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High time Copyright Act is strictly followed and respected: Praveen Morchhale

The National award-winning director of Walking With The Wind (2017) has filed a case against the producer and writer of the upcoming film Bala (2019) for violating the copyright of a story idea that he had registered in 2007.

Sonal Pandya

Filmmaker Praveen Morchhale is moving ahead with his copyright violation case against producer Dinesh Vijan and writer Niren Bhatt of Bala (2019), starring red-hot-right-now Ayushmann Khurrana.

The filmmaker said he had registered his own story with the Film Writers' Association back in 2007. When he sent the makers of Bala a legal notice in June, he got an unsatisfactory response, Morchhale said.

He then filed a case against Vijan and Bhatt in the Bombay high court under the Copyright Act of 1957 on 28 August. Cinestaan.com reached out to Morchhale and asked when he learnt of a film being made with his registered screenplay.

"I came to know about the film Bala through a news article in May-end," he stated via email. "I found that the storyline looks similar and through further online search and a few more articles, I found it is very much similar to the premature balding satire comedy which I wrote and registered in 2007 with the Film Writers' Association, almost 12 years ago. In the past many years, I have discussed it with many industry people to make it into a film. This film I wanted to be very different."

After contacting his legal adviser, Morchhale sent over a legal notice to Bala's producers. But the exchange was not what he had hoped for.

"First, their legal adviser asked for more time as they were waiting for instructions from the producers. When we did not get a response in due course, we sent a notice to them. Only then they replied, [but the reply] was unsatisfactory and evasive. This forced me to take legal action," Morrchhale said.

According to a report in the tabloid Mumbai Mirror, Vijan's Maddock Films said in an official statement: Maddock is not aware of any case being filed against it by Mr Morchhale and denies that he has anything to do with its film Bala. Nobody from Maddock has ever met with Mr Morchhale or is even aware of him being associated with a story of a bald man.

The National award-winning director of Walking With The Wind (2017) believes strongly in protecting his work. "I have spent more than two years of hard work to develop the concept and write the screenplay. In cinema, your idea, the screenplay, is the soul. I am really sorry to say, in the film industry, copyright is not respected the way it is all over the world. Every day we hear of violation of authors' work.

"I cannot let anyone just take artistic work for granted. This is a big misconception... that the producer never met the writer so how can it be an issue of violation. This is a misplaced argument. If this is the case, then just pick any book and make a movie and give the excuse that the producer [and] director never met the writer so [there's] no reason for violation. Copyright gives the author the right to freely share, discuss [and] spread his work. It cannot be just a coincidence that there are a lot of similarities. [The] idea could have [been] passed on to them by anyone with whom I shared and discussed it," he explained.

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Morchhale has faith that the courts will look into the matter and take it up intently. "I am going to pursue it very strongly and it should be a statement on the conditions prevailing in the industry. It is high time the Copyright Act is strictly followed and respected. I know there are many writers who have similar kind of horrible experiences with their story and screenplays. There must be a morality as well when the question of creative work comes," he said.

Bala (2019), which also stars Bhumi Pednekar and Yami Gautam, is due to be released on 22 November.