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Here's why Shoojit Sircar's film Shoebite with Amitabh Bachchan has not been released

An industry source told us the project had been mired in copyright issues, as the story allegedly belonged to noted Hollywood filmmaker, Manoj Night Shyamalan.

Mayur Lookhar

Shoebite, starring superstar Amitabh Bachchan, has been stuck for release for a long time. An industry source told us the project had been mired in copyright issues, as the story allegedly belonged to noted Hollywood filmmaker, Manoj Night Shyamalan.

A couple of days ago, Bachchan had posted a tweet that underlined his frustration over the stalling of his film, Shoebite. The film was written by Renzil D'Silva, directed by Shoojit Sircar and produced by Ronnie Screwvala’s UTV Motion Pictures [now Disney India].

PLEASE .. PLEASE ... PLEASE .. Utv & Disney , or whoever else has it  .. Warners , whoever .. JUST RELEASE THIS FILM .. !! lot of hard labour been put in .. don't KILL creativity !!," tweeted Bachchan.

Sircar had later told The Indian Express, "It’s now Disney UTV and Fox. Earlier, they were separate entities, but they are now under one umbrella. They should absolutely do it [release the film]. Mr Bachchan and I have been pleading. I think Ronnie Screwvala should come forward and resolve it for us as he is the producer and the presenter of the film.”

The project was initially conceived by Percept Picture Company, that had roped in Bachchan as the lead actor and Sircar as the director. They had named the film Johnny Mastana. That film never got made and thereafter, Sircar supposedly took the project to UTV Motion Pictures. Percept Picture Company moved court, but their appeal was dismissed.

Now, if UTV Motion Pictures had the green signal and the film was shot, why didn’t the project see the light of day?

An industry source told us, "From what I’ve heard, Shoojit Sircar had got hold of Manoj Night Shyamalan’s script from some online platform. Later, in a casual conversation with Shyamalan, Screwvala had briefly mentioned about the film Shoebite. Shyamalan found it similar to one of his stories and he threatened a lawsuit against UTV. So, that could be the reason why the film never got released.”

When contacted, this is what Sircar told, “Look, I didn’t write that script. It was written by Renzil D’Silva. I was only commissioned by UTV to direct that film. We shot the film for three years from 2009-2011. Thereafter, we were never given any official reasoning as to why the film couldn’t be released."

D’Silva shed light on what exactly might have happened with the film.

“Yes, I had penned the script for Shoebite. The rights belonged to Shyamalan, who had filed his story as a thesis in New York University. I had met Shyamalan and he gave his script to me. I would have never done anything without his approval. I didn’t go ahead with Percept [Picture Company] because they didn’t get the nod from Shyamalan. He had given us the rights with a 'no fee' arrangement,” said D’Silva.

Rumour has it that Sircar had stumbled upon Shyamalan’s script through some online platform. However, D’Silva rubbished the talk.

“Labour of Love, the source material, was a film that Shyamalan had not made that time. It is a thesis subject in New York Film School. They teach Labour of Love as a screenplay. At that point of time, Percept [Picture Company] wanted to do it without obtaining the rights. I refused. Mr Amitabh Bachchan, too, refused to do it. So, we decided to make it with UTV,” D’Silva clarified.

If they had got the rights from Shyamalan, then why didn’t UTV Motion Pictures release the film in India?

D’Silva didn’t know the official reason, but he said, "I came to know later that the rights actually belonged to someone else who he (Shyamalan), at one point of time, had done a deal with, some studio there [in USA]. So, it became a big muddle. I think in the American system when you write a script, and when it goes to a studio that intends to make it at some point, then the rights rests with that studio. We didn’t know about that process at the time. We went to the author, the screenplay writer. I hope that film is released one day.”