The row over Aamir Khan’s out and in from the copyright panel set up to suggest changes to the 1914 act, had the actor making the point that it is actors who actually popularise a song, and some credit should be due to them too.
Bad vibes between him and the lyrical heavyweight Javed Akthar may have had something to do with his rubbing in the fact that more than writers or tunesmiths, its the actor’s presence that holds up a song.
To whom should the ultimate credit for a song go? This has been a debate for long.
In Tamil films, MGR made his songs ring with his political messages and also built up his persona through them.
Sivaji Ganesan too used songs in his own way as vehicles of his brand of melodramatic acting.
Music composers like M.S. Viswanathan and K. V. Mahadevan, lyric writers beginning with Kannadasan, and singers like T. M.Sounderarajan contributed tremendously in the making of the songs of MGR and Sivaji.
Though the above personalities were respected for their art, there was no doubt in anybody’s mind about who came first.
It was the star.
Such was MGR’s predominance that ultimately, he walked away with the party which he had been championing through song and celluloid, and entered Fort St George after dethroning his arch rival Karunanidhi.
Indians believe in the personality cult, and the highly visible actor takes everything.
All rivers flow into the ocean of the star and actor.
But till now, the stars did not ask for a share of the copyright pie from the music composer and lyricist.
I trust Aamir Khan and believe he is right in saying that the actor popularises the song. But the song also popularises the actor. There should be no egg first or hen first argument about this.
It would be ideal for the actor to expect his creative crew to give him their best, for which he would give them the copyright benefits.
If Aamir believes that he is contributing a great deal towards the making of the lyric and music, he can take part of the copyright benefits too.
Some creative personalities contribute so much towards all aspects of film making that it may be right for them to claim copyright in many spheres.
While I understand that the rights of all parties must be protected, I am very sad that these are times when we insist only on rights…not on duties and responsibilities.
What copyright did Thyagaraja who created hundreds of immortal melodies enjoy?
What copyright did the immortal sculptors of Mamallapuram enjoy?
None….but century after century the waves lisp their secret names to anybody who has the silence to hear.
While on the one side we should protect the rights of people, we should also build a compassionate society that goes beyond the letter of the law and lives by the vision of a great art and a greater life.