The Delhi High Court on Monday slapped a fine for Rs 10 lakh on filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma and his production house for "intentionally and deliberately" remaking 1975 blockbuster Sholay and violating the exclusive copyright vested with the film's director Ramesh Sippy. The court also said the filmmaker "distorted and mutilated the original work" .
The judgement was delivered on a lawsuit filed by Sascha Sippy, son and grandson of original Sholay's producers Vijay Sippy and G P Sippy. Sascha had alleged that the remake film, Ram Gopal Varma ke Sholay, was "violative of exclusive copyright held by the Sholay Media and Entertainment Pvt Ltd."
The HC imposed a fine of Rs 10 Lakh as "punitive damages" on Varma, his production house M/S RGV Productions Pvt Ltd as well as Varma Corporation Ltd and Madhu Varma and restrained them from using any character like Gabbar or Gabbar Singh from the original film. It held that Varma's film gave an overall impression that it was a remake of Sholay as the characters Gabbar and Gabbar Singh were misused, along with music, lyrics, dialogues and background score of the blockbuster featuring Dharmendra, Amitabh Bacchan, Sanjeev Kumar, Hema Malini and Amjad Khan among others.
"The publicity material coupled with the impugned film, gives an overall impression that it is a remake of the film Sholay. The use of similar plot and characters in the impugned film coupled with use of the underlying music, lyrics and background score and even dialogues from the original film Sholay amounts to infringement of copyright in the film Sholay," Justice Manmohan Singh said.
Further, the court said the makers of Ram Gopal ki Aag had "distorted and mutilated the original copyright work" of the original. "On the relevant date, they were aware about the rights of the plaintiffs, their ownership and authorship as well as use of unauthorised copyright. It is not the case of the said defendants that the same is not created by the plaintiffs and they are not the owners and authors," the order said.
It also held that even if Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag is considered as an adaptation of the original, it was without authorisation of the copyright owner amounting to "passing off as the plaintiffs are the owner of the names of characters and dialogues". Such use by Varma and others was unauthorised and it was their deliberate act "in order to gain profits", the judge said, adding that "they are also guilty of infringement under Section 14(a) read with Section 55 of Copyright Act, 1957."
HC said the producers and director of the remake film "are not able to assign any valid reason for the same and despite of statement made in the court for change of the name of the movie, when the same was released, still it appears that the defendants' movie have similar name of the characters and they have used the lyrics and dialogues in material form in their movie."
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