Many Hindi film songs have been borrowed, copied or inspired from other songs. We look at some all time hit songs, originals that inspired them and also my theory about why they are not all acts of plagiarism.

Before I get into the specifics, I want to explain the context within which so many music composers have used compositions from elsewhere to make Hindi film songs.  In our tradition of Hindustani Classical music – for each Raag, we have a fixed set of swars (notes) for the aaroh (ascending scale) and the avroh (descending scale). The phrases and the komal/teevr swars that are to be used and the excluded notes (varjit swar) are also laid down for each raag. Within these prescribed boundaries, the musician is free to be as creative as he or she wishes (the vistaar) – the reason why the rendition of a raag is known as a ‘khayal’ (thought or idea).

I humbly submit that what composers of Bollywood songs do is not much different than this tradition – they pick some phrases and expressions out of a song and they create a whole new composition with different lyrics, musical arrangements and beats, with added musical phrases and embellishments.  Having said all of this, I must clarify that I am no apologist for plagiarism or plagiarists. I merely wish to clarify that the context and the parameters of Indian musical traditions are very different from western music and that the two traditions should not be measured by the same yardstick.

With that digression done with, here are some hit Hindi movie songs that have previously appeared elsewhere; albeit in a different avatar. For the purposes of this list we leave out some of our more eminent plagiarists like Anu Malik, Bappi Lahiri, Himesh Reshamiyya – sometimes they don’t even attempt to disguise the original and have been known to use the same instruments and beats; at times using nonsense lyrics too (witness Bappi Lahiri’s Tamma Tamma Loge copied from the huge hit of the time – Mory Kante’s song of the same name, even though ‘tamma’ means nothing in Hindi). We also leave out songs such as the Come September Theme which has long been a favourite of Hindi film music composers having been used for multiple songs.

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil Jeena Yahaan (Yeh Hai Bambai Meri Jaan) – This O P Nayyar composition from C.I.D. is considered a classic in the annals of Hindi film songs but is, well, borrowed. The original song is O My Darling Clementine by Freddy Quinn, a classic in its own right. Perhaps the C.I.D. song was as and by way of a salute to the original?

Itna na mujhse tu pyaar badha – This song from Chhaya is based on a Mozart composition – Mozart Symphony #40 in G Minor is one of the most easily recognisable and celebrated pieces of western classical music. In my view, Salil Choudhury was merely paying tribute to this composition with his version.

Kaun Hai Jo Sapnon Mein Aya – I always loved this song and remember feeling rather betrayed when I first heard Elvis Presley’s Margeurita; heard that the refrain O Priya was originally Margeurita. But I felt then, as I do still, that the copy (from Jhuk Gaya Aasman, music by Shankar Jaikishen) is an improvement from the original.

Jahan Teri Yeh Nazar Hai – Alas The Boss (by this of course I mean R D Burman and not Bruce Springsteen as some misguided souls may mean) was also given to borrowing occasionally. To his credit though, the song from Kaalia was a more refined – musically it was an improved version.

Om Shanti Om – One would have thought that a song called Om Shanti Om would have been originally composed by an Indian but this song from Karz in a straight lift (including the words Om Shanti Om and the La La La La refrain), from a song of the song Shanti Om by Lord Shorty. We need not be surprised, the movie Karz itself is a copy of the 1975 movie Reincarnation of Peter Proud.

Aate Jaate – This song from Maine Pyaar Kiya, Salman Khan’s first real hit dating back to 1989, had become a love anthem of its time. Well this song by Raamlaxman was based on another love anthem of its time – I Just Called to Say I Love You by Stevie Wonder was just such a (some, including me would add the adjective ‘cheesy’ – for both songs) classic. And just by the way the movie had yet another lift – Mere Rang Mein was a lift from Europe’s Final Countdown.

 Jab Koi Baat Bigad Jaye – This paean to optimism and fortitude in the face of strife composed by Rajesh Roshan for the film Jurm was based on 500 Miles (also known as the Railroader’s Lament), an American folk song that has been redone by many different singers. So clearly Roshan was just doing something that many others (including the king of rock n’ roll, Elvis Presley) had done before him.

Now this list is but a small sample of songs that have been inspired by other songs. I chose these because of their great popularity and the fact that they are still hugely popular so many years after being made. Care to add some of your own?

By – Reena Daruwalla

See Also

6 Groovy Songs of Katrina Kaif

Manna Dey – The Indian Film Industry’s Most Mellifluous Voice is Silent

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