IN 1954 Bollywood produced a film, Jagriti, which stormed Indian cinemas by moviegoers as it evoked strong patriotic emotions among Indian masses, particularly for paying tributes to their leader Mahatma Gandh in a scene in the film depicting schoolchildren who have assembled to pay homage to the statue of Mahatma.
Since a ban had been placed in Pakistan against the import or public exhibition of Indian films, the film producers in Lahore in 1956 cashed in on this opportunity to produce a film, namely ‘Bedari’ — a carbon copy of the story and songs of the Indian film ‘Jagriti’.
However, the Hindi script was replaced with Urdu and names of Indian leaders who were eulogised in the Indian film were replaced by Pakistani leaders: thus the name of Gandhi was replaced with Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah in the plagiarised version. Most songs were replaced with Urdu words from Hindi but the tunes remained the same. There was one more difference: while Indian singers, Mohammad Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhonsle sang the ‘Jagriti’ songs, Pakistani singers Saleem Raza and Munawwar Sultana rendered their voices in ‘Bedari’.
When ‘Bedari’, was released in Pakistan in 1956, it too made fabulous business in the first few weeks of exhibition. However, it dawned upon the Pakistani cinemagoers that they were watching a plagiarised film. There was a mass uproar that caused public demonstrations against exhibition of the plagiarised film. The Censor Board of Pakistan immediately put a ban on this film.
Four decades later in the 1990s someone picked one song from ‘Bedari’ that renders ‘Yoon di hamay azaadi kay dunya hui hairaan, aiy Quid-i-Azam tera ehasaan hai ehsaan’ sung by Munawwar Sultana and aired on PTV. The original Indian version was ‘De di hamein azaadi bina khadak bina dhal’ sung by Asha Bhonslay. Without knowing its plagiarised status, this song became a theme song not only on PTV but at many public functions held to pay tribute to the Father of the Nation.
However, through the press, as member of the Federal Film Board of Censor, I pointed out the background of this song to the then PTV MD who immediately placed a ban on this song. Nonetheless, out of ignorance of its plagiarised status this song is still being rendered at many public functions.
Is it not a shame to pay tribute to the Father of the Nation through a plagiarised Indian song?
Sayed GB Shah Bokhari
Former member, Federal Board of Film Censor
Published in Dawn, November 5th, 2015