Thursday, July 29, 2010

Maryada Ramanna (2010) dir. S.S. Rajamouli and Our Hospitality (1923) dir. Buster Keaton

     Scorching hot director, S.S. Rajamouli's winning streak is intact with the hit film Maryada Ramanna. But some of the joy over the success of this "Small, big film" has been dampened by claims that it is a copy of the Buster Keaton 1923 silent film, Our Hospitality. Certainly the Wikipedia summary of the plot sounds strikingly similar to Maryada Ramanna's.
     From one of Rajamouli's tweets (which I didn't quite understand),  it appears he has known about the 1923 film for a while. (I don't know if that means he had mentioned the film as an inspiration or whether he has known about the controversy) And I know that some people, not associated with the film, have come to the film's defense arguing that even if it were to be a copy, Indian and US copyright laws weren't violated because the film is so old it falls into the Public Domain.  True, however, if Rajamouli or S.S. Kanchi got the idea of the basic plot from Keaton's movie, if they were inspired by it in anyway, then they should clearly say so. I have a hard time with all the concern over piracy and shutting down torrent sites, if the inspiration for the story isn't rightfully credited. It's a matter of ethics not law.
     Now, because I am not a Telugu speaker let me be clear in saying I have no idea at all whether Rajamouli or Kanchi have ever tried to pass the story off as 100 percent original or whether they have actively denied the claims of copying.  I also understand that the idea of a longstanding family feud/revenge storyline is a theme that  can be found in stories in many cultures and time periods. The same goes for notions about hospitality.   When I watch Our Hospitality I will be looking for the situations that occur within those themes to determine if any copying occured.  In anycase the controversy is moot untill I've seen both films.
    My copy of Our Hospitality arrived from Netflix yesterday, it's only about an hour long, but I decided to wait until after I watched Maryada Ramanna to view it. I wanted to enjoy Maryada in its own right and was afraid I would spend too much time "looking" for similarities between the two and therefore not giving Maryada Ramanna a fair viewing. So first is my reaction and brief review of Maryada Ramanna and then I will watch Our Hospitality and write up a discussion of any similarites between the two films. 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                           I found Maryada Ramanna to be very entertaining. As a non-Telugu speaker watching a film with out subtitles I obviously missed alot of the humour and emotion that came across through dialog, but the situations and the outstanding use of the background score provided plenty of humour and excitement.  Sunil was a perfect choice for this role. He played the hero perfectly. He was sweet, funny and charming and his fear was palpable when he realised the danger he was in.  He was obviously very heroic at the end on the bridge. (I wish I knew what he said!) 
    Saloni was also good in her role. I really like that alot of Tollywood heroines get parts that have women with some backbone. I thought she played her role sweetly but with a mind of her own. The supporting cast was once a gain perfectly chosen. The two brothers that were out to get Sunil were funny amd menacing.
    I loved the hero introduction and the use of slow motion and music that Rajamouli uses so well to build excitement.  I know I had a look on my face like a kid who was seeing fireworks for the first time during the first song picturization when all the cars were flying through the air. (Thank you Rajamouli for that!) I had seen Sunil dance in a few other other movies so I knew it would be a treat.  I agree with other reviewers that have written that they were getting a Chiru vibe from him. The production values and action sequences were of a caliber that we've come to expect from Rajamouli. I found the film to be really a first rate entertaining expericence.
    Next up...Our Hospitality, it's getting late but I'm determined to watch and review while Maryada Ramanna is still fresh in my mind. Feel free to take a step out.....

That would be Trenton New Jersey! LOLS
....To get to the point, its not a copy but  Rajamouli clearly adapted it.  There are several plot points the same as outlined in the wikipedia summary, but how Keaton gets to the house, what happens to him there and how he gets out are all different with the exception to some small details that lead me to believe Rajamouli had seen the film. Before I get into those I just want to say that I got a kick out of the fact that both films I watched and understood primarily by watching the expressions,  listening to the music and watching the action play out. The American movie did have subtitles though!
  First here are the similarities other than the main plot of family feud vs. hospitality. At the begining you see Keaton getting around New York on a bicycle.  This was a very minor detail and insignificant to the plot, nothing at all a like the Bike in MR. I mention it because it was a cool old bike.
     Keaton goes to the town to claim his property by traveling on a train and the daughter is a passenger too. None of their interactions can be claimed as similar.  About 25 minutes of very funny slapstick involving the running of the train (its more a wagon train attached to a steam engine) None of this was anything like in MR.
    The father has two sons, one runs into Keaton when he first arrives to town and escorts him to his destination. He realises who he is, tries to kill him but misses. How Keaton ends up at the house is completely different and the Father and two sons try to kill him on the way.
    Once he is in the house everything that happens to him is different except the following: He finds out the situation he is in by overhearing the brothers talking. He initially tries to delay leaving by shaking everyones hands, and by throwing his hat under a chair (this time its a dog that keeps finding it).
One final detail, there was a scene during a prayer where Keaton and the Sons peaked at each other with one eye closed.
How Keaton gets out of the house and gets the girl is very funny and very exciting and completely different than Maryada Ramanna. And I have to add they did some wicked cool stunts back in the day!
So I believe Maryada Ramanna is a very good, very unique adaptation to Our Hospitality. And its Rajamouli himself that determines whether people can rightly call this a rip-off or not. Like I say I have no idea whether he has ever tried to pass this off as 100% original or not. I also don't think its necessary to constantly bring up that its an adaptation when you're out promoting your film.  Hollywood stars and producers don't mention the original film very often when they are promoting their movies either so that is nothing new. Both films are funny, thrilling and entertaining and I recommend people watch them both to decide for themselves.


  1. Hi, I'm sachin from twitter.
    Really good article and blog.
    Rajamouli revealed the story a week before the movie released and he mentioned that the story was inspired by Our hospitality
    Like you said, it wasn't a complete copy...just another version.
    And you mentioned that you had trouble with climax dialogues...i don't remember correctly but this is what i remember.
    The heroine tells her dad "stop attacking him...he doesn't know anything and i love him"
    The hero puts the bridge back and says "So far i tried to escape just to save my life but if i still try to escape even after a girl like you said I love you, my life won't have any value...Death or Life, it is with you"
    The they hold hands and then the "fight"
    She jumps from the bridge to save his life and he goes after her to save her life and after the rescue part...she says to her dad "your love for me stopped at the top of the bridge but his love came down even to death just for me" and then the happy ending!
    Hope that helps...
    If you have parts for other telugu movies that you want me to translate just tweet me.

  2. Its amazing how much of the comedy comes through even without understanding the dialogue. I think it's a very enjoyable film due to the main stars - Sunil, Saloni and the two brothers were great, and excellent direction.
    Also really good to have the opinion of someone who has actually seen both films back to back. I would imagine that there are not many totally new storylines out there, and it does sound as if Rajamouli used the basic idea, but, to quote my dance teacher 'made it his own' :D

  3. I am so glad you started blogging and sharing your thoughts. Trust me, you'll get addicted like us all :)

    Thanks for pointing out the "adaptations." I remember us discussing about it last time.

  4. Thanks Nicki, Just got confirmation Sachin that Rajamouli has clearly stated the movie was the inspiration. So this whole thing was one big non-controversy. I'm really glad I watched both films.

  5. Thanks Red! And Sachin you are my new best friend. I hope you won't mind if I bug you to death about translations. It's the interviews I find that kill me. I wish there was local resources for me to learn Telugu. The end dialog as you recounted made me tear up just remembering the scene. Really great.

  6. It's great to hear that the hollywood film is only an inspiration, as rajamouli said, and that MR is not a total rip off. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on both films :)

  7. Filmizest,
    Yes the movie is exactly what Rajamouli said it was, an inspiration for MR. They really are very different and funny and exciting in their own unique ways.

  8. Hi. I just missed this film when it played here in Ohio, but have been interested in it as a fan of the Keaton film. Can you point me to a source where the director actually claims that his film is inspired by OUR HOSPITALITY? I've not found anything in print.

  9. Hi Cle63, Thanks for visiting. My understanding is Rajamouli mentioned it during the promotions of the film. I think at the audio release function itself. You can find video clips on YouTube but it's all in Telugu, so I am not sure. You might want to see if there are clips of the Muhurat, maybe he mentioned there too. But he did indicate on twitter that he was the source of the info it was inspired by Keatons film.

  10. I liked this film too. It was a very respectable tribute to Our Hospitality. And, it was interesting to see Sunil in a mellow lead role.


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