Is Bob Kriti’s uncle?
Last Thursday, I reviewed Shirish Kunder’s new short film, Kriti. It had been released on Wednesday night, and along with my column which praised it, the film was also praised by quite a few others. I thought the storyline was unique and original and was impressed that Kunder actually did have it in him to make a non-Bollywood film. By that I meant a film which did not give in to the usual Bollywood tropes of horror cinema – which is semi-naked actresses and walking man-eating corpses. But most importantly, that Kunder who is credited for the “story”, had written an original screenplay and story.
While I stopped short of hailing him as the great brown cinematic hope for Bollywood, I did heap lots of praise on him. Only to discover that I may have jumped the gun. Because it seems Bob may well be Kriti’s uncle.
Come Friday, a filmmaker from Nepal, Anil Neupane wrote a post on his Facebook page that Kunder’s film was actually a copy of his short movie, Bob. His film was released on October 2015 to a private audience on Vimeo and on Youtube on 12 May. Kunder has since made a statement to PTI saying, “That short film (‘Bob’) was released on May 12 whereas we shot ‘Kriti’ in February, after which it was in post-production. How is it even possible to ‘lift’ the idea, unless I was time travelling?...These allegations are technically, factually and logically, baseless. Their (sic) another claim is that they shared a private Vimeo link with their close friends in October. Now, I am not even friends with the makers and the video was private so how can I see it ? I am not alleging anything against them, but it seems like an act just to gain some publicity.”
I watched both Bob and Kriti and I have to say both films are startlingly similar, but they aren’t the same. If Kunder has not seen Bob as he claims, then this is the mother of all coincidences that Kunder sitting in Mumbai came up with the same storyline as a man sitting in Nepal. But stranger things have been known to happen, such as Bigfoot being spotted and Amelia Earhart disappearing. Also, Kunder’s argument that he could not have seen a private Vimeo link of the film is not watertight purely because someone simply has to forward him the password for the link for him to watch it. Vimeo private links do not exist in some sort of parallel world which only the group the video is shared with and the CIA can access.
But to give Kunder the benefit of doubt, because it’s honestly his word against Neupane’s, the crux of the matter is—are the films actually similar?
Well, here are all the similarities and differences I spotted (Spoiler alert: If you haven’t seen the films, skip to the end and watch both the films and then read on).
1. The opening frames and sequence of both films are the same. The shots of the doctor’s certificates on the wall, the doctor’s chamber and then both patient and doctor sitting in the middle of a session. The only difference is that Bob is shot in some random person’s house, and Kriti is shot in Raj Kaushal and Mandira Bedi’s very manicured home, a tidbit shared with us by Kaushal on Twitter.
2. In Bob’s case, the doctor/psychiatrist is a man. In Kriti’s case, the psychiatrist is a woman, Radhika Apte.
3. In Bob, the protagonist tells the doctor about his new girlfriend and the doctor says he would like to know her name, asks if she’s on facebook and also tells him that he could be making her up. In Kriti, the same thing happens. With the exception that Apte reminds Manoj Bajpayee (the protagonist) of how he’d made up another friend earlier.
4. In Bob, the psychiatrist tells him to kill his imaginary girlfriend. In Kriti, the psychiatrist (Apte) tells Bajpayee to kill his imaginary girlfriend.
5. In Bob, he says he doesn’t want to make his girlfriend meet people because he doesn’t want her to change. In Kriti, he claims she has agoraphobia and therefore doesn’t meet people.
6. Bob, the film, is named after the protagonist’s imaginary brother. Kriti, the film, is named after the protagonist’s real girlfriend. Who he thinks is imaginary.
7. In both, there’s blood and gore. A dead woman. A murderous schizophrenic lover. A psychiatrist.
8. In Kriti, though, the psychiatrist is a figment of Bajpayee’s imagination. And frankly is more pleasing to the eye than the male psychiatrist in Bob.
In Bob, his brother is a figment of his imagination. Whose voice he imagines when he looks at a pebble which he carries around with him.
9. In Bob, the plot twist is that we find out that his girlfriend is real. In Kriti, the plot twist is that his girlfriend is real, but also how we find out that his psychiatrist, Apte is imaginary. And that the psychiatrist’s chamber he goes to is actually in a house which he rents and visits occasionally.
There’s another twist at the end of Kriti, which I’ll be kind and leave for you to watch.
10. Both are short films.
As I said, it’s same-same, but different. The fact of the matter is that Neupane’s film did come before Kunder’s. And Bob does have lots of very large similarities with Kriti. Enough similarities to raise questions.
It could also be that this story is part of a universal consciousness which Kunder and Neupane tapped into at nearly the same moment in time. After all, fact is stranger than fiction, and if true, would make for an interesting film. How do two filmmakers, supposedly unconnected to each other, end up making such similar films? Till Neupane files a lawsuit, which is easier said than done, we shall never know. If Kunder did indeed filch the idea from Neupane’s film, I’ll give him credit for watching Nepalese cinema. It shows a dedication to the craft—what the craft is, being anyone’s guess.
While the truth is out there, why don’t you watch both films and decide whether they’re too similar for comfort.
Watch Neupane’s film, Bob first.
And then watch Kunder’s Kriti.