The allegations of plagiarism that were made against Hindi Medium before its release in May have resurfaced days after the movie made its debut on the online streaming platform Amazon Prime.
Starring Irrfan and Saba Qamar, Saket Chaudhary’s slice-of-life comedy is about a set of parents who go to great lengths to get their child admitted to one of Delhi’s top English medium schools. It was alleged that the movie was an unacknowledged copy of the Bengali hit Ramdhanu (2014), by Shiboprasad Mukherjee and Nandita Roy. Mukherjee and Roy have finally watched Hindi Medium and obtained a restraining order from Alipore Court in Kolkata against releasing Hindi Medium “to any other format or electronic format including CDs, DVDs, television, internet or extra territorial rights till July 28.” (The film, however, continues to be available on Amazon Prime Video.)
“We watched Hindi Medium at least a month after it was released, once my friends from the industry pointed out the similarities,” Mukherjee told the Times of India. “The court order is a victory for original content.”
Hindi Medium’s co-producer Dinesh Vijan and director Saket Chaudhary have denied the plagiarism charge.
Both movies share a theme and common plot points and yet, the differences are greater than the similarities.
Hindi Medium shares its premise and conclusion with Ramdhanu. In Ramdhanu, Laltu (Shiboprosad Mukherjee) and Mitali (Gargi Roychowdhury) want to enroll their son in one of Kolkata’s best English medium schools. Laltu is a doting father but clueless about his son’s education. Mitali is, however, very serious about her son’s future in a “boro ishkool” (big school), and she is the one who pushes Laltu towards being more responsible about their son’s academic future. Both parents are not fluent in English, which is why they find it difficult to express themselves during pre-admission parent-faculty interviews.
In Hindi Medium, the couple is Raj (Irrfan) and Meeta (Saba Qamar). While Raj does not look at his government school education as an inadequacy, Meeta is class conscious and wants to hobnob with English-speaking upper-class people (she is also better equipped at the language than Raj).
The couples in both movies turn to a consultant who specialises in training parents for admission interviews. After going through a soul-sucking grind, both sets of parents realise that an English medium school is not necessary for a child to learn the importance of being a good human being.
The differences are marked. In Ramdhanu, Laltu and Mitali are a middle-class couple while in Hindi Medium, Raj and Meeta are wealthy. Laltu owns a small medicine shop, and, unlike Raj, cannot buy his way into most things. Raj runs a big clothing store, and, goaded by Meeta, moves out of Chandni Chowk to South Delhi’s posh Vasant Vihar within days.
The second biggest difference is the character of the consultant. In Ramdhanu, Laltu and Mitali are trained by Malavika (Rachna Banerjee), who is genial and compassionate and treats her clients with respect. Hindi Medium’s counterpart, simply called Consultant (Tillotama Shome), is condescending, patronising and often rude. While Malavika guides Laltu and Mitali through the process with care, the consultant in Hindi Medium fails or is failed by her clients because they are incapable of following her instructions.
The biggest difference is the milieu. Hindi Medium is set in Delhi, and one of its big themes is class disparity. The screenplay highlights the chasm between old money and the nouveau riche as well as the difficulties faced by the capital’s poor. In contrast, Ramdhanu’s canvas is smaller and more intimate. Laltu and Mitali are not rootless but have the support of relatives and well-wishers from the neighbourhood. They overcome obstacles with minimum effort, compared to the hell that Raj and Meeta go through in Hindi Medium.