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When Christopher Nolan got upset with Ghajini filmmaker AR Murugadoss: ‘Heard one of my films has been copied…’

Hollywood filmmaker Christopher Nolan was very upset when he found out that AR Murugadoss had remade his movie Memento as Ghajini without giving him due credit.

ghajiniChristopher Nolan was not happy with AR Murugadoss' Ghajini. (Photo: AR/Facebook, Express Archive)

Filmmaker AR Murugadoss turns 48 today. He is one of the most successful filmmakers in the history of Tamil cinema. Murugadoss has a unique talent for mixing social commentary and entertainment into intoxicating stories. Of course, his on-the-nose narrative style has never been a problem. It’s one of the reasons why his movies have been such a draw at the box office.

However, the allegations of plagiarism have always shadowed Murugadoss’ career. The film that cemented the director’s formidable position in Tamil cinema was Ghajini. Starring Suriya and Asin, it came out in 2005 and became one of the highest-grossing movies of that year. The movie was celebrated for introducing the general audience to a disease, the short-term memory loss, which was never heard of in Indian mainstream movies. It felt like such an original idea to watch a hero with a weak memory, going on a rampage based on the clues tattooed on his body.

The success of the film also allowed Murugadoss to remake it in Hindi with superstar Aamir Khan. Ghajini, when released in cinemas in 2008, became an even bigger hit. It earned the distinction of being the first Hindi film to collect Rs 100 crore domestically, thus creating a new benchmark for the industry.

However, there was one man who was not happy with the success of Ghajini. And it was Christopher Nolan. While the majority of the audience in early 2000s may not have been aware of Ghajini being a rip-off of Memento, Nolan was very much aware of that fact.

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Anil Kapoor once revealed the interaction with Nolan during which they ended up discussing Ghajini.

“I was talking to Christopher Nolan. And he said I have heard that one of my films has been copied. I said Ghajini. He was very upset about it. I told Aamir also. I told (Nolan) the film had just been released over there and is a big success. (He then said) Yeah, no money, no credit, no nothing,” Anil recalled.

One can’t help but empathise with Nolan’s frustration, considering the amount of struggle he went through to get his picture out. For the uninitiated, Memento was Nolan’s first major production. The film was mounted at a $4 million budget, which was a huge leap for the filmmaker, who bootstrapped his first feature, Following.

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Nolan wrote Memento based on his brother Jonathan Nolan’s short story Memento Mori. In the short story, the protagonist with the faulty memory remains within the confines of a hospital room. But, in Memento, Nolan sets the man, with an unreliable memory, loose on the streets with a heart full of vengeance. The movie was a technical marvel given that the story flows backwards. The cinematic elements that Nolan expanded in his last film Tenet could be found in Memento.

Nolan, however, could not find a distributor to run the theatrical campaign for Memento. After a year in cold storage, the film’s producers at Newmarket finally decided to release the film themselves. The movie was initially released in just 11 theatres on March 16, 2000, and it took off instantly. It emerged as that year’s biggest sleeper hit as it took over more than 500 screens at the height of its popularity. Memento ended up collecting nearly $40 million from its worldwide ticket sales. And thus began the story of one of the most successful and influential Hollywood filmmakers of the 21st century.

First published on: 25-09-2022 at 09:02:42 am
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