| A still from Karishma
Calcutta, May 15: An innocent letter from a fan was the siren that set Barbara Taylor Bradford into action. The elated e-mail from India gushed about the upcoming TV show based, apparently, on her bestselling novel A Woman of Substance and its legendary heroine, Emma Harte.
“I am not a lending library” — sarcastic words from the queen of pulp romance, over the phone from London. The mail prompted Bradford to do some digging, and proved to be the first push towards the legal battle being fought in Calcutta and Delhi courts over the airing of Sahara Manoranjan’s show, Karishma — The Miracles of Destiny.
She logged on to the Sahara website (which is currently not accessible). “I found out this show was a lavish production with 52 songs!” exclaims the Manhattan-based author. “When I realised that this was not a small film, I became concerned,” she adds.
Her lawyers in New York then put the Bradfords in touch with Som Mandal of Fox & Mandal. Soon after, they saw a picture on the front page of an Indian newspaper “saying Karisma Kapoor was starring in the show based on Barbara Taylor Bradford’s works”.
A call from a curious journalist was the icing on the copyright cake, and she and her husband Robert decided to fly down to India to settle the matter. “So last Wednesday, we flew down to Calcutta and won an injunction.”
The British-born Bradford then, say her lawyers, chartered a private jet.
Bradford feels “violated” by the “infringement of copyright”, something which the writer of just under 20 books says has never happened to her before. “Not a call, not a letter… They took the book without permission and without paying me for the book…. I know this happens all the time, but Bollywood is not right, Bollywood is wrong.”
The indignant author emphatically states that “they (producers) can’t do this in life. Too many people will start taking action.”
Reinforced by the court injunction staying the telecast of the 260-episode serial, she is determined to see this thing through. “I trust the Supreme Court of India to do the right thing.”
But she is not rigid. “A compromise can be reached,” she says. “They will have to approach my lawyers. I want it off the air, if they don’t acknowledge my copyright. I want some compensation as well.”
“Now it’s a civil appeal, which may continue for years,” observes Som Mandal.
“Our first objective was to stop the serial’s broadcasting. That’s been achieved and now we are open to discussions with Sahara if they want to buy the rights from our client. By doing this they will set a healthy trend of giving the due to the author and she may even lend her weight for better marketing of the serial.”
A Woman of Substance and its sequels, Hold the Dream and To Be the Best, have received huge response from readers globally since the launch 23 years ago.
Later this year, Emma Harte is coming back by popular demand in Emma’s Secret. Another book about Harte and her dynasty will follow. That is also something which “troubles” the writer, at this “vulnerable” time.
Bradford is being “applauded from the sidelines” by publishers HarperCollins — a subsidiary of the Rupert Murdoch-owned News Corporation — but she is spending her “own money” to fight the case.
The response from loyal readers has also been a revelation. “I have received 500 to 600 messages from India saying ‘Good for you, Mrs Bradford!’” she says.
“I am not against India, I am against this practice. I would love to come to India for a holiday. Both me and my husband think Indian women are the most beautiful in the world.”
On whether those beautiful women will ever find a place in one of her novels, she laughs: “Maybe I will!”