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Bollywood inspired South African film

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By: Upala KBR, Mid-Day
Monday, August 21, 2006
Suneel Darshan is in seventh heaven. He and writer-director Anurag Kashyap are convinced that the Oscar-winning South African film Tsotsi (Best Foreign Language Film 2005) is a remake of Darshan's 1999 film Jaanwar (starring Akshay Kumar and Karisma Kapoor).

Stolen ideas

Says Anuraag Kashyap, "I saw Tsotsi in May and there are stark similarities between Jaanwar and that film - it's almost a scene-by-scene remake. It's the same story, barring a few differences regarding how the hero gets the child and the film's climax. In Jaanwar, Akshay finds an abandoned child and brings him up, while Tsotsi shows the hero stealing a car with a child in it."

Interestingly, Darshan says that Jaanwar had released in South Africa and the film had been very successful there. Which might explain why the directors think it's inspired the Oscar-winning film.

'I'm honoured'

Tsotsi is based on Athol Fugard's 1961 novel of the same name. Anuraag disclaims the notion saying, "It's strange that the country (South Africa) made Tsotsi 45 years after the novel got written. Mere Laal (a play written in 1966 and later adapted into a film) was the first adaptation of Fugard's Tsotsi. Mere Laal might have inspired Jaanwar. In those days, a lot of Indian novelists stole story ideas from Western novels and those were made into films."

Adds Darshan, "Jaanwar is loosely inspired by Mere Laal, but the story and screenplay is completely different. There is not a scene from Jaanwar that is similar to Mere Laal."

Suneel says that he hasn't seen Tsotsi, but says that Anurag told him about its similarity to Jaanwar.

"I am absolutely ignorant about the film and the novel. If Jaanwar has indeed inspired Tsotsi, then I'm very honoured that my film has inspired an international film, especially one that has won an Oscar. I've never gotten recognition from my industry, so to get it internationally is an achievement!"

Tsotsi: The film

Gavin Hood's Oscar-winning Tsotsi is about Tsotsi (Presley Chweneyagae) and his gang. His nickname translates as "thug." Tsotsi stabs people for money and fights with homeless men in wheelchairs.

Tsotsi is a seething live wire who believes in nothing and will beat his own friends at the slightest provocation. But Tsotsi's shantytown life changes after he shoots a woman in a wealthy Johannesburg suburb and steals her car as well as her baby.

The baby in Tsotsi's care slowly rekindles his capacity for empathy and love. Tsotsi struggles between his ruthless thug exterior and the wounded young man hiding behind it.

Tsotsi: The novel

Athol Fugard's Tsotsi (1961) is about a hoodlum living in a slum. He is a young black man and the decision-maker for a small gang that subsists by committing a vicious crime everyday.

Tsotsi tries not to think about anything and therefore has no memories. The gang falls apart when Boston, who can't help thinking, asks one question too many and Tsotsi nearly kicks him to death.

Then one day, he ambushes a woman who unexpectedly thrusts into his arms a shoebox containing a crying infant. He doesn't kill the baby but keeps it alive, thus bringing a transformation in his life.

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