Posted by Fenil Seta
Sanyukta Iyer (MUMBAI MIRROR; July 1, 2017)
Filmmaker Praveen Vyas, whose 2016 docu-feature Manini won the third prize among 4500 entries themed around the Swachh Bharat Mission at last year’s International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa, has sent a legal notice and a cease and desist notice for the trailer and promotional campaign of the upcoming Akshay Kumar-starrer Toilet - Ek Prem Katha.
Vyas has alleged that several scenes and dialogues from the upcoming Independence Day release are a direct copy of his documentary and addressed the legal notices to the Bollywood film’s production and distribution company, Viacom 18 Motion Pictures. “Manini follows the female protagonist as she protests against lack of a toilet in her marital home on the first night of her marriage after female relatives wake her up before sunrise to tend to nature’s call in an open field. The scenes in Toilet - Ek Prem Katha’s trailer shows the same interaction between characters,” Vyas told Mirror.
After its IFFI win, Manini was uploaded on the official website of the National Film Development Corporation, and awarded a certification of appreciation by I&B Minister of State Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore. “It’s plot was novel and the characters unique and my docu-feature was commended for its creativity and treatment. No one can make another cinematographic work or any other derivative work without my written consent if their work directly resembles mine,” Vyas reasoned, adding that he and his screenplay writer, Shanker Arnimesh, were equally alarmed by the trailer and promotional campaign of Akshay’s satirical comedy that aligns with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachcha Bharat Abhiyan.
Vyas informed that he had, through his lawyers of the Delhibased Litmus Legal, sent a legal notice and appealed for a stay order on the film on June 15, stating that it is an infringement of his copyright with respect to the central theme. “The makers of Toilet - Ek Prem Katha had two weeks, which was extended to a further seven days, to respond to the notice. They reverted through their legal team at Naik Naik & Co. on June 28,” he shared. Shanker added, “Since they have denied all our allegations and refused to monetarily compensate us for the origin of idea and script, we will now be fighting this in court.”
Pointing to more similarities, Vyaas argued that the bride’s refusal to go out in the open to defecate is almost the same dialogue as that in his film, as also the fights by the husband to build a toilet within the house. The film concludes with a toilet coming to fruition after the couple has weathered several hardships.
Shital Bhatia, producer and co-founder of Friday Filmworks that is co-producing Toilet: Ek Prem Katha with Neeraj Pandey and Akshay, denied Vyas’s allegations, saying, “These allegations are baseless and border on harassment. The script of our film has been registered under our writers’ names, Siddharth and Garima, with the authorised industry association since 2013. Furthermore, the film has been in the public domain through various news stories since July 2015. We firmly deny all the claims made by this gentleman who is obviously misled. It is sad that genuine producers have become soft targets for this kind of nuisance,” he stated.