Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Same script, 2 films: Big B movie caught in legal row [India]

Percept Picture Company has brought an injunction against UTV Motion Pictures, alleging that the idea of Shoojit Sircar's Shoebite was earlier sold to them as Johny Walker with Big B in the lead. But UTV representatives said they had not received any injunction order yet.

Shailendra Singh of Percept said, "We were to make Johny Walker with Amitabh Bachchan and Shoojit Sircar. Bachchan was even paid a signing amount but we couldn't manage to get the shooting dates and so the project was put on hold. We were very excited about the film, dealing with a pan-India subject, and our company even did a reconnaissance for it." Bachchan apparently even returned the signing amount to Percept and the whole matter was put behind by the company till it saw some promotional material of a film titled Shoebite, with Bachchan and Sarika in the lead. "A red alarm went off in my head," Singh said. "I realised that Shoebite looked identical to our film, Johny Walker." Singh said he tried calling UTV's Ronnie Screwvala but failed. Meanwhile, Percept gathered evidence to try and prove that Sircar had sold the same subject to UTV. Percept then did what it thought was correct; it took the matter to court. The official release from Percept Holdings said, "Percept approached the Delhi high court to protect its intellectual property in the script, Johny Walker, which has been registered. Counsel Rajiv Nayyar, instructed by Ameet Naik of Naik, Naik and Company, and Rishi Agarwal appeared for Percept. The Delhi high court was prima facie convinced that Shoojit Sircar disregarded the terms of his engagement with Percept and was making the Amitabh Bachchan-starrer, Shoebite, with UTV based on Percept's script. The high court granted an injunction, restraining UTV from infringing on Percept's copyright in the script and dialogue of the film, Johny Walker, in any manner, including by making the film, Shoebite, based on the script." It is an ex-parte injunction and a notice has been issued to UTV and Sircar. The court will next hear the matter on September 3. Trade reports say Shoebite is almost 60% complete, having finished schedules in Shimla and Nashik. UTV said it had not received any injunction order while Sircar remained unavailable for comment. Singh and Percept are, however, adamant that UTV will not be able to continue with the shooting/trading of Shoebite till the legal issues are sorted out. But what is the film, Shoebite, about?

Bachchan has written on his blog, "The film is a glimpse into the life of 60-year-old bookstore owner John Pereira, a man like most married men, who takes his wife of 40 years, Aditi, somewhat for granted. His entire world, however, turns upside down the day Aditi meets with a near-fatal accident and falls into deep coma. Sitting there by the side of her inert form, John decides to do something for her as an act of penance. Something extraordinary."

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