And the Oscar Doesn’t Go to… ( Open Quoting tanqeed and Barfi)

Rafi Mohammed saw Barfi! on 17 September and just couldn’t stop thinking about the movie. He wrote a review on under his moniker Sputnik at 4.40 am American time.

He had loved the first half, but couldn’t shake off the feeling that specific scenes were lifted from other movies. ‘The mother telling the daughter about her lover is a straight ripoff from The Notebook,’ he wrote, ‘Even the final scene is a ripoff from The Notebook. Another scene of Barfi asleep and not listening to her father’s scream is inspired/copied from a similar scene from Koshish.’ Rafi’s post got 530 views and readers pointed out that many other scenes were plagiarised as well. So he set to work again. His new post on 18 September, at 11.30 am US time, listed other scenes that had been copied. He had spent a whole night on YouTube looking for them, and his list included lifts from Charlie Chaplin’s The Adventurer and City Lights, apart from The NotebookSinging in the Rain, and Buster Keaton’s Cops. The post, which has now got almost 87,000 views, sparked off a storm of online indignation.

And then, on 22 September, India announced Barfi! as its official entry to the Academy Awards.

Rafi, a web developer who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, is aghast. “I had first thought that the post would get a lot of criticism and I would get branded a Ranbir hater,” he says, “But that’s not happened—because people are shocked at the copying. Those who were reading and commenting were actually posting more scenes that they’d discovered. And then a TV channel picked it up and things went crazy. There is a difference between paying homage to a certain kind of movie and copying. It doesn’t stand a chance at the Oscars.”


It’s a debate that’s now raging even off the web. Even if we discount the plagiarism, is Barfi! an apt kind of movie to be India’s official entry? It leads to more questions. Why is it that since 1957, only three Indian movies—Mother India, Salaam Bombay and Lagaan—have made it to the final five at the Academy Awards? Who is to blame for the fact that the world’s largest film industry can’t get even a single Oscar year after year? Why is it that, barring rare exceptions, it is only Hindi films that are ever sent by the selection committee?

Manju Borah, an Assamese filmmaker who is also chairperson of the Oscar committee appointed by the Film Federation of India to pick the official entry, blames the film industry. The committee, she says, has very little choice—since so few filmmakers in India put their films up for selection.

For a film to be considered, its producers must submit an English-subtitled version of it, which, together with an entry fee, could cost them up to Rs 1 lakh. This year, the 11-member committee watched a total of 20 movies, and the majority was in favour of Barfi! as the most deserving. “I don’t think about the allegations,” says Borah, “Which movie is allegation-free these days? The film’s treatment is good and Ranbir Kapoor is great. I am not 100 per cent happy about it, as it could have been more realistic. But recently I went for a party and all the common people there [said they] loved it, even if intellectuals don’t like it.”

Critics of the process are unsettled by Borah’s candid clarity on the kind of movies she wants sent to the Oscars. “I can’t speak for other people, but I like movies with a message. A filmmaker needs to have social responsibility.” She is no less clear about her disapproval criteria of films. She cites the example of Gangs of Wasseypur, which was also in the running. “Art needs to have a pleasing aesthetic,” she says, “I thought GOW was too crude. And what do you take away from it? All I… learnt [was] some new gaalis.”

This seems like much too arbitrary a way of looking at movies. Also, if the purpose is to win an Oscar, there is nothing to suggest that movies with a message do any better than movies with gaalis.  The Academy’s nominees in the ‘foreign film’ category tend to be varied. A Separation—the winner this year—was about the relationship between a son and his father suffering from Alzheimer’s. It is set in Iran but could have been anywhere. Poland’s In Darkness was about a sewer cleaner in Nazi Poland who hides a group of Jews. And Canada’sMonsieur Lazhar was about an immigrant teacher and his class. These stories were about relationships, and India also produces several such heartwarming movies. The regional film industries, especially so. But these are not considered for selection because most Indian filmmakers are unaware of how an entry is picked. Many more may not be able to afford the additional cost, which includes the promotional machinery that needs to be set in motion once the movie is sent.

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  1. Author
    Tulmul 10 years ago

    Congrats Sputnik Aka Rafi Mohammed… Great day for you .. Wish you more such successes 😀 😀

    Ps: When is the Party 😛 ???

    • aryan 10 years ago

      Good News for Sputnik and TQ Members within one year getting appreciation from leading magazine and electronic media all the best.

    • sputnik 10 years ago

      Thanks Tulmul. I was hoping no one would notice but I had a feeling that you will post it.

      You want online party? 😉

      Thanks aryan.

  2. Suprabh 10 years ago


    do you also sing ? 😛

    • sputnik 10 years ago

      Ha Ha. No but I have been asked that question since I was a kid 😀

  3. Baba Ji 10 years ago

    sputnik :blowkiss:

  4. Baba Ji 10 years ago

    I was happy being Tony jaa of tanqeed but sputnik has become Al Pacino of internet now :smug:

  5. Baba Ji 10 years ago

    sputnik – did you call them to take your interview?

    • sputnik 10 years ago

      She contacted me through the contact us page wanting to talk to me. I initially gave her the wrong contact number by mistake. She emailed me saying the number is not working and gave her number to call. I called her and she interviewed me last week.

      There is a small discrepancy though. She has written that – “Rafi’s post got 530 views and readers pointed out that many other scenes were plagiarised as well. So he set to work again.” I had told her that a comment by FS that the copied scenes from The Notebook come to mind “but then suddenly you are back in the movie enjoying its beauty” was the catalyst for the post.

      • Baba Ji 10 years ago

        i remember that conversation between you and fs. I was part of this history! :smug:

  6. cr7 10 years ago

    congrats. wish u and tq more such successes .

  7. I.One 10 years ago

    Congrats Sputnik!

    I wish Milind could start writing his signature articles again. It use to be engaging and engrossing. Now that Tanqeed is getting enough recognition we should contribute more. In short, Loha garam hai, mar do hathoda!

    • sputnik 10 years ago

      Agree with you fully I.One and Milind has said he will start writing soon. I think JTHJ song music being inspired by Motorcycle diaries thing has also been picked up by the media from Tanqeed

      Thanks cr7

  8. Shal_oz 10 years ago

    Applaud Sputnik for great revelation. I liked Barfi! but felt bit cheated when H/I/P issue kept on creeping on it day by day. And was aghast by it being an Oscar entry. I am believer that Indian films does not need approval from Oscar God hence don’t bother what is send or whether it gets selected or not. But this time its ridiculous does the Indian selection committee thinks Oscar Jury member are ostrich like them so wont be able to guess that its not an original work and what does it reflect on Indian film industry or India as whole nation.

  9. hithere 10 years ago

    “I had first thought that the post would get a lot of criticism and I would get branded a Ranbir hater”
    Haha..You are one. Let me call doesitmatter 😉

  10. fearlesssoul 10 years ago

    Congratulations Sputnik <./strong> – Few days back or may be a month back I was asking baba about your real name and here comes an article on Rafi Mohammed Its time you change your satellite name to Rafi 😉

    I think sooner or later Anurag Basu may contact you 😛

    • sputnik 10 years ago


      Fenil and Rehan Makharia asked me my name and I told them. Baba was always trying to guess my name and I gave him a hint. He found out with Shetty’s help though 🙂

  11. fearlesssoul 10 years ago

    From when I am being moderated?

    • sputnik 10 years ago

      Did you change your email or something?

      • fearlesssoul 10 years ago

        yeah but in profile. but that does not put you under moderation. I use to keep changing my email id and names in different blog but only when i change my name i would be under moderation and not whenever i use to change my email id. New wordpress settings might have changed the rules i guess.

        • sputnik 10 years ago

          I just have a rule that the first comment of a new user needs to be approved. But I guess wordpress thinks its a new user if there is any change in profile.

          I get an email for every new comment and I read your comment in my email. But I did not see it on the blog. Then I saw its in pending status and approved it.

  12. Serenzy 9 years ago

    I Forgot to Congratulate you here back then!

    Though I Still Maintain that Barfi! is One of the Bests of 2012[IMO, I just Suddenly Cannot Start Disliking it just bcz I Find it Being Copied], but My Best Wishes always with you Rafi Bhai 😉

    You Parents were Mohammed Rafi Fan kya?? 😀

    • sputnik 9 years ago


      Once you like a film its always difficult to dislike it later no matter what 😀

      No my parents were not Mohammed Rafi Fans or anything like that.

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