The Indian Premier League is one most awaited sporting events in the nation. So when it released the new IPL anthem for 2020, many were shocked to find it rather familiar. The song, called “Hum Wapas Ayenge" sounded distinctly like ‘Dekh Kaun Aaya Wapas’, a song they had heard on the YouTube channel of one of India’s first professional rappers - Krishna Kaul aka Krsna.
It was only after fans of his music heard the IPL anthem, which released last weekend, and tagged Krsna that the artist realised something was wrong.
“It took me a moment to truly realise that IPL had actually plagiarised my song," Kaul tells News18.
Since then, the rapper has gone on to claim in a now-viral tweet that the IPL blatantly lifted a song he had originally created in 2017.
Speaking to News18, the Delhi-based rapper says in his 14-year-long career as a musician, he has never faced something like this. “While plagiarism is common enough, you don’t expect someone of the statures of IPL and Disney Hotstar to plagiarise your song," Kaul says, adding that he has sent the IPL team a legal notice.
From Prozpekt to Kr$na
Kaul, who started rapping as a 14-year-old teen in London, made a name for himself in the Indian hip hop scene in the early 2000s.
Going by the name of Prozpekt then, Kaul first became popular in India with his angsty, anti-establishment lyrics. With songs like “Kaisa Mera Desh" and “The Lokpal Freestyle" and other songs decrying the CWG scam and in support of the anti-corruption movement, Kaul aka Prozpekt became well known as an independent freestyle rapper, with his MySpace videos raking in lakhs of views.
But it was only after 2013 that Kaul says he started rapping “professionally". It was also at the same time when Kaul decided to tone down his political commentary. “I realised that as much as I loved writing those socio-political lyrics because I really felt for the issue, I was not getting any mainstream success with that," Kaul recalls.
In 2013, Kaul was signed by Universal Records and changed his stage name from Prozpekt. Thus, Kr$na was born. His first album, cleverly called “Sellout" became a hit with a single called ‘Last Night’ peaking at the fifth spot of the Vh1 Music Charts in India. “Sellout was about a hip hop musician who had to constantly struggle with the industry to maintain their originality. I was writing about myself," Kaul said, adding that all these years, he has tried not to become one himself.
“I think I’ve succeeded," the singer, who is now represented by the artist management agency DNH (KALAMKAAR) Artists which also represents artists like Raftar, chuckles. He was last seen in Gully Boy where he appeared as himself.
A smart copy
Dismissing the idea that the copy could have been an accident, Kaul says it was too close to be an accident. Every hip hop song as verses and a hook, Kaul explains. The hook is like the repeated catchphrase that everyone remembers. “While they changed the words of the verses, the hook was almost exactly the same. From ‘Dekh Kaun Aaya Wapas’ to ‘Hum Wapas Ayenge'", Kaul says.
The artist further adds that it cannot be a misunderstanding either as he had just last month finished working on a project with Disney Hotstar. “It is strange that such big names like the IPL and Disney Hotstar do not have the necessary checks and safeguards against plagiarism," he says, adding that the instance points toward gross negligence on both the organiser and OTT platform’s parts.
Responding to the controversy, IPL’s Hum Wapas Ayenge creator Pranav Ajayrao Malpe, however, dismissed the allegations. Speaking to the media, Malpe said that the song was an original and that it was even certified by the Music Composers Association of India (MCAI) as an original.
Speaking to news agency ANI, Malpe said that he was “shocked" at the allegations of plagiarism. “I was shocked. My composition is original and has not been inspired by any other artist’s work. It has been created by me and my team through our hard work and efforts," he said.
Malpe also claimed that the lyrics were in tandem with the current situation in the country which has been under a state of constant emergency since the coronavirus pandemic spread. He also said that he had received no such notice from Kaul.
After a long and unforeseen delay, the Indian Premier League is set to start from September 19. None of the organisers have as yet responded to the controversy.
Kaul, however, has stuck to his guns. “My team has taken the issue up with IPL organisers," Kaul said. He added that while the legality of the song was up to the courts to decide, the immense solidarity and support shown by his fans and industry peers has left him touched.
“In a way, that’s already a victory," Kaul adds.
(This story was first published on September 19 2020)