Generally, in Bollywood, writers, scriptwriters, screenplay writers are considered one of the main blocks for making a film. Their payment is sometimes overdue which is a very little amount. There was a time in Indian cinema where the writers were paid more than the actors in a film. Salim-Javed, the famous duo who wrote many spectacular films like Zanjeer, Sholay, Kala Pathar, Dewaar and many more were so famous in their time that for Sholay they were paid more money than Amitabh Bachchan. Every film industry in this world respect writers as much as they respect actors or directors. Getting into a legal fight with a director on the allegations of plagiarism by a scriptwriter in India seems so unreal, but such an event has taken place, and by everyone’s surprise the writer has won the case.
Eight months back Jyoti Kapoor had filed a case of copyright violation against a well-known film director, producer Kunal Kohli for lifting up the idea of her film ‘RSVP’ and implementing that idea into his own film ‘Phir Se’. After going through a long ordeal of High Court she decided to take this issue to Supreme Court, and a landmark verdict was presented to her by the supreme court of India, that the producer, director Kunal Kohli should compensate her by giving her 25 lakhs and also give her the credit for the idea of the film. This might not matter to the ‘aam janta’ but for the people who are associated to the film industry, this is a huge verdict, transparency in the film industry was a long overdue, but finally this has been paid. In such issues, a writer always faces the dilemma of whether go to a court to grab back the rights which are his or move on in life because the fight for the rights in court won’t come easy. Many such unheard cases will come into the limelight, as many such writers or technicians would have settled for the better by not complaining about in the courts.
Jyoti said the verdict has brought a sense of closure after eight months of back-breaking work that at times left her disillusioned. “The compensation will take care of the lawyer’s fees. This is a professional, legal and moral victory for my fraternity and me. A friend who had given up on a copyright case half-way through called to say he was reopening the case,” Jyoti said.
Initially, Jyoti had negotiated with Kunal Kohli on her script, and Kunal also showed interest in buying the script but he wanted to make certain changes in the script and also doesn’t want to credit Jyoti for the script. The writer refused to oblige with the terms that Kunal Kohli had posed to her and she moved on. she then went to another film producer who showed a keen interest in the script and had also given the advance for the script to the writer.
After then, Kunal Kohli started working on his new project which was also going to mark his debut as an actor. Jyoti read about the film in the newspaper and sensed some resemblance with her own script. She filed a complaint with the Film Writers Association. The committee of the Film Writers Association took the decision in Jyoti’s favor. Kunal Kohli appealed the verdict at the Appellate Tribunal, which comprises three senior writers. The Tribunal compared the two scripts without being told who had written which one. The Tribunal too detected major overlap in the two scripts. Since Jyoti had registered her script with the Film Writers Association before Kohli began work on his film, the Tribunal declared that it was a clear case of copyright violation. Then the case went to the Joint Dispute Settlement Committee which comprises members of the Federation of Western India Cine Employees to which all 22 trade associations are affiliated. The representatives of the producers association (IMPPA) met with those of the Federation to sort out the issue. People were prompting Jyoti to go to Bombay High Court to put a stay on Kunal Kohli’s film. She went to the Bombay High Court where The Bombay High Court asked for a guarantee of Rs 50 lakh from Kunal but vacated the stay. Jyoti broke down in the court and was told by many people to drop the case but her husband who himself is a freelance writer encouraged her to go the Supreme Court, which she did and the rest is history.
This verdict brought a morale boost to the writers that no matter how big the production company is if something is being snatched from you then take the stand and fight for your rights.