The Bane of Copyright Law – Dikkatra “Dikkatra Parvathi”? – Part I

While a few movie makers like ManiRathnam have chosen to use the base story line of a section of mythological stories like Ramayana and Mahabharata, which have been in the Public Domain since Centuries, others have chosen to adapt The screenplay of several hundreds ( possibly thousands) of movies have been adapted from contemporary forms of literature.

Uthiripookal is a classic example. It was adapted from PudumaiPithan’s Sirranai. Infact, several of Mahendran’s movies have been adaptations, including Metti, which was adapted from one of Mahendran’s own Short story. While the creator of traditional book based literature has infinite scope in terms of space and extensive characterisation and story telling, a film maker is bound in terms of a finite time duration and has certain limits, on certain elements that may not have been possible to express impressively on the big screen at the time, of a film’s making.

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JayaKanthan’s ‘Unnai Pol Oruvan‘ and ‘Yaarukaga Azhuthan‘ are adaptations of his own stories, directed by himself, while others like BheemSingh and Lenin have chosen to take his stories to the celluloid through ‘Sila Nerangalil Sila Manithargal’ / ‘Oru Nadigai Nadagam Parkiral‘ & ‘Oorukku Nooru Per‘.

Sadly, many of these movies are still not accessible to the public via afford Digital Media, although some of them sit in Cans of the NATIONAL FILM ARCHIVES OF INDIA, costing a bomb for private individuals/researchers who wish to view them, at the centre itself, which makes little sense when a low cost Original DVD of the same movie, can be sold for Rs.50.

( I have found this from the Archives themselves, and I am planning a trip to PUNE. The only problem at the moment for me is the funds 😦 , and some left over ground Research, as i gorge up on some more interesting readable material. While I will not be able to see all that i wish to see, My intention is to atleast come back having seen – JayaBharathi’s Kudisai, Singeetham Srinivasa Rao’s Dikkatra Parvathi and JayaKanthan’s Yaarukaga Azhuthan. Atleast, 2, if not 3.  #I have been informed that a digital copy of Dikkatra Parvathi is available to a certain previliged few, in Chennai, alas not me 😦)

So, looking back at a movie’s true source, will give us an indication of how much an adaption could have varied from the original. It also immensely helps us understand movies, which in case have been permanently lost, but the original literature is available. Let us consider the classic case of ‘Miss Malini’. A Movie produced by Gemini Studios and Directed by KothaMangalam Subbu, over seen by the legendary S.S.Vasan.

Paimpozhil Meeran in his book – ‘Secrets of Tamil cinema’ claims that a Nitrate based copy of the film which existed in the archives was destroyed in the Fire of 2002, which engulfed several copies of older films, including Miss Malini, leading to its permanent destruction. However, this is debatable. Not only does the archives claim that all the Nitrate films were backed up, The Founder Director of the Archives Mr.P.K. Nair said that by 1963, the year the NFAI was setup, Several movies, including the original Talkie, Alam Ara, were already lost. 

Let us take another scenario. Amrit Gangar is a researcher who has worked on the Archives and assessed the extent of damage to old Preserved Films, produces a list of movies which were damaged by the Fire. Miss.Malini is missing from the list. So, does that mean, Miss.Malini was never there in the original collection to begin with? Wait.. a moment..

The list mentioned by Amrit Gangar speaks about a Tamil movie ‘Sakubhai’ which was lost. However, the current Database available at the NFAI ( Accessible via the website) and which has details of movies upto the year 2004, and which was probably re-assesses after the 2002 Fire accident, shows that Sakubhai is available. So, which of these stories is true? While, the status of the other movies, especially the Nitrate based ones made before 1950 have indeed been destroyed by the fire, One thing almost seems to be sure. Even, the famous Historian Randor Guy has commented that ‘Miss.Malini’ is indeed lost forever.

So, going back to the source of this film, may indeed give us an idea about how, the movie may have shaped up, atleast in part, incase, the original screenplay of the movie is missing. In this case, there are several sources that claim that Miss.Malini was adapted from R.K.Narayan’s story, Mr.Sampath. ( We shall verify this claim specifically, and do some more analysis about Mr.Sampath in the next post, as I have observed some misgivings in this claim.)

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While the case of Miss.Malini does have other additional backup sources to analyse ( Next post), in most cases, what is only left is Printed Material, typically available in the form of Old Song books, and Magazine articles/Reviews, if they have indeed survived the day. The original source, typically is the only thing that indeed does help. So, in the case of Miss.Malini, the Source is said to be Mr.Sampath, the book written by R.K.Narayan. The book is still in print today, and i managed to get myself, the latest print edition of the book, although the font and typeset still represents a 1950s font and is hardly comfortable for the eye, unlike Modern books which have better fonts and spacing between lines ( Publishers, please note.)

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But, what about Dikkatra Parvathi? She seems to be in more distress, than ever, in an almost totally abandoned state now.. Continued in Part II

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AVM Productions 1994 New Year Gift to its Fans

I have been previliged to have access to my Mama’s private collection of old Tamil audio tapes , typically of the 80s and early 90s ( things that no one wants now, even for free), and as i was going through them, I was able to derive so much of interpretational information of probably how the Tamil movie and music Industry functioned at that time. Maybe, it is also a factor that these tapes by themselves could provide information about many films of the 70s and 80s which still no body seems to be having an idea about. ( Our focus of restoration today is on the 50s, having given up that it is unlikely that we would recover any more more movies prior to that era. Having said that, we have done a pretty decent job, since several titles of the Thyagaraja Bhagavathar Era are available today digitally.)

These tapes were lying around for quite some time, and barring their usage in a couple of video edits, I did nothing with them. So, i decided to catalogue the various attributes of these tapes into a database, i started observing several things.. But that is for another day..

But amongst one of the tapes, i found something interesting. A Gift from AVM’s audio company wishing its fans, a Happy New year, while promoting its (possibly) upcoming movie, Sethupathi IPS, at the same time.

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In December 1993, The Audio Release Tape for the Kamal Hassan Starrer – ‘Magalir Mattum’ has been released. The Cover mentiones that Singeetham Srinivasa Rao is the Director of the Film, Ilaiyaraja has composed the music and Vaali has taken care of the lyrics. The movie has nothing to do with the AVM company, but from the audio tape, i probably conclude that they have obtained the necessary distribution rights for the audio. It has been released in December of 93, which means that New year 1994 is around the corner.. And this is what, i found inside the tape.

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HAPPY NEW YEAR 1994, FOLKS …

Four Basic Attributes of the Internet, that Piracy uses to its advantage..

The Internet was built on some basic principles, but as the Internet has grown widely into an alternate economic space rather than sheer exchange of 1s and 0s, some of these principles have come under threat, non necessarily always with evil intentions, but sometimes, since it has placed the economic survivability of some players. This aspect of the discussion is typically called as ‘Net Neutrality’, but its discussion is beyond the scope of this blog. For now, let us focus on some basic attributes that the Internet offers that Piracy is attempting to use to its advantage.

  1. Decentralisation – The Internet in its original form was always de-centralised. De-centralisation is a process where several people contribute towards a common work, and there typically is no differentiation between the contributors unlike a Traditional Top-Down Centralized Corporate Environment. We can learn some lessons about Internet Piracy and its complexity by looking at some of our own movies. For instance, how did Professor Ramana get caught eventually? Because, he ran a centralized network.                                                                                                                                              

  2. Open Source and Free Sharing Principles – It was Open Source principles that run a substantial portion of the Internet. Engines like Wikipedia and Mozilla FireFox are built entirely based on these principles. The Philosophy of Open Source is that anyone can take an existing work, build upon the work and offer the adapted work for free ( can commercialize the work sometimes). But, sometimes, this Principle does get abused in the case of Piracy, where allegedly Pirated Code of a website or Technology developed using Open Source Software is thrown openly on the Internet, to be adapted by several other Allegely Pirating websites. Although, technically, they are competitors, sometimes, they can also allegedly be ‘Partners in Crime’ as well.
  3. The Internet is like a Road Network – If the main highway connecting two cities is blocked due to a Traffic jam, people are diverted through alternate routes. But, by design of the Internet itself, a single chunk of information can be split up and travel through various routes, before the entire file is assembled at the receiving end. For better understanding, see the Animated GIF File here.
  4. No One owns anything in the Internet – The Internet belongs to no body. Virtually, every aspect of the Internet is given only a temporary usage rights or a common resource is shared across several people. An owner of a Website does not permanently own the URL of the website, He has to pay a fee for periodically renewing the website. There can be several people accessing a common IP address via a Public Wifi Hotspot, or Internally within a Home Wifi. There can be millions of users who use the same shared  hosting space etc.
    All of these principles are incorporated at various levels, to help Piracy continue the ‘Cat and Mouse’ game that has gone on for several years, and that is the reason, why the Internet Piracy menace has still continued to linger. Beyond just a question of a ‘Demand and Supply’ market, Piracy has used underlying principles and masked itself which makes things that much more difficult for law enforcement to catch up with it.