A screenwriter, graphic artist, music composer and an author, Satyajit Ray was a man with many talents. He, who was fondly called as the ‘master of Indian cinema’, bagged 32 Indian National Film Awards in a career span of around four decades. The list of awards he won include a Golden Lion, a Golden Bear, 2 Silver Bears, Academy Honorary Award in 1992 as well as Bharat Ratna in the same year. Thursday, May 2, marks the 98th birth anniversary of the legendary director. To mark this day, we have an interesting tale from the past to share. Did you know that Ray once accused renowned Hollywood filmmaker Steven Spielberg of plagiarising his film?
Ray was keen on making a film on aliens in the 1960s or 70s. His film, titled The Alien, was supposed to tell us the relationship between an alien and a young boy. He was soon set to collaborate with Hollywood filmmaker Mike Wilson to take his project forward, and even had zeroed in on Peter Sellers to play a small but significant part in the film. However, the film did not materialise. Wilson forced ray to give him co-credits for the film despite the former allegedly had just made a minor change in its dialogues and the suggestion that the spaceship in the film would be of gold colour. Following multiple delays, the film was shelved and The Alien never happened. Ray later also claimed that Columbia Pictures had been issuing several copies of his script to the public.
Satyajit Ray's birth anniversary: When the filmmaker accused Steven Spielberg of plagiarising his film
Later, in 1982, Ray’s close friend Arthur C Clarke informed Ray that he had spotted some similarities between The Alien and Steven Spielberg’s The Extra Terrestrial. Ray even spoke openly about it in an interview with India Today magazine in 1983 and said, “You know at least two of the Spielberg-Lucas films, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and ET, would not have been possible without my script of The Alien being available throughout America in mimeographed copies.”
“Some days back Arthur Clark telephoned me from London, saying that I should file a copyright case and should not take it lying down. Other than this personal complaint, I have no quarrel against the makers of science and space fantasies. I think it’s a genre full of possibilities, though I also have a feeling that Spielberg and Lucas are unnecessarily complicating the stories. The story should be simple, clear, without frills,” he had quoted.
But Spielberg rebuffed his allegations saying that the latter ‘was a kid in high school when his script was circulating in Hollywood.’ It is also said that even the critics claimed that prior to ET’s release, the project had already begun at Columbia Pictures.
However, the two filmmakers seem to have eventually buried the hatchet.