Tuesday, June 27, 2006

MKT: The Saga Continues

Filmmaker Murali K. Thalluri adds plagiarism to his list of apparent misdeeds.

Update 7/7/2006

Hello. If this is your first visit to this blog, we direct your attention to the post below, The Bully and the Bunny in which we allege that Murali K Thalluri, writer/director of the Cannes-nominated film Two Thirty 7 was guilty of using multiple fake accounts on the IMDb to promote his film in a mendacious fashion akin to David Manning.

We'd hoped we'd seen the end of Mr Thalluri and his online charades. No such luck.

But first, a brief digression. Two Thirty 7 screened last month in Cannes to a mixed reception and no prizes. However, the critics were unanimous in one regard: Two Thirty 7 unmistakably bears the pachydermous footprint of the 2003 winner of the Palme D'Or, Gus Van Sant's Elephant.

Some have suggested mere homage, others outright plagiarism. One wag has suggested that Mr Thalluri is suffering from Elephantitis. We have not seen Two Thirty 7 yet (although we eagerly anticipate doing so) and are thus not in a position to judge the merits of these claims.

However, we ARE in a position to continue to monitor what we suspect is Mr Thalluri's continued fraud on the IMDb.

We have been tracking the account adsl87686 for some time now as it appears to be a likely fake, instigated by Mr Thalluri or one of his confederates.

Consider the evidence:
  • The account was set up on May 28, a couple of days after Two Thirty 7 screened at Cannes. Murali claimed to us he was still in Cannes on the 30th of May, and could have easily adopted the French nom de guerre Jean Pierre (see below).

  • adsl87686 has posted twenty times. Eighteen of these entries are on Two Thirty 7. Two are on other films, a laughably unconvincing sop to those who may suspect that Mr Thalluri is up to his old tricks.

  • The content of the posts is invariably sycophantic towards Mr Thalluri and the film, collecting as many reviews for the film as possible. Despite attempting to do this for a better critically received film also at Cannes, Babel, the effort clearly lacks the gusto seen with Two Thirty 7. Why might that be?

  • The sloppy writing style of the posts is similar to that established to be Mr Thalluri's.

  • The number sequence '8768786' at the end of adsl's user name smacks of other suspected Murali accounts: amadeus87987987 and moviebuff49384 (Footnote 1).
After posting 2:37 reviews on the IMDb collated from numerous sources, adsl87686 has now posted a review of his 'own' on the IMDb. Apparantly his name is 'Jean Pierre' and he is from France (Writer's note to Mr Thalluri - this is like calling a character from Mumbai 'Sanjay').

At first it was jarring to read the review – it seemed to be written as an American pastiche, with references to 'junior year' and 'pep club'. Why would a Frenchman write as if he were an American college Freshman? Even more disconcertingly, the style did not match up with adsl87686's other posts. It in fact appeared to be written by a woman, using yet another distinctive Americanism 'Susie High School' when describing themselves.

A brief look at some of adsl87686's previous posts revealed that he had already posted the exact same review, word-for-word here under the reviews thread he started on the IMDb message board.

The punchline, ladies and gentlemen, is that in that original post, he credited the actual author of the review, a Michelle Wheeler from Georgia, USA - the exact same review he later claimed to be his own.

If this is not fraud at its most jaw-droppingly incompetent, we're not sure what is.

PS. 'Somebody' made this T-shirt, which poses the question on its back "Qui est (who is) Murali K. Thalluri?"

The answer appears to be multiple online personae at any given time!

Ironic T-shirt, non?

Update 3/7/2006
Since we wrote this,'Jean Pierre' has altered his review to
include a link to the site it originated, to rid itself of the taint of plagiarism.

7/7/2006: He's since changed the review omitting the citation for Michelle Wheeler's site. It's once again a plagiarised work!

Of course, he still doesn't make it explicit that he is not the author of the review, and there is still no explanation for why a Frenchman feels he must copy an American review instead of writing his own. 'Jean Pierre' has also since gone on to write a smattering of non Two Thirty 7 related comments.

This comment is particularly ironic given what we know about this user:
adsl87686: ... Superman is as much about his identity struggle with Clark as it is about him saving the world.

To us, this activity signals an effort to cover one's tracks after being caught out. It stands to reason that 'Jean Pierre' has seen this article and acted upon it.

Yet these changes have taken place in spite of receiving precisely zero hits from France since writing this article, consolidating our view that he is probably Murali or an accomplice. There have been multiple hits from TPG, Murali's ISP since writing this article, after all.

More digging on the IMDb brought up a breakdown of user ratings for Two Thirty 7:

The film is not yet in wide theatrical release, and thus there are few user ratings for it.

Recall we originally suspected 11 user accounts to be puppets under the control of Murali. Is it by any coincidence that the same number of users have given the movie a perfect 10 out of 10 score?



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Most numbers that append IMDb usernames are short, no more than 4 digits long. Birth years, or years of registration seem to be the most frequently occurring. Other instances feature words followed with a hyphen and two or three digits. These digits seem to be either low numbers or distinctive combinations that would be easy to remember but require a little effort to type.

Contrast what is usually found on the boards with what we see in the names above. These numbers are long and quite high, and can be generated with careless methods that fit a sham account.

In the case of adsl8768786 and amadeus87987987, it looks as though they have been generated in a similar matter. Putting the middle finger of the right hand over the 8 key in the case of the former, the 9 key in the case of the latter, and drumming three fingers from right to left (much easier to do than left to right) on the keyboard a few times we can create the sequence of numbers for both names.

The numbers at the end of moviebuff49384's name appear to be generated in a similarly careless fashion. By placing one's hand at either end of the keyboard and alternating carelessly, we can replicate the low-high-low-high-low number pattern.

Is this proof of anything? No. But for three names sharing these traits to come to the same forum which already is suspected of having fake accounts, it's very suspicious.

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