it's not something I made up. It's been done before. Only, it takes hard work, long term vision and a commitment I'm afraid none of the record companies in India will make for one obvious reason - Cynicism.

My only prayer is that I hope the next generation have taken note that the Oscar winners from India are three shining examples of originality and uncompromising integrity. You see, it all works out in the end.

Ram Sampath is a composer, who won a plagiarism suit against an Indian film production company in 2008