INTERVIEW

Saket Choudhary clears the air on plagiarism charge, says ‘Hindi Medium’ is an original film

The director of ‘Pyaar Ke Side Effects’ denies that the May 19 release is a copy of the 2014 Bengali hit ‘Ramdhanu’.

One of the themes of Saket Chaudhary’s Hindi Medium is the privilege attached to an English medium education. Raj (Irrfan), a wealthy businessman from Delhi, is not fluent in English, while his wife Mita (Saba Qamar) is adamant on enrolling their daughter in a posh school. They go to great and often seriocomic lengths to secure their daughter’s future.

Chaudhary made his big screen debut with Pyaar Ke Side Effects (2006), which he followed up with Shaadi Ke Side Effects (2014). He had previously worked in television, spoofing Dhoom (2004) as Ghoom (2006). Hindi Medium is a light-hearted comedy that also addresses anomalies in the Right to Education Act, which has attracted the ire of Bengali filmmakers Nandita Roy and Shiboprosad Mukherjee. They have accused Chaudhary of copying the themes explored in their Bengali hit Ramdhanu (2014). Choudhary spoke to Scroll.in about the plagiarism charges and the reason behind the long gaps between his films.

What is the status of the allegation that ‘Hindi Medium’ is plagiarised from ‘Ramdhanu’?
I think people jumped to conclusions too early. As more and more information about Hindi Medium came out, it became evident that the scope of the film was entirely different. My film is based on original material that my co-writer Zeenat Lakhani and I developed. It was during the research of my previous film Shaadi Ke Side Effects that we stumbled upon an article about a man whose daughter was rejected by a school because he had an arts degree. So he enrolled in an MBA programme to get her through. That struck a chord and triggered the idea.

Play
Hindi Medium (2017).

What were the challenges in writing the script?
Hindi Medium is about a couple wanting to put their daughter into a good English medium school for which they themselves have to score through an interview, so in a way it’s a test that they have to take and pass to get her through.

The first draft was not up to the mark, so we went back to the story. We incorporated the element of the Right to Education Act, according to which both child and parents do not have to sit for an admission interview. That important message had to come through the comedy narrative, and it gave our film a much stronger impact.

Was Irrfan your first choice for the main lead?
Yes, he was the only one I absolutely wanted for the role.

Did you fear that the film could court controversy due to Pakistani actress Saba Qamar’s presence?
When we started finalising the actors, she fit the part because I had seen her work in some Pakistani serials. We approached her without thinking about nationality. It’s only towards the final days of the shoot in 2016 that Pakistani actors were being asked to leave the country. Since ours was a small film, it didn’t affect us. We had shot her portions by then. Some time passed and the noise about banning Pakistani actors died down. So by the time of the release, she wasn’t a prime target.

Play
Suit Suit from Hindi Medium (2017).

‘Shaadi Ke Side Effects’ was criticised for mansplaining – the narrative centred on the hero’s point of view and the woman’s voice was missing. Have you balanced this out in ‘Hindi Medium’?
See, I understand that criticism but I don’t think of it like that. One must understand the perspective when we are writing a script if we want to take a certain approach to a story. Even accepting that I chose to tell a story from a particular person’s point of view is what ultimately should be acknowledged.

Hindi Medium is a totally different set-up. It’s not about a sparring couple, but a family of three and a busy world around them, where everyone is equally important and clearly heard. It is about the privilege of class and position in society and also about this well-to-do couple who have no clue about how the poor survive and how they learn about things beyond their cushioned lives.

Your debut ‘Pyaar Ke Side Effects’ was in 2006 and its follow-up was after an eight-year gap. Does it take so long to move from one film to the next, especially if the first one is a big hit?
I know. The script got delayed and getting an actor on board took time. But since I am financially sound, I can afford to go slow. I am not interested in churning films every year.

You don’t want to be like Woody Allen, who has a film out every year?
I did grow up thinking I want to be a great director like him, but I don’t think I have his talents.

Saket Chaudhary.
Saket Chaudhary.
We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Not just for experts: How videography is poised for a disruption

Digital solutions are making sure it’s easier than ever to express your creativity in moving images.

Where was the last time you saw art? Chances are on a screen, either on your phone or your computer. Stunning photography and intricate doodles are a frequent occurrence in the social feeds of many. That’s the defining feature of art in the 21st century - it fits in your pocket, pretty much everyone’s pocket. It is no more dictated by just a few elite players - renowned artists, museum curators, art critics, art fair promoters and powerful gallery owners. The digital age is spawning creators who choose to be defined by their creativity more than their skills. The negligible incubation time of digital art has enabled experimentation at staggering levels. Just a few minutes of browsing on the online art community, DeviantArt, is enough to gauge the scope of what digital art can achieve.

Sure enough, in the 21st century, entire creative industries are getting democratised like never before. Take photography, for example. Digital photography enabled everyone to capture a memory, and then convert it into personalised artwork with a plethora of editing options. Apps like Instagram reduced the learning curve even further with its set of filters that could lend character to even unremarkable snaps. Prisma further helped to make photos look like paintings, shaving off several more steps in the editing process. Now, yet another industry is showing similar signs of disruption – videography.

Once burdened by unreliable film, bulky cameras and prohibitive production costs, videography is now accessible to anyone with a smartphone and a decent Internet bandwidth. A lay person casually using social media today has so many video types and platforms to choose from - looping Vine videos, staccato Musical.lys, GIFs, Instagram stories, YouTube channels and many more. Videos are indeed fast emerging as the next front of expression online, and so are the digital solutions to support video creation.

One such example is Vizmato, an app which enables anyone with a smartphone to create professional-looking videos minus the learning curve required to master heavy, desktop software. It makes it easy to shoot 720p or 1080p HD videos with a choice of more than 40 visual effects. This fuss- free app is essentially like three apps built into one - a camcorder with live effects, a feature-rich video editor and a video sharing platform.

With Vizmato, the creative process starts at the shooting stage itself as it enables live application of themes and effects. Choose from hip hop, noir, haunted, vintage and many more.

The variety of filters available on Vizmato
The variety of filters available on Vizmato

Or you can simply choose to unleash your creativity at the editing stage; the possibilities are endless. Vizmato simplifies the core editing process by making it easier to apply cuts and join and reverse clips so your video can flow exactly the way you envisioned. Once the video is edited, you can use a variety of interesting effects to give your video that extra edge.

The RGB split, Inset and Fluidic effects.
The RGB split, Inset and Fluidic effects.

You can even choose music and sound effects to go with your clip; there’s nothing like applause at the right moment, or a laugh track at the crack of the worst joke.

Or just annotated GIFs customised for each moment.

Vizmato is the latest offering from Global Delight, which builds cross-platform audio, video and photography applications. It is the Indian developer that created award-winning iPhone apps such as Camera Plus, Camera Plus Pro and the Boom series. Vizmato is an upgrade of its hugely popular app Game Your Video, one of the winners of the Macworld Best of Show 2012. The overhauled Vizmato, in essence, brings the Instagram functionality to videos. With instant themes, filters and effects at your disposal, you can feel like the director of a sci-fi film, horror movie or a romance drama, all within a single video clip. It even provides an in-built video-sharing platform, Popular, to which you can upload your creations and gain visibility and feedback.

Play

So, whether you’re into making the most interesting Vines or shooting your take on Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’, experience for yourself how Vizmato has made video creation addictively simple. Android users can download the app here and iOS users will have their version in January.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Vizmato and not by the Scroll editorial team.