By Ram Khatry, Sydney
Aneel Neupane is a 24 year old ‘rookie filmmaker’ from Kathmandu who struggled to put together mere fifty thousand Nepalese rupees, approximately six hundred Australian dollars or 32,000 Indian rupees, to make his short film Bob.
Bollywood choreographer Farah Khan’s husband Shirish Kunder, on the other hand, is an experienced hand in filmmaking who directed Jaan-E-Man featuring superstars like Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar. His short movie Kriti was released on June 22. And as for Kriti‘s budget, Mr Neupane reckons a spot boy of the production might have made more money than the entire budget of the Nepalese production.
“I’ve always been fascinated with the topic of “schizophrenia” And I wanted to create a dark thriller like my inspiration Black Mirror,“, the young man from Kathmandu told southasia.com.au. He said he shot his film in August 2015 while Kriti was reportedly filmed in February 2016.
Whatever the timeframes, the two shorties have striking, surprising and unmistakeable similarities. Mr Neupane claims the Indian filmmaker stole his plot to make it into his own short film starring Manoj Bajpayee, Neha Sharma and Radhika Apte. In a chat with southasia.com.au, he said he is not going to remain silent and will take matters into his hands to secure justice for himself and Jazz Productions, his creative group.
Onlookers both in Nepal and in neighbouring India have come forward pledging their support since he told the world through his social media account about the alleged plagiarism Shirish Kunder committed in producing Kriti. Whereas Bob is still at 28 thousand hits on youtube, the film allegedly made as its copycat were viewed over a million times in the first two days of its launch alone.
“I’m angry not because Mr.Shirish Kunder practically stole the plot and made it into his film. I’m angry because We didn’t even have lunch money while shooting BOB, and a spot boy for Kriti probably made more money than BOB’s entire budget. My team and I didn’t work our asses off just so some rich dude from India could turn it into this and get away with it. That’s just not fair,” Mr Neupane decried the reported theft of his intellectual property.
So what are the similarities that prove Mr Kunder stole Mr Neupane’s ideas and plot?
The starting as well as few other shots, ‘the number of lead characters, the doctor, the patient and his love interest and the complicated relation between the characters’ – these are obvious similarities between the two movies, the creator of Bob said during the chat with this scribe. According to the young man who one day wishes to be able to study film-making at New York Film School, the doctor asking the schizophrenic patient to prove the existence of his imaginary friends and him not being able to provide the same are other striking similarities.
Mr Neupane says he has made contact with the Bollywood. “Mr Kunder could at least have incorporated some other form of cinematography,” the budding filmmaker rued. Since the matter got internationally escalated, Mr Kunder blocked the Nepalese man from being his follower on Twitter. He probably wanted to stop Mr Neupane from further bringing the matter into this fans’ notice. If that’s the case then he failed miserably. The dirt has already hit the fan.
Yesterday, Mr Kunder defended his short film. “To those comparing Kriti with some short film (but he failed to pronounce Bob) released on May 12, 2016: Kriti was shot in February, 2016. Hope this settles the matter.”
Not settled at all, says Mr Neupane.
The Indian director argued that he couldn’t possibly have copied from the Nepalese production because his movie was filmed in February this year while Bob was released on May 12. Through his tweet, Mr Kunder appeared to ask how he could have copied from a short film which was released after he had already finished filming Kriti.
When southasia.com.au asked Mr Neupane to respond to Mr Kunder’s clarification, Mr Neupane counter-rubbished the former’s clarification: “My video was first uploaded on Vimeo.com as a private link 7 months ago which I had shared to some people for review. There’s no doubt that more people were watching the film since the views count was increasing more than the number of people I had sent the link to. He must have somehow got the link, I can only conclude that someone I trusted gave him the link.”
He further added that “anyone with some sense can put together the resemblance and figure out that the two films are the same.”
Most news materials in the Indian media weigh more towards ‘he copied’ theory than otherwise. Journalists appear to suggest that the two movies have way too many ‘copycat’ technical details to be a mere coincidence. A headline on india.com stands out from the rest as it betrays the frustration of the writer spewing abbreviated expletives: “WTF! Shirish Kunder has copied short film Kriti from Aneel Neupane’s BOB! Watch both films here!”
The southasia.com.au wrote to Mr Kunder but he failed to respond.
As for the man Mr Kunder allegedly stole from, he is already into his next creative project which his friends tell him is a bit ‘over-ambitious’ at this stage. So what is he working on?
“I’m thinking of a post-apocalyptic Nepal with some rather interesting elements.”