The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Veil on Karishma, Barbara opens up

Calcutta, May 13: Devyani Aman Singh — woman of wealth, goodness and “incomparable aura”. The much-publicised half-hour seen at 9.30 pm, Monday, held out merely a glimpse of the Asian Businesswoman of the Year — shot (and recovered) — and her “Xerox copy”.

Today, there was no sign of the powder-and-pepper hair or its young avatar as the Supreme Court order yesterday, staying the telecast, took hold.

Barbara Taylor Bradford — bestselling author and queen of romance — showed up, though, to defend her creation. After moving court in Calcutta against copyright infringement, she turned to a public platform, alleging Sahara’s Karishma — The Miracles of Destiny plagiarises her “three books” and “three movies” based on them.

It was a tale of three cities — Calcutta, Delhi and London — and two stars, as the off-screen drama raced ahead of the on-screen action on pause.

Karishma premiered on Sahara Manoranjan yesterday, but viewers will have to wait a while to find out what happens to its star — played by Karisma Kapoor — who rose from poverty to head the Devyani Group of Industries, as the channel “pulled the show and all promos” off the air in line with the court order.

But last night’s hotly-contested 30 minutes was noted with dissatisfaction by writer-star Taylor Bradford in London. The BBC News World Edition website quoted her as saying in an interview that “they (Sahara) are in contempt of the Supreme Court of India”.

Her solicitors, said Calcutta legal sources, are also planning to “move a contempt application, but can’t tell where and when”. In the interview, the novelist accused the makers of Karishma of “plagiarising three of her bestselling books, including A Woman of Substance, and three movies based on them.

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch owns HarperCollins, the publisher of A Woman of Substance. Murdoch also owns the STAR Television network, whose STAR Plus channel is Sahara’s competitor.

“They do not have any rights to it and people keep doing interviews saying that the series is based on A Woman of Substance,” Taylor Bradford said.

She also “warns that TV companies should realise that global communications have meant that authors would know if their work was being plagiarised”.

A partner at Fox & Mandal, Taylor Bradford’s solicitors, said she is “closely following the case and calling regularly for the latest developments”.

Even as Calcutta High Court witnessed the continuation of the copyright hearing today, there was anticipation that Sahara would move the Supreme Court to have the stay vacated to allow Day-II broadcast. That didn’t happen, but tomorrow the case will come up for hearing once more at the apex court.

In Calcutta, advocates appearing for Sahara pleaded before Justice P.C. Ghose for “some more time” to file an affidavit in the copyright breach suit. The judge gave a week and fixed the next hearing for May 22.

Karishma’s fortunes had fluctuated wildly yesterday. First, Justice P.C. Ghose stood by his May 7 injunction preventing the airing of the show till the verdict in the copyright case. That was followed by a vacation of the stay in Sahara’s favour in the appellate court. Then, the Delhi office of Fox & Mandal moved Supreme Court to request “the assigning of a vacation bench to hear the case on grounds of urgency on Monday night itself”.

Apparently, Justices Santosh Hegde and Shivraj Patil heard the case at the former’s residence, and the stay on the telecast was granted at 8 pm. It was not been possible to contact Sahara officials to stop the premiere at the time. At 9.30 pm, the show was beamed, as scheduled.

Twenty-four hours later, Karishma’s destiny is in freeze frame.

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