Though the name Anu Malik might not be especially well-known outside of India, within the country he is an accomplished music director with a three-decade career and is best-known for composing songs for Indian films.
Among his work is the song Mera Mulk Mera Desh, which was from the 1996 film Diljale. The soundtrack for the film, including that song, went on to be a major success, but the film itself went on to be classified as a “semi-hit” in the country.
However, some 25 years later, new attention would be drawn to the song due to events taking place thousands of miles away, in Tokyo, Japan.
There, on August 1, Israeli gymnast Artem Dolgopyat won the country’s first gold medal in the games (and second ever) for floor exercises. However, as the medal ceremony unfolded, the Israeli national anthem (Hatikvah) began to play. That was when several viewers in India began to notice some striking similarities.
Soon, many others began to join in, with one even suggesting that Malik should be awarded “A gold medal for plagiarism” as part of his efforts.
To be clear, this isn’t Malik’s first brush with plagiarism. Twitter users in particular have called out Malik for alleged plagiarism over half a dozen times over the years.
In an earlier interview, Malik addressed the allegations directly by saying, “No one is original” and that there are only “seven notes” in music. However, he did admit to being “inspired by” at least some of the songs he was accused of lifting from.
The story isn’t likely to have much impact on Malik’s career. However, it’s an interesting tale and shows how plagiarism is discovered in the most unusual of ways.
Malik’s history with plagiarism scandals and uproars is very well-documented, and it’s equally clear that he doesn’t take them extremely seriously. With the little harm it has had on his career, there’s not much motivation for him to do so.
Still, there’s an interesting lesson in this case. If we assume that he did plagiarize the Israeli national anthem (Note: I am not a musicologist, so I do not feel qualified to speak on the question as an expert) then it is a reminder of both how long plagiarism can fly under the radar and the strange ways it can be found out.
First, it might seem bold to copy from a national anthem. After all, those are some of the most famous and familiar songs in the world. However, Malik’s work isn’t well-known outside of India, and few know many anthems from countries that are not their own or their neighbors.
Still, it seems improbable that no one would have noticed the overlap in some 25 years. However, the internet of 1996 was a very different place than it is today, so then it could be that the movie and the song both flew under the radar until Hatikvah received some international airplay due to the Olympics.
And that is ultimately the moral of this story. Plagiarism, even relatively brazen plagiarism, can fly under the radar. However, that doesn’t mean that it will never be detected. Sometimes, even strange and unrelated things can shine a light on it.
Plagiarism has a way of being found out, just not always through traditional means.
For would-be plagiarists, this should be a warning. Even if unattributed copying flies under the radar for an extended period of time, there’s still many ways it can be found out.
Given that we are learning about plagiarism in dissertations written decades ago, books from long-dead authors and much more, the risk of getting caught is eternal.
That raises a simple question: Is it really worth the risk? If plagiarism can come back to bite you at any time, isn’t it worth the effort to avoid it?
It seems simple enough to me, but there will always be those that take that chance. They just need to know that they never really got away with it, they just haven’t been discovered yet.