Satjayit Ray, Peter Sellers and aliens

Posted in Media, politics, Propaganda, Satire by Anuraag Sanghi on September 19, 2012

A post that appeared in UltraBrown. The site seems to have expired.Following content accessed from webcache

Tuesday, July 17

Satjayit Ray, Peter Sellers and aliens

Satyajit Ray accused Steven Spielberg of ripping off his ‘67 script The Alien for the hit E.T. The Alien was to star Peter Sellers and Marlon Brando:

In 1967 Ray wrote the script to a science fiction film he wanted to make called The Alien. Peter Sellers was interested in the lead role, and Marlon Brando in the second lead… Ray was alarmed to discover that producer Mike Wilson had copyrighted the script Ray had written in both their names… He returned to Calcutta and abandoned The Alien project…

In 1982, when Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster E.T. was released, the plot bore a striking similarity to Ray’s script for The Alien, and was produced by the same company that had contracted with Ray in 1967. The similarity was considered by some, including Ray, to be more than mere coincidence. He told the Indian press that E.T. “Would not have been possible without my script of The Alien being available throughout America in mimeographed copies…”

… Spielberg has denied plagiarizing Ray’s script. “I was a kid in high school when his script was circulating in Hollywood…” [Link]

The script was written by Ray in 1967, based on Bankubabur Bandhu (Banku Babu’s Friend), a Bengali story he had written in 1962 for Sandesh, the Ray family magazine.

What differentiated The Alien from previous science fiction was the portrayal of an alien from outer space as a kind and playful being, invested with magical powers and capable of interacting with children, in contrast to earlier science fiction works which portrayed aliens as dangerous creatures.

The plot revolved around a spaceship that landed in a pond in rural Bengal. The villagers began worshipping it as a temple risen from the depths of the earth. The alien established contact with a young village boy named Haba (Moron) through dreams and also played a number of pranks on the village community in course of its short stay on planet Earth. [Link]

Sellers turned the Bengali character into bad ethnic joke:

Second-rate brownface

When Ray went to see Sellers, on the set of The Party… a coarsening was evident: the detail and imponderability of Kabir had gone, to be replaced with a brittle slapstick charm. The Indian sensibility was now an opportunity for gags

[Ray:] ‘Later I saw The Millionairess where I found his Indian English very amusing, though not authentic… Sellers was shooting (The Party)… [and] was again playing an Indian with the unlikely first name of Hrundi, using brown makeup and the same accent he had used in The Millionairess...

‘There was a scene in The Party where Hrundi was shown playing the sitar. Ravi Shankar, a good friend of mine, was then living in Los Angeles. Sellers wondered if there would be an opportunity to observe Ravi playing the sitar… After a gorgeous North Indian meal, RS gave a splendid recital with Sellers sitting cross-legged on the floor, his eyes glued on RS’s fingers for well over an hour…

‘A few months later I saw The Party. I recall regretting that even a first rate comedian could get enthused over a shoddy script. But there was one thing in the film that tickled me. Towards the end, the following exchange takes place between Hrundi and the American girl who has befriended him in spite of his gaucherie:

‘H: I must get home to my pet monkey.
Girl (surprised): Your pet monkey?
H: Yes. Apu…

‘To this day I haven’t been able to fathom why Sellers wrote what he did the way he did. It was as cold and brief as an editor’s rejection slip. It said there was no question of Sellers’ participation in The Alien unless his part was rewritten and expanded… ‘

[Sellers:] ‘Kubrick… reckons that Satyajit Ray is number two or number one, and I think so too… But for some reason he can’t get distribution. Nobody’s interested, so he has an art house showing…’

That last sequence [of Sellers’ later movie The Magic Christian had] the businessmen going into the shit to grab the free pound notes… City gents doing the breast stroke and dodging turds… ‘You’ve really got to hate people to love this film.’ [Link via Another Subcontinent]

Sellers and Ray fell out so badly, there are several versions of a story where Sellers likens arthouse icon Apu to a monkey:

Sellers had a fight with Ray, and to spite him, kept a pet monkey which he named Apu. [Link]

When Ray was insisting [that] Peter Sellers… play the lead role in The Alien, he saw [at a] party Sellers mimicking Apu as a monkey… Now people can say that this was just petty humor and, well, Sellers was a small guy while Ray was 6 feet 5…. but Ray himself found that debasing… It reflects an acute lack of sensitivity on this great actor’s part. [Link]

Sadly, Sellers’ interpretation of Apu is what Hank Azaria seems to have imitated in voicing the Apu character in The Simpsons.

Related posts: The Apu travesty, White guys in turbans, Peter Sellers still outsells actual desis, Giants, dwarves and lemurs, Goodness gracious, Peter Sellers is alive, Mr. Birdie Num-Num gets a biopic, Sick of spices, ”The Party” remake

manish vij on Tuesday, July 17th, 2007, 1:04 am in Film, Profiles, SimpsonsEmail this Email this
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  1. 1prakruti

vow Manish, this is news..how did u end up digging this 2001 article..

spielberg of all people in this ..cant believe..I admire both satyajiy ray and spielberg as worlds best directors..

u know thats why copy-righting is important…once u write something just make sure u send it to copy right office in washington DC for registration..

look at how many hindi movies are copies of english movies..plagiarism is a big thing these days.. look at kaavyas scandal…

  • 2Pravin I think Mike Wilson , not Spielberg should have been the target of Ray’s ire. Besides Melissa Matheson(ex Mrs Harrison Ford) is credited with the script. Whether she did the story or not, I am not sure. Or did Spielberg come up with the broad story and commissioned Melissa to write a screenplay?Regardless, Ray should have hired a lawyer. Unfortunately, that’s the only way to do business in the u.s.
  • 3aseem chhabra (Full disclosure — I broke the Ray/Spielberg story — 24 yrs ago as a student at Columbia Univ. J. School. The story was carried by major US papers — LA Times, Philly Inq, etc., in March 1983, just weeks before E.T. and Gandhi were entering the final Oscar race.)There are so many facets to this story. Ray learnt about E.T. from his friend Arthur C. Clarke, who called him from London and told him about the similarities between the E.T. and The Alien script. Clarke’s advice to Ray was “Don’t take it lying down. At least write to Spielberg and tell him so” (Quotes from my memory, as told to me by Clarke in 1983 from his home in Colombo).Incidentally, Ray traveled to Hollywood with Clarke, taking the script studio to studio. At one point Steve McQueen was also being considered for a role in the film (For more details about the Ray’s journey to Hollywood, checkout Marie Seton’s “Portrait of a Director: Satyajit Ray” and Andrew Robinson’s “Satyajit Ray: The Inner Eye.”).There were indeed a lot of similarities (I managed to get hold of a copy of The Alien’s script, which btw is now available in a book published by Faber & Faber). E.T. had the power to heal wounds; so did Ray’s Alien. E.T. could make dead flowers blossom; Ray’s Alien could bring alive a dying paddy field. The first time we are introduced to E.T. we notice his fingers — same with Ray’s Alien. And there were more.When I spoke to Ray for the article, he had one major regret — that he would never be able to make The Alien, because then people would say that he had taken the idea from Spielberg’s E.T.
  • 4Shashwati What a great post Manish! thanks! I had known about the Ray and E.T. connection, but all the details were murky. As for Aseem, where were you July 4th?
  • 5Ryan Spielberg is known for muscling in on book and scripts. It is likely he read the script in the 70s and commissioned his own writer to make an Americanzed treatment of it.

35 Responses

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  1. panduranghari said, on September 19, 2012 at 10:13 pm

    Fantastic find. Why did Ray not take them to court for this?

  2. Vishaya said, on April 24, 2013 at 1:12 am

    Good Find. I hope you take a 2ndlook at all these plagarisms as well


    and offer similar words of advice to your countrymen as well.

    • Anuraag Sanghi said, on April 26, 2013 at 9:16 pm
      Topic Bull (Vishaya Nandi) /Sam Malone /AKA as Anyone Else: –

      1. Old topic, old charges, old explanation that is still valid. Worth repeating.

      2. Copyright laws are a rather recent invention to protect publishers – and not authors as claimed. A particularly Western invention, that has been implemented with greater complexity and capriciousness in the last 50 years. This is a legality – and not an ethical question in India.

      3. The way Bollywood does this in India is open and mostly publicly announced. There is never any hiding or trying to cover their sources.

      4. In the Indian artistic tradition, a story once told, a play once enacted is in public domain. Anyone can use it, modify it, and add to it. This classical Indian literary works were living documents that were written, modified, added, subtracted, re-written, in various languages at various times.

      5. Classics like Mahabharata have now become ossified with a British ‘authorized’ version that now gets claimed as original.

      6. Coming to Spielberg and Satyajit Ray episode, or the few other ‘plagiarism’ cases that I have uncovered, it is clear that these people have plagiarized – which in their creative-ethics system is illegal and unethical.

      So, I am judging Indians from an Indian ethical standpoint and Westerners from West’s ethical standpoint.

      You should not have problem with this unless you believe that there should be One ethical standpoint.

      In which case, end of discussion.

      India believes in multiple standards – and not One God, One Language, One Law, One Religion, etc kind of absolutism.

      • rajivkutty said, on April 28, 2013 at 9:21 pm

        haha, indians can do no wrong. If indians copy it is modification and improvisation. If gora+yahoodi does it, it is plagiarism.\m/. Plus have u even seen ET?? It’s a pretty decent movie with many minute interesting details. Even if was partly copied or rather inspired the final cut of the film was very good.

        Compare that with Shoddy,s*#*@,plagiarized films made by bollywood. They haven’t made any films worth watching since many would say 30+ years. Bollywood stinks. Regional films are at least more worth watching and better.

        admin note

        Rajivkutty – Your language needs cleaning up! As a largely Indian forum we believe in self-regulation. Dont create dirt for others to clean. Keep your comments clean of offensive words.

        • Manu said, on April 29, 2013 at 1:08 am

          Kutty bhai .. Are Indians not even allowed to take a stand or have diff view point from the conventional . This blog maybe wrong on many things but atleast it gives you and me a diff way of thinking…. In the name of constructive criticism all we do is demean ourselves… Forget movies will you agree that lot of things like medicinal properties of neem, tumeric etc are being plagiarized by the west as unique solutions (without acknowledging the source)? All he is saying is Indian way is… If it’s in public domain everyone is free to use that … Anything wrong in that?

          • rajivkutty said, on April 29, 2013 at 7:56 am

            Anyway you are mentioning two different issues here. Most of the ‘western’ intellectual property rights are a fraud, as they do not really protect or fund the knowledge creators but instead make shit loads of money for the publishers or corporates. For example most of the scientific journals are way overpriced and thus are affordable by only certain ‘special’ tax gifted institutions like IISc,IIT,AIIMS,BARC,etc in India. If one takes into account that India still uses the US Dollar for international trade and has a number of NRI scientists born and trained in India who are publishing papers abroad, so both financially and technically India is playing a significant enough role in knowledge creation and should get free or low cost access to scientific journals but this isn’t the case. Library budgets of our ‘special’ scientific institutions run into crores and has to be bailed out by we the tax payer. And to add insult to injury our wonderful Indian scientists find it inferior to publish their Indian tax payer funded research in Indian journals, but instead find it better to publish their work in foreign journals which the common Indian has no access to and the Indian ‘special’ institutions have to pay lots of money again to gain access to them!!
            The same fraudulent patenting laws are further perverted when they extend themselves to living biological matter. It is funny when western guys patent Neem,Turmeric,etc. Items which are used commonly in Indian households let alone in some obscure ayurvedic texts. Most of allopathic medicine patents are fraudlent and consist of ripping of the knowledge from tribals throughout the world. And allopathic medicines are nothing but synthetic and more dangerous/have more side-effects compared to their tribal medicine original formulae.

            However the topic here is of the intellectually bankrupt Indian film industry. It blatantly plagiarises story lines and music from hollywood/middle-east but does not give adequate tribute to them. Yet anuraag only mentions one instance and neglects the plagiarising and intellectual bankruptcy of bollywood. And it doesn’t have much to do with money either. Movie budgets for both hindi and regional films have soared and yet there hasn’t been much of an improvement in the quality of the films produced.

            Regarding ET, I’m thinking that only the basic story elements like a friendly alien who heals was taken by Ray, considering this was in contradiction to most prior hollywood alien films where the alien was always shown to be an enemy and hostile. Most of the other details in the movie were made up by Spielberg. However it was incorrect of Spielberg not to mention that the basic story elements were taken from the script written by Ray.

  3. admin said, on April 29, 2013 at 3:58 am

    Please note.

    This post first appeared in UltraBrown. The site seems to have expired.Following content accessed from webcache.

    The domain name for ultra-bown has expired. The authorship of this post can be claimed by original writer any time that he /she wishes to lay the claim.

  4. rajivkutty said, on April 30, 2013 at 2:24 am

    BTW I’ve figured out what ‘syndrome’ Sanghi Bhau has. It’s the Indians can do no wrong syndrome(ICDNWS). or can also be stated as Indians are always right syndrome. LOL. Indians suffering from multiple syndromes these days like Blame the Brahmin Syndrome :-D. The most famous of course is the Arundhati Roy Syndrome, in addition to more orthodox syndromes like the Stockholm Syndrome.

    • Manu said, on April 30, 2013 at 4:24 am

      Sir you will be surprised to find how many countries suffer from we can’t do no wrong syndrome…. USA is the prime example… Anyways guys like sanghi bhai are a miniscule minority compared to the majority “India can do NO RIGHT” brigade…To be honest sir people pretend to stand up for India but most of us are cowards to even make a stand on legitimate issues… Most have created a model that India should aspire to be (in this case like the west)…. “Educated” Indians judge India based on standards set in west…. They try to fit solutions designed for one race one religion one language countries on many many many India … Systems designed for competitive civilization as opposed to collaborative Indian…. And when these systems fail India is at fault … At least anurrag is defining that very clearly as to what is/was India and why these solutions will not work here…. Instead of force feeding India with these solutions can we take a 2ndlook and stop the criticizing attitude. Sir we as Educated Indians are waiting for our parents to look like someone else’s parents before we can stand by them… I thought you stand by your mom no matter how good/bad she is .
      On the Indian cinema being crap etc … I am sure you haven’t met the Kurdish Iranian who learnt speaking hindi by watching Big B movies (complete with Ma kassam n all). Or the Indonesian girl who can give most dance directors in Bollywood run for their money or every taxi driver in Malaysia who will tell you how he loves the Khans of India and the japs who love rajnikant…. Technically superior Hollywood might be the best but from Iran to Japan Indian cinema is rising .. Must be doing something right to garner that fan following ….. (Again are we judging them by standards set in the west?)

      • rajivkutty said, on April 30, 2013 at 7:43 am

        Even Coca-Cola is popular and sold throughout the world, but that doesn’t make it better than any toilet cleaner. Yes Indians have “Indians can do no right” syndrome but Sanghi uncle displays “Indians can do no wrong” syndrome and that is equally dangerous.

        Regarding music, Indians could not master polyphonic music and hence could not create new polyphonic music considering indian music is mostly monophonic. So even most film songs are plagiarized coz indians still haven’t learn to properly create polyphonic music.

        • Manu said, on April 30, 2013 at 9:40 am

          So do you display equal contempt for “india can do no right” people… ? Since you are preaching fairness of viewpoints . Or do you believe “india can do no right”coz then this discussion is over.

          • rajivkutty said, on April 30, 2013 at 4:20 pm

            Of course i have equal contempt for the “India can do no right” people. There are many things India is doing right. But of course people like Sanghi preach “India can do no wrong” where it’s like a father of a spoilt child who isn’t willing to admit the mistakes his son makes.

            • Desi Mand Buddhi said, on April 30, 2013 at 4:57 pm

              Oye Manu!

              Yeh mallu to desh drohi hai! Iska matlab yeh jo desh ki leta hai, uski bhi utni hi ijjat arta hai jo desh ko deta hai?

              Ye sab kya ho raha. Kya hamari azaadi ki ladai in jaison ki liey hui thi. Kya is mallu ke maa-baap isko itna bada is liye kiye, ke ye desh ki lene walon ki ijjat karein!

              Oye Manu, tu bataa! Main is mallu ko theek samajh raha hoon ya nahi?

              • rajivkutty said, on April 30, 2013 at 7:23 pm

                admin note: Congratulations to Rajiv Kutty for attaining the distinction of getting his comment deleted for intemeperate language and personal attacks – after 5200 comments in 6 years.

                Rajiv – Try a relevant comment, without personal attacks.

              • rajivkutty said, on April 30, 2013 at 7:28 pm

                admin Note: Comment deleted for being a personal attack and irrelevant to the advancement of the discussion on the forum

              • rajivkutty said, on May 1, 2013 at 3:43 pm

                admin note: Comment deleted for continued personal attacks.

        • Manu said, on April 30, 2013 at 11:43 pm

          Polyphonic mono …what? I have a simple standard to judge music …. For example when dhol wajda hai and MIka paaji dhinka chika gatey hai sir dil khush ho jata hai ..Unless a hollywood ,bollywood tollywood , kollywood can meet these standards I dont give a hoot to phonic shonic sounds ….

          • rajivkutty said, on May 1, 2013 at 3:47 pm

            in simple language, polyphonic means playing 2 or more melodies simultaneously, also called harmony, monophonic basically means melody. I can say Indians are better than westerners in melody due to our complex raga system, but we still don’t know how to create polyphonic sounds or harmonies. We have to learn and to learn western music it takes many years, which most of our music directors are not willing to do. Most of our film music directors blindly copy tracks from western music and add nothing new, which is plagiarism which is what i have been alluding to all along.

            • Manu said, on May 2, 2013 at 2:01 am

              Had no intention to carry this debate further… You say
              “We have to learn and to learn western music it takes many years,”

              So you accept IN YOUR MIND Indians are inferior… Any advice to westerns to learn our music..? Indians are not polyphonic ..what are westerners not ? Do they have any weaknesses in music?

              • Desi Mand Buddhi said, on May 2, 2013 at 4:18 am

                Yaar ye Rajiv Kutty mein kuch to kami hai. Hamare gaon mein orchestra bajate hai log. Bhangra main bahut saare log dholak bajate hain.
                Kya yeh harmony nahi hui?

                Kya Western harmony hi, akeli harmaony hui.

                Mera ek gaonwala Shanker Jaikishen ke band mein violin bajata tha. Uska bolna tha ki, ye Bombay waale sau-sau violin use karte hain.

                Kya yeh harmony nahi hui?

                Yaar, ye Anuraag Sanghi bhi naa, kaise-kaison ko bula leta hai!

  5. Desi Mand Buddhi said, on April 30, 2013 at 4:47 am

    Hi ji!

    Meri samajh main ek baat nahi aa riya!

    Kya yeh mallu rajivkutty ko pitna pasand hai ji! Iska problem kya hai ji!

    Meri samajh kuch slow hai ji.

    Koi mujhe explain.

    • rajivkutty said, on April 30, 2013 at 7:37 am

      Sanghi Uncle aap kyon kapat account kholkar gaali de rahen hai. What is this abusing ‘mallu’ in hindi? Naa aapko hindi theek se aati hai, na sanskrit, na telugu.

      admin note: Rajiv Kutty – No one on this forum has received three warning. You wont either. No expletives, swear words.

      • Desi Mand Buddhi said, on April 30, 2013 at 10:52 am

        O yaar Rajiv –

        Bataa tera problem kya hai!

        Aur koi problem hai kyaa?

        Itna pitai ka kya shaukh hai?

        Tere mein kuch kami hai kyaa?

        Mera jo hakeem hai naa .. woh sab kami dur kartaa hain … Mere chacha na puttar ,,, usey aisa koi problem tha … bibi sey pitna ka shouk tha usey!

        Ab bataa!

        Mere hakeem ne usey 15 din mein theek kar diya!

        Bataa! Kab chalnaa hai!

        • rajivkutty said, on April 30, 2013 at 4:21 pm

          dude, no one is willing to read your substandard language. get a life.

          • Desi Mand Buddhi said, on April 30, 2013 at 4:50 pm

            dude … doo-day … yeh kya hota hai!

            Ai Manu tu bata yaar. Yeh Mallu to gusse mein aa raha hai!

            O Yaar! meri Inglish-Shinglish theek nahi to kya, Punjabi to theek hai! Tujhe samajh aa riya hai, main kya bol raha hoon?

            Tu bata Manu?

            Yeh get a life ka kya matlab yaar? Mein jinda to hoon? Phir yeh mallu kya bol raha hai? Get a life.

            Yeh angrez chale gay. Lekin Inglish-shinglish chod gaye IOye admin-bande chod ka matlab, kya bolte , leave. Levae. Ulta matlab mat nikaal, haan).

            • rajivkutty said, on April 30, 2013 at 6:43 pm

              Tooti hindi mein baat karke punjabi kah raha hai usko ‘mandabuddhi’. Yadi punjabi mein baat karne ki iccha hai to Pakistan chale jaa. 80 pratishat punjab pakistan mai hai. punjabi hote hi hai ‘mandbuddhi’ LOL

              • Desi Mand Buddhi said, on May 1, 2013 at 3:08 am

                O yaar! Ki baat kar raha hai!

                Kya Punjabi mein baat karne say Pakistani ho gayaa! O yaar, Bhagat Singh bhi to Punjabi main baat kartaa thaa. Kya Bhagat Singh ko bhi yeh mallu bolega ki jaa Pakistan! Kya ab is desh main angrezi bolne walon kay liye jagah hai lekin Punjabi key liye nahi?

                Kya Bhagat Singh isi liye shahid huey they?

                Yeh angrezi dooday wagaira bol saktaa hai … lekin main Punjabi mein baat nahin kar saktaa! Yeh kya baat hui!

            • rajivkutty said, on April 30, 2013 at 7:16 pm

              Sanghi Bhai using alternate accounts to make racist comments and yet deleting my comments. tsk..tsk

            • Manu said, on April 30, 2013 at 11:57 pm

              Bhaiyo discussion seriously pakistan chala gaya hai … Mand bhuddi paaji …do tarikey hondey hai apni baat samjhaney key … Ek jo ki bharat key west mein hota hai… Maanja varna maar doonga … Dosara humara …Pyar sey discussion kar key .. Maana hai to maan varna tu apney ghar mein apney ghar ….

              Paaji jab middle eastern aaye they to hindi aur pharsi mix karkey urdu banayi… Phir humare kuch bhai jo middle east key culture ko apney culture sey better mantey they unhoney is mixture (urdu) key naam per apna pure sthan banaya…

              Yeh bhi ushi rah par chal rahey hai ….Jab angrezi sarkar giregi ..Mujhey dar hai kahin inkey liye Hinglishstan (sorry Hingland) na banna padey

              • Anuraag Sanghi said, on May 1, 2013 at 4:36 am

                Yeh bhi ushi rah par chal rahey hai ….Jab angrezi sarkar giregi ..Mujhey dar hai kahin inkey liye Hinglishstan (sorry Hingland) na banna padey

                This idea never occured to me. This is a ramifications that is worth a thought?

                Is it a possibility?

              • Manu said, on May 1, 2013 at 7:06 am

                The patterns are similar.. Seduced by the NEW foreign systems Promise of prosperity and progression… Contempt for the native culture …. Home culture is seen as source of the problems… New culture is the solution… Followers claim superiority based on following only (As in the case of our pure brothers.No Native Indian Muslim ever ruled India but they claimed it nevertheless based on following the culture) … And you have more confused Indians 🙂 … Based on Interaction with the young yuppy/puppy Indian generation the conversion is already done

              • rajivkutty said, on May 1, 2013 at 3:51 pm

                admin note: Comment deleted for continued personal attacks.

      • Desi Mand Buddhi said, on April 30, 2013 at 1:56 pm

        Arrey yaar Kutty –

        Tu gussa ho gaya.

        Yaar hamare punjab main to Kutty logon ko mallu hi bolte hain. Tu kya madraasi hai?

        Yaar main kaun si gaali di?

        Tere father mother, sister ko kuch nahi bola? Phir kaun si gaali hui!

  6. rajivkutty said, on February 5, 2014 at 8:55 pm

    I apologize for starting this quarrel. I beg you to please delete all my comments from this blog post. I know you have the power to refuse my request but please don’t be so harsh. I apologize for being rude.


    • rajivkutty said, on February 5, 2014 at 9:42 pm

      So u aren’t going to forgive?? I thought you didn’t believe in ‘eye for en eye’?? I haven’t put up any defamatory comments about you on the internet. Kindly forgive me and delete my posts on this page.

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