Who Ripped Off Roger Ebert?

Nikhat Kazmi is “arguably India’s best-known film critic”. (The Times of India.) She’s the author of Dream Merchants–“a pioneering work that looks behind the glare of the silver screen”. (Indiaclub) It seems she’s also a plagiarist.

Jabberwock, Jai Arjun Singh’s addictive blog, read her review of Shark Tale. And noticed, shall we say, certain similarities between her piece and Roger Ebert’s review of the same film.

The Babu has a persistent phobia: since I read for a living, I’ve always feared that I might perpetrate an act of “unconscious plagiarism”–lift sentences or phrases from the work of some writer who I’ve been reading. (I actually did this once, which worked out all right because the writer I ripped off was me, so I gave myself a severe talking-to and made me promise me that I would never do it again.) I’ve often read Kazmi’s reviews and enjoyed her writing. But, given that I wake up in the middle of the night, sweating at the thought that I might have stolen a Michiko paragraph or a Joseph Conrad opening line, I’m enraged at what she’s done. Most of us work hard to try and avoid ripping off someone else. I asked Jai whether he thought it might be a case of an overworked reviewer plagiarising, but unconsciously. Here’s his reply:

“Apart from the passages I cited in the blog:



Ebert: The Godfather, which is behind most of the inspiration for “Shark Tale,” is 32 years old, and Jaws, its other inspiration, is 29 years old. Time slips into the future, and movies still fresh in our hearts are considered by younger audiences to be ancient classics.

Kazmi: The Godfather is 32 years old and Jaws, its other inspiration, is 29 years old. Time slips into the future, and two decade-old movies are considered ancient classics by younger audiences.

Ebert: It takes place on an underwater reef where sharks are the local gangsters, and run things from their headquarters on the hulk of the Titanic. Coral formations, undersea debris and vegetation combine to create an aquatic Times Square, and, as in “Shrek 2,” real retailers have their Toon equivalents.

Kazmi: The action takes place on an underwater reef where sharks are the local gangsters, and run things from their headquarters on the hulk of the Titanic. Coral formations, undersea debris and vegetation combine to create an aquatic Times Square.

Ebert: The movie doesn’t follow the plot of “The Godfather” so much as recycle its characters, and the “Jaws” inspiration gets an early smile when the famous theme music, scary for people, is as inspiring to sharks as the national anthem.

Kazmi: The movie merely recycles the plot of The Godfather, and the Jaws inspiration gets a thumbs up when the famous theme music, scary for people, is an inspiring national anthem for the sharks.

Ebert: The mob is ruled by Don Lino (voice by Robert De Niro, channeling Marlon Brando), who is a ruthless but, by his own standards, a fair shark. His two sons are Frankie (Michael Imperioli), who has grown up to be a shark any dad can be proud of, and Lenny (Jack Black), who has disgraced the family by becoming a vegetarian.

Kazmi: The mob is ruled by Don Lino (voice by Robert De Niro, AKA Marlon Brando), who is a ruthless but fair shark. His two sons are Frankie (aka Sonny), who has grown up to be a shark any dad can be proud of, and Lenny (aka Michael), who has disgraced the family by becoming a vegetarian.



Think the unconscious plagiarism defence will hold up here?”

Go on, read the man.

2 comments

  1. I run a couple of sites, one of which is a 100 word review blog called Milliblog (http://www.itwofs.com/milliblog). The blog is reasonably popular. Recently, my 100 words on Emdan Magan, a new Tamil film soundtrack, with music by Vidyasagar went up on August 16th. I do have postings on a couple of other forums to back up the posting date in case my date is questioned. Rediff’s review was posted by S Sudha on August 21st. (http://www.rediff.com/movies/2006/aug/21emdan.htm)Do I see a Kaavya-styled internalized lift here? Sample these!Mine: “As a soundtrack, Emdan Magan disappoints…”Rediff: “Vidyasagar’s score for Emden Magan is not great; in fact, it is disappointing…”Mine: “Varaaru is marginally catchy, which will need significant help from its picturization to impress better”Rediff: “Vaararu Varaaru is marginally catchy, but will need significant help from its accompanying visuals to impress.”Mine: “Kalloori is a routine youngster’s track in the usual Vidyasagar mode.”Rediff: “Kalloori is a routine youth track in the usual Vidyasagar style.”Mine: “The composer returns to his Thambi-styled melodies in Koligundu kannu and Mannmeedhu – both are beautifully tuned and very well sung.”Rediff: “He comes up with his Thambi-style melodies in Koligundu Kannu and Mannmeedhu, both of which are tastefully tuned and very well sung.”How’s this for plagiarism? And to think I actually run a very popular website on plagiarism (albeit on Indian music! – http://www.itwofs.com)

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