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When Satyajit Ray Was Advised to Sue Steven Spielberg Over 'ET' Plagiarism Allegations

When Satyajit Ray Was Advised to Sue Steven Spielberg Over 'ET' Plagiarism Allegations

In an old interview from 1983, Master filmmaker Satyajit Ray said that writer Arthur C Clarke advised him to sue Steven Spielberg as his film ET had similarities with Ray's The Alien.

Legendary filmmaker Satyajit Ray’s legacy extends way beyond the confines of our country. From Akira Kurosawa to Wes Anderson, many celebrated filmmakers have listed Ray as their inspiration. However, a celebrated Hollywood filmmaker almost landed in legal soup for allegedly being inspired by Ray. Filmmaker Steven Spielberg was almost sued by Ray for the alleged similarities between his classic ET: Extra Terrestrial and Ray’s script for The Alien.

The Alien, a script written by Ray, was about an alien landing in Bengal and befriending a boy. Ray was in talks with several members of Hollywood to make the film but the project did materialise. However, the script was in circulation among Hollywood circles.

In an 1983 interview with India Today magazine, Ray said that famous sci-fi writer Arthur C Clark had advised him to sue Spielberg. “You know 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," Ray revealed, as per a report.

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The maestro then added that other than the ET row, he had no quarrel against the makers of science and space fantasies. “I think it’s 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.”

Ray was known for for films like The Apu Trilogy- Pather Panchali, Aparajito and Apur Sansar, Charulata, Nayak, Agontuk, Sonar Kella among others. A prolific writer, he penned several stories including the iconic Feluda series.

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first published:June 27, 2021, 11:53 IST