Recently the author of a little known novel, Bollywood Invasion by Ricardo Alexanders, sent a news release to Picture this Post via PR Newswire that suggested an uncanny similarity between the story line of his novel and a soon to be released movie directed by Danny Boyle (also the director of Slumdog Millionaire) by screenwriter Richard Curtis, whose credits include the film Love Actually.
While Picture this Post (PTP) has no opinion on the facts of this matter, which will likely be settled in or out of court as a legal matter, we present this interview with Ricardo Alexanders (RA) where he describes his dilemma below.
PTP : How did you discover the similarity between the upcoming film Yesterday and Bollywood Invasion?
(RA) The similarity between the movie Yesterday and my book Bollywood Invasion was actually brought to my attention by several sources.
At first, a book reviewer sent me a congratulatory email. She thought the film was based on my book.
I clicked the link in her email and was shocked by the movie trailer. After settling myself down, I watched the movie trailer several times and also did an extensive Google search.
Both stories were based on the same premise: the protagonist travels to a parallel universe where the Beatles don’t exist. Both protagonists are hit by a bus while riding a bike at the start of their journey.
In the parallel universe, both protagonists become international stars by plagiarizing the Beatles songs in their memories. Coincidentally, the first song they both use to awe their audience is Yesterday.
In Yesterday, the protagonist sings a parody of Hey Jude, Hey Dude. In Bollywood Invasion, I created “Hey Raj” as its parody.
To be fair, the time setting is different. In the movie, the story happens in modern times, at least according to the trailer. My main story is set in 1960s. However, in my research I discovered the following Wiki quote --
“In March 2018, director Danny Boyle and writer Richard Curtis were announced to be teaming on a musical comedy that will be set in the 1960s or 1970s and center on "a struggling musician who thinks he's the only person who can remember the Beatles", with Himesh Patel cast in the lead role.”
Had you ever pitched this idea to a film company for a script?
I had pitched Bollywood Invasion to several film studios but had not received any offer yet.
Have you logged any time in Hollywood?
Are you a Boston native or?
I am a first-generation immigrant from China and have lived in America for 19 years. I moved to Boston in 2008.
What does Working Title say as of today about the similarity you have noted?
I contacted Mr. Sheeraz Shah, their Senior Vice President of Business & Legal Affairs but have not heard back yet.
Is this in litigation?
Not yet. I have consulted local lawyers in preparation for potential legal actions.
What was the inspiration for your book?
I was inspired to write this book by the music from the Beatles and the colorful culture of India.
As a lifelong Beatles fan, I stumbled into a YouTube video in 2013. In that video, a tribute band played Let It Be, my favorite Beatles song of all time, with traditional Indian instruments.
That very night, I had a strange dream. In my dream, I woke up as a singer in 1958 India, which I was always fascinated by.
What are the odds?
The next morning, I scribbled down my lingering memory of the dream. Then, a question came. If John Lennon had been born an Indian—with the same talent—could he still conquer the world?
I kept asking myself this very question during my writing. Something extraordinary had to happen if the Indian (British) Invasion was to take America by storm, as the world back then was not even close to being as multi-cultural as we are today.
Have you traveled extensively in India?
You’ll probably not believe that I have never been to India. However, I have been friends with many wonderful Indian people who live in Boston and are proud of their heritage.
Many character names in Bollywood Invasion are borrowed from those friends, as a way of thanking them for giving me the chance to learn about this great culture.
When did you first hear The Beatles music?
I don’t even remember since it has been so long.
Do you listen to it often?
I still do, as many of them are really timeless works.
Is Sgt Peppers your favorite album or?
Probably. However, it is really difficult to determine which is my favorite.
Have you penned other novels?
Yes. The other novel that I published is a history-science fiction: The Last Resistance: Dragon Tomb. During WWII, a young Chinese archaeologist and an American college professor save the world from an extraterrestrial Armageddon, after discovering the true origin of Chinese civilization.
Kirkus Reviews says "an epic and inventive Far East, space-invasion reimagining of World War II." Dragon Tomb has an average rating of 4.4 out of 5 on Amazon. Currently, I’m working the book two of the TLR series.
Have any of them been made into film scripts?
Not yet. But I believe my stories were made for big screens. When it happens, the readers of Picture this Post will be the first ones to know!
In addition to writing novels, do you work in other ways as a writer?
No. I just have not been able to find time yet.
Since writing is a sideline for you, what is your day job?
I’m a pharmaceutical scientist, working in oncology.
How do you fit writing into your life and schedule?
With two young kids and a day job, I set myself a goal of writing one hour a day, mainly after their bed time. To achieve my goal, I don’t watch any TV except the Patriots’ big games.
What is your advice for others who are trying to do creative writing in their spare time while they earn a living?
Be persistent and be fearless.
Other comments for cinephile readers of Picture this Post?
I’d like to invite all of your readers to see Yesterday when it hits the theaters on June 28th and I hope they will help me to decide whether it is plain plagiarism or just an outrageous coincidence.
Editor’s Note: Picture this Post is contacting Working Title films for comments. Stay tuned to these pages for updates.
Images and photos courtesy of Ricardo Alexanders