An Israeli Gymnast Won Gold at the Olympics. Then, a Bollywood Composer Started Trending.

The Israeli national anthem seemed oddly familiar to 90s kids from India.
Artem Dolgopyat of israel; anu malik
Image: (L) Artem Dolgopyat of Team Israel poses with the gold medal on the podium during the Men's Floor Exercise Victory Ceremony on day nine of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games; (R) Popular Bollywood music composer Anu Malik

An eye gazes toward Zion…” goes a line from Israel’s national anthem. 

And oddly enough, the eye appears to have been Anu Malik’s. 

On August 2, Indian Olympic-watchers experienced a strange sense of confusion while watching Israeli gymnast Artem Dolgopyat receive the gold medal for artistic gymnastics at the ongoing Tokyo Olympics, bagging Israel’s second-ever gold. 


As the opening bars of the Israeli national anthem “Hatikvah (The Hope)” were played in the stadium, many Indian viewers wondered why they were suddenly listening to “Mera Mulk Mera Desh” from the 1996 movie Diljale instead of “Hatikvah.” But as soon as the words rang out, it became clear that this was not a goof-up of Olympic proportions, but merely another instance of popular Bollywood composer Anu Malik lifting a tune off an international song and passing it off as his own composition. 

Here’s a clip of the moment that gave Indian Twitter users, especially those with a fondness for the 90s, a hilarious sense of déjà vu,

One gets the sense that the veteran Bollywood music composer took Pablo Picasso’s statement that “only good artists copy, great artists steal” a little too literally. 

As far as internet sleuths have been able to figure thus far, this does appear to be the first time Malik has been accused of lifting the melody of a country’s official, if controversial, national anthem. His previous documented instances of “enhanced inspiration” tended to involve international pop numbers and famous classical melodies, although some Twitter users hilariously predict more such discoveries to be made as the Olympics progresses. 


But perhaps American director Jim Jarmusch was right when he famously said that “nothing is original.” Malik may have just been following author Austin Kleon’s advice on how to Steal Like an Artist with purity of intention when he repurposed the melody in question for a romantic Hindi movie about a Kashmiri terrorist starring Ajay Devgn, Farida Jalal, Amrish Puri, Madhoo and Sonali Bendre, because it isn’t strictly Israeli either. 

The original melody to “Hatikvah” traces its roots to a popular 16th century Italian song called La Mantovana by the popular tenor Giuseppe Cenci. 

Variations of this melody popped up all over Europe during the Renaissance, and the tune has been set to lyrics in Italian, Flemish, Polish, Romanian, Ukrainian and Scottish. Samuel Cohen, a 19th century Jewish settler in Ottoman Palestine (now claimed by Israel), set the first two stanzas of poet Naftali Herz Imber’s poem Tikvateinu (Our Hope) to the melody, thus creating the Zionist movement’s unofficial anthem, which later became Israel’s official national anthem, “Hatikvah”.

Anu Malik did not immediately respond to queries from VICE.

Follow Sharanya Gopinathan on Twitter.