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Plagiarized by Spielberg, Ray’s ‘The Alien’ failed to land in Bengal!

17 July, 2021 11:40:12
Plagiarized by Spielberg, Ray’s ‘The Alien’ failed to land in Bengal!

It was a warm afternoon in 1982 in Kolkata, when legendary film maker Satyajit Ray received a phone call from none other than legendary science fiction writer, Arthur C Clarke. He called up Ray after a screening of Steven Spielberg’s ET that sent waves across Hollywood and the world being the first film of its kind on aliens. He told Ray clearly about the similarities between the movie and Ray’s script for The Alien that he wanted to make years before ET was launched but could not do so because of lack of sponsors. Ray was more heartbroken because he was in talks with producers in Hollywood to adapt The Alien into a movie. However, due to one reason or the other, the project never took flight in the past.

Sketches of 'The Alien' by Satyajit Ray

Ray came out in the open and told the media with release of ET, “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. ET would not be possible without my script.”

Clarke and Speilberg

It was quite clear from Ray’s words and that of many in Hollywood that multi-Oscar winner Spielberg had actually plagiarized Satyajit Ray’s The Alien and did not even bother to respect his artistic brilliance. By then, Ray was quite talked about in the field of global cinema too, because of his thought-provoking movies that finally gave him the Lifetime Achievement Oscar in 1992. Filmmakers like Wes Anderson were highly influenced by his works and often paid homage to him with their movies.


However, Satyajit Ray was humble in his approach. He did not blame the entire industry but said: ‘Other than this personal complaint, I have no quarrel against the makers of science and space fantasies. I think it is 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.’

Sketch by Ray

But Steven denied the allegations, saying he was a high school student when The Alien script was being shared in Hollywood. While ET was about a young boy in US meeting and befriend-ing an alien and hiding him at his house, The Alien was a similar story of an alien landing in a village in Bengal and becoming friends with a boy.

A sketch by Ray

ET is one of the movies that sparked the trend in movies of aliens visiting only the US every time they landed on Earth. Maybe if they had actually landed in Bengal first, perhaps India would have been an alien hotspot instead! But well, the idea was robbed from a highly talented Bengali and sold in Hollywood turning it into a cult movie. 

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