Remix and the myth of originality

Some time ago, I found myself faced with a friend who was bemoaning the state of Odia cinema industry and the lack of original ideas therein. He is not far from wrong. Even to someone as disconnected from the cinema scene back home as me, it is evident that the amount of original ideas in the Odia cinema industry is small. Truth be told, the same can be said of the Hindi cinema industry as well and even Hollywood. Remakes are all we seem to see these days.

But then again, perhaps the definition of ‘original’ needs revisiting. Someone famous once said that there are only ten stories and all any storyteller does is retell them.

As a boy, my first memories of Disney’s Duck Tales have Hindi dialogue in them. Years later, I would come across the ‘original’ in which everyone was speaking American, and find myself underwhelmed. I dare say that for many others who grew up in the 1990s also, Duck Tales would always be a Hindi cartoon. There is no escaping from the fact that sometimes, the remix creates a more wholesome cultural object than the original.

JK Rowling, at least for a few months during the peak of the Harry Potter franchise’s popularity, was routinely accused of having “copied” her story from, among others, Neil Gaiman’s graphic novels featuring the character called Timothy Hunter. Gaiman himself, in an interview, once said that he did not think Rowling had done any such thing. But even if Harry Potter had been ‘inspired’ by another, somewhat similar story, would it have been unoriginal? More importantly, would this so-called unoriginal work have necessarily been inferior to the original?

Truth is – and you know this as well as I do – we want our stories effective. We don’t care much about how original they are.

This is not a defence of stealing of course. This is in defence of the act of copying. When we copy, we stand as much a chance of creating a greater cultural object as we do of creating a piece of shit.

#copying, #creativity, #originality, #remix