Goodbye to copy cat days

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  • Published 19.07.09

Next week, a venerable old film banner will go to court. BR Films will stand in the dock in a decisive case over Indian filmmakers’ tendency to remake Hollywood hits without buying the necessary rights.

However, is there a big dirty tricks department at work in this case?

When BR Films’ Ravi Chopra began filming his Govinda-Lara Dutta comedy Banda Yeh Bindaas Hai, he was clear that he’d completely overhauled and re-written an Indianised version of My Cousin Vinny. Apparently, when he began the film, Ravi had sought the remaking rights but was assured that since he was taking only an idea and he’d written a totally fresh screenplay, there was no need to buy the rights. He said that he’d even got written permission from the makers of My Cousin Vinny to go ahead with his Hindi film.

So, why would they now drag him to court for not legally buying the rights of the film?

One hears that Ravi Chopra’s Banda Yeh Bindaas Hai is ready for release — it has been ready since last October. But between the starting of the film and its completion, the market changed colours. BR Films and BIG, the Reliance wing that had the distribution rights, soon locked horns over the price — the latter wanted BR to re-negotiate terms but the former felt it was now being offered peanuts, so no thank you. With the film ready to hit the theatres but BIG in no mood to do the needful at an unaffordable price, Banda Yeh Bindaas Hai languished in the cans until the Chopras decided to simply end the deal and release it themselves.

Not so simple. With perfect timing, a lawsuit was slapped on BR Films by Twentieth Century Fox for flicking their film without buying the rights!

You could ask, how come Fox woke up after more than two years, after the BIG deal fell through, when all along it’s been no secret that Banda Yeh Bindaas Hai had taken its inspiration from My Cousin Vinny? Or, you could ask the question, did a highly-placed executive at BR Films who was negotiating for the rights muff up when he gave the filmmaker the green signal?

The courts will find the right answers. Meanwhile, Ravi Chopra stands in the uncomfortable position of being made an example, for this case will decide whether Indian filmmakers can continue to get their ‘inspiration’ with impunity, or buy rights the legal way.

One outcome of this case is that you can bid goodbye to the days when Mansoor and Aamir Khan made Akele Hum Akele Tum (inspired by Kramer Vs Kramer), Mahesh Bhatt remade Collateral and called it The Killer and David Dhawan got away with Partner, an Indianised The Hitch.

Karan Johar has always played it safe on this front. Even when he filmed the song Pretty Woman in Kal Ho Naa Ho, he got the rights from the makers of the Richard Gere film. At this moment, Siddharth Malhotra is sitting with Shanker-Ehsan-Loy on the music of his version of the Julia Roberts-Susan Sarandon film The Stepmom. Karan Johar will be producing it, with Kajol and Kareena Kapoor in the two main roles.

Careful as ever, Karan has officially bought the rights of The Stepmom before embarking on the Hindi version of the film.

A completely unconnected parting shot: Sajid Nadiadwala has coined a word for all the (deservedly) harsh reviews his film Kambakkht Ishq has got. He calls it ‘gang rape’. Taking it further, he told a trade paper editor who’d used milder lingo against the film, “You raped me too. But since you used a lubricant it didn't hurt too much!”

Bharathi S. Pradhan is managing editor of Movie Mag International