‘Ram Gopal Varma ki Aag’,a pitiable attempt of recreating the cinematic magic of cult classic ‘Sholay’, has been in news ever since its inception, whether due to law suits or its miserable performance at the box office. The movie once again hit the headlines when the Hon’ble Delhi High Court recently granted a permanent injunction against the makers of the impugned film, restraining the defendants from infringing the copyright, trademarks, and moral rights of the plaintiffs.
The main claim put forward by the plaintiffs was that the exclusive rights to authorize the exploitation of the cinematographic film Sholay remains vested with Sholay Media and Entertainment Pvt Ltd., and the same were not obtained by the defendants. Therefore the acts of the defendants amounted to infringement under section 51 of the Copyright Act.
However the defendants took the stance that rights were lawfully acquired from Mr. Ajit Sippy. This defense fell flat on its face when plaintiffs reiterated about numerous meetings that took place between the Director of the impugned film and plaintiffs with regard to the remake, which ultimately did not reach culmination due to creative differences. This showed that the defendants were well aware that copyright lay with the plaintiffs and not with Mr. Ajit Sippy as claimed. Moreover, even in the earlier lawsuits, the courts have recognized the rights of the plaintiffs as copyright owners of Sholay, and restrained third parties, including Mr. Ajit Sippy, from infringing plaintiffs’ rights.
Several factors tilted the court’s decision in favour of the plaintiffs. The plot coupled with the underlying music, lyrics, background score and, even the dialogues of the impugned movie bore a stark similarity to the original film. The main as well as peripheral characters in the impugned film also bore a striking resemblance to the characters of the original movie. Further, in an effort to create anticipation for the impugned movie, the same was publicized to be a remake of Sholay.
Hence, the court passed a permanent injunction restraining the defendants from using trademarks that were identical or deceptively similar to that of the plaintiffs’. The defendants were also restrained from infringing the copyright of the plaintiffs in the film Sholay, by substantially reproducing it or its constituent parts, and from passing off their film or in any other manner associating their film with the film of the plaintiffs’, so as to pass off or enable others to pass off the defendants’ production or work as that of the plaintiffs’.
The defendants were also restrained from infringing the moral rights of the plaintiffs. As per Section 57 of Copyright Act, morals rights are rights which remain with the author of the work even after the latter has assigned, either wholly or partially, the copyright. Under this section,an author has the right to claim authorship of his work; and to restrain distortion, modification, mutilation or any other act in relation to his work which is done before the expiration of the term of copyright,if such distortion, mutilation, modification or other act would be prejudicial to his honor or his reputation.In addition, the court also ordered the defendants to pay a sum of Rs. 10, 00,000 to the plaintiffs as punitive damages.
On another note, the court should also award Ram Gopal Varma with paying the audiences, who unfortunately burned holes in their pockets and had to sit through this movie. If only Ram Gopal Varma could go back in time and stop himself from making the debacle that is ‘Ram Gopal Varma ki Aag’; he surely would have saved himself and his audience from a lot of pain.
 Section 57 in the Copyright Act, 1957