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Plagiarism

The lion among the copycats

Whenever people ask me what’s at the core of good writing, my unfailing reply is: ‘Creativity.’ And when I say creativity, I naturally mean that ingenious skill to think out of the box and copy from sources that people will not notice or have access to.

‘Plagiarise and not get caught’ is what any sensible writer should offer by way of sincere advice. Or if he is in a hurry, he should at least say: copy right. Shakespeare classically alluded to this when he said: ‘Rose by any other name would smell as sweet’. Any literature type, who is also gifted with a nose, can tell you that rose doesn’t smell sweet, only Rosagullah does. Shakespeare undoubtedly was employing rose here, even though it’s trite, as a poetic euphemism, because it would have been too much for him to come right out and say, ‘rip off, it will be still effective’.

Those of you who mock at plagiarism must do well to think about the sensitive and touchy French movie Wasabi. Any one in the Tamil film world who saw the film, must have been naturally moved to tears —- because without subtitles all French movies are lousy. Only the redoubtable Sarath Kumar and the irrepressible K S Ravikumar manfully took the hard labour of understanding the lovingly-crafted French story and then converted it into a pathetic pastiche to suit the local taste and sensibilities.

It was no wonder that Sarath & Co felt completely letdown when their hard work was undone by that cruel leak of the full film on the internet. Yes, heartless pirates made available the entire movie on-line thereby destroying the financial viability of theatre owners who generally take the lead in minting the pirated copies. Alas, in their eagerness, the online pirates didn’t realise piracy eventually kills piracy only. Anyway, there were no takers for the film either on the internet or in the theatres. Moral of the story: Spare the French movies. For the rest of the morals, read Aesop fables.

Anyway, are all those who level plagiarism charges on others original themselves? Take the case of that young author Kaavya Viswanathan, who was said to have lifted passages into her work from the book of an obscure Canadian writer. This author would have been confined to lead life in the margins of nowhere till Kaavya had the broadmindedness to bring her to limelight through her own offering. But rather than acknowledging this act of kindness, the unheard of Canadian author unkindly pointed out that she had been a victim of plagiarism.  And we journalists plagiarised this charge and accused Kaavya of being a copycat. It was a xeroxed charge. A counterfeit complaint. We plagiarised an allegation to make a point against plagiarism. This is how original we journalists are.

Anyway, if Kaavya or even Sarath, had indeed copied, then I can say that they have been only counterfeiting my idea. For I have made a flourishing career out of it so far.

When I set out to write this humour column, it was suggested to me by well-meaning individuals, to ‘take in’ what other writers had to offer. I took the advice very seriously, so seriously that for the next several days I swotted on the works of all the real humour writers I could lay my trembling hands on. By the fifth morning I began to think that I had a firm grasp of whatever that needed to be known about humour. You needed to imagine that you’re funny. This is humour writing in a nutshell.

Armed with this reassuring thought I sallied forth and sat in front of the computer, all ready to unleash the most lethal humour the world could ever hope to see. The computer keys began to be pounded faster than US marines would Taliban recruits or erstwhile PMK cadre would trees. Words after dramatic words, phrases after felicitous phrases, fun after rib-tickling fun…things just dramatically kept falling in place. It was too stunning for my own comprehension. Humour, hah, I told myself, is the most easy thing in the world. And they were making such a huge fuss about it.

Smugly satisfied, like Aishwarya Rai looking at her hourglass figure in the reflection of the mirror, I proudly went through the entire thing that had beautifully formed itself on the computer screen. It read near perfect to me. I re-read the thing and it was even better. I told myself that I could write as well as those whom I had read. I re-re-read the thing, and hey I cannot only write like them, but actually I had written them.

Most of the words that had come up on the glinting screen were a wonderful rehash of the writers I had assiduously gone through in the preceding days. But by then I was typically too lazy to change or pen something original. I was also sure if it were original, it wouldn’t be up to scratch. So I left it at that hoping that nobody would have read —–  not mine, but the original ones. My hope was not entirely misplaced.

The article sailed through without much problem. I hope it does again. Because I have re-written the whole thing again.

Eat your heart out Sarath, I am the ultimate in the art of copying —— I do it on myself.