The Times of India Group (or Bennett, Coleman and Company Ltd as it’s called) is without doubt the #1 media conglomerate in the country. It really takes care of its brands and the way Times Now has trounced NDTV and CNN-IBN is a good indication that it’s nimble-footed and realises that content is by far the best (and possibly only) way to grow an editorial product.
Just as people were crying hoarse about the group spearheading the dumbing down of newspapers, it launched ‘Crest’ last year. Bold move given that weekend papers aren’t money-spinners. However, despite all of this, BCCL runs a service like Medianet, offering paid content legitimately. Sadly, Times is not the only newspaper doing it. Guess when there are people out there willing to pay the money, why not milk the opportunity.
For a news company as large as Times, which has institutionalised a paid news operation, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that it has ignored the plea of India’s brightest creative minds: that a deceased man of their fraternity should get credit for what is his due.
First off, a background of what happened. ‘Mile Sur Mera Tumhara’ was an iconic film conceived by the late adperson Suresh Mullick and produced for a now-defunct social welfare organisation Lok Seva Sanchar Parishad. Mullick conceived it and adfilm-maker Kailash Surendranath directed it. I thought it was a bright idea to have a sequel of ‘Mile Sur Mera Tumhara’ in, as they say in Bollywood, a ‘naya andaaz’. It is the brainchild of Zoom TV and is now adopted by The Times of India Group and Vodafone and supported by Kingfisher Airlines. Surendranath was commissioned to direct this time too.
All of this is fine, but the sequel doesn’t give credit to Suresh Mullick, a fact that adman Subhash Kamath said in response to an exchange4media story last week, is like “doing a remake of 'Star Wars' and forgetting to mention George Lucas”. He may have been credited verbally, but not at the end of the film.
Mails circulating amongst current and former employees of Ogilvy, the agency that Mullick worked with, indicate that the folk at Zoom and Times were made aware that the credit was missing. However, till the time of writing what has come is an apology and an assurance from Zoom CEO Suresh Bala to exchange4media, saying: “We would be happy to include that ‘Phir Mile Sur’ is based on the work done by Suresh Mullick in the credits, if that is what has to be done.” Damn it, yes. It was Mullick’s concept, so if you are giving Surendranath credit, he must get it too. There is of course one belief that the sequel’s so bad that there’s no need to push for recognition.
Mullick passed away in 2003 and I am told he would perhaps not be bothered about the failure of the Times to not give him credit.
But what’s happened is a larger issue that affects Indian media and entertainment. We have scant regard for intellectual property. Creatives are frequently copied without any acknowledgment, and there are agencies which even win awards internationally for some of the inspired work.
Ditto in the news media. Many of us crawl the web and pick up stuff without credit. There are some who don’t think twice about using pictures off the Internet.
Recently, there was a controversy over writer Chetan Bhagat not being credit appropriately in the film ‘3 Idiots’. Although legally there was little that Bhagat could do, given that he had signed the contract, morally, the film’s makers should have accorded better placement for the writer of the book, which established the basic plot of the film. We aren’t done with all the film awards yet, but I was happy that ‘3 Idiots’ didn’t bag the Best Story honour at the Star Screen Awards.
What now on the credit to Suresh Mullick for ‘Phir Mile Sur’? At the time of writing, no amends have been made. The damage though is done. I don’t expect a media group that has scant regard for editorial integrity to worry much about minor stuff like mentioning the name of a man who is not alive. Or perhaps they will, because in the process they’ve also annoyed captains of an industry where they need enough well-wishers. And benefactors.
(The views expressed here are my own. Post your comments below or mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet them at @pmahesh.)