Interview Hindi

Hichki not my story, but unfair to say I wasn't a contributor: Writer Nishant Kaushik


Kaushik caused a stir when he revealed that the trailer for Siddharth P Malhotra's Hichki contains elements of the plot he had worked with the director on 2.5 years ago. 

Photo: Twitter/@nofreecopies

Shriram Iyengar

The trailer of Siddharth P Malhotra's Hichki arrived with much fanfare, only to be shocked back to reality with writer Nishant Kaushik's revelation on Twitter. On 20 December, Kaushik revealed that he had been one of the early writers to collaborate with Malhotra on the plot, which would eventually take the shape of the Rani Mukerji starrer. 

Hichki trailer: Rani Mukerji is the new hero with a mission and a few hiccups!

Yash Raj Films and director Malhotra sent out a rebuttal statement on Wednesday night denying any allegations of impropriety on their part. In his statement, Malhotra wrote, "Several prominent writers like Amole Gupte, Abbas Tyrewala have worked on the story of Hichki and we have obtained NOCs [no-objection certificates] from them and I thank each one of them for being creative contributors of Hichki. We have credited all the writers who have worked in our film. So it is ridiculous that we will not give credit to anyone in particular who has worked hard and contributed for Hichki." While he did not deny Kaushik's involvement in the project, Malhotra added that Kaushik's story was rejected because "the story and slant he came up with was not what we were looking for."

Cinestaan.com reached out to Kaushik to understand his version of the events. In a detailed email, Kaushik wrote, "When I saw the trailer, I was hurt. Hurt, not because I felt Hichki was my story. It arguably is not my story, because what I wrote has probably been improvised, modified, and repackaged as a different product. But it is not fair to say I wasn't a contributor. A contributor, even if not treated as the final writer of the film, should at least be acknowledged for the time and effort he has invested in your work. There was no such acknowledgement, no show of courtesy." 

A novelist and writer, settled in Australia, Kaushik maintains that he submitted a 20-page synopsis to Malhotra in 2015, after being approached to help with the script.

"In March 2015, I was connected via email to Siddharth Malhotra wherein we exchanged phone numbers and emails to get talking about a film he wanted to make. All conversation happened only over the phone. I was in Melbourne then and looked forward to writing content for films given my background as a novelist. Siddharth gave me a brief depiction of what he was looking for — the story of a teacher who battles his own limitations whilst mentoring students who need a helping hand (note, this was more than 2.5 years so this brief may not be treated verbatim). Following this I began developing characters, developed the protagonist as a middle-class male teacher with a stammering problem, and drafted character sketches of the students coached under him. I gave intermittent updates on the development of my storyline (over email) before finally submitting a 20-pager synopsis." 

Hichki, according to its makers, is an official remake of Front Of The Class (2008), whose rights have been acquired by Malhotra. The film is based on the real life of Brad Cohen, a teacher afflicted by Tourette's Syndrome. While the original had Jimmy Wolk play the character, Malhotra's film has Rani Mukerji take on the role. 

In a tweet though, Kaushik denied working on the synopsis with Front Of The Class as his starting point. He tweeted 'Probably that's what it ENDED UP BEING in 2.5 years. In 2015, I wasn't told that was the desire of the makers.'

In his email to Cinestaan.com, Kaushik recounted that communication from Malhotra ceased post the submission of his synopsis.

Expressing dismay at the manner in which writers are treated in the industry, he wrote, "My grouse is that a writer in India can be treated with such disrespect. While there are associations representing us, I hear stories every day of writers complaining that their stories were flicked away to be made into major motion pictures. Writers are artists, as are directors and actors and musicians and other wonderful people that make a film. In times when old movies are being recycled into blockbuster hits, I hear people waxing eloquent about the need for good quality writers. Well, respecting writers for the work they do will be a good start in that direction," he added. 

Kaushik also emphasized that he did not seek any gains from this, other than the right to his work. "I am settled happily with my family in Melbourne, have a comfortable day job, as well as a number of novels that my dear reader friends have very kindly loved and read. I have no gains that I seek from the rant I started this afternoon, except to raise a request that there be a rally for organized protocol while approaching writers to contribute to a project," clarified the writer.

Hichki is currently set to be released on 23 February 2018.