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Who wrote Rani Mukerji’s Hichki: The curious case of missing credits

Hichki’s director Siddharth P Malhotra has issued an official statement denying all accusations made against him, while writer Nishant Kaushik argues that he needs closure.

bollywood Updated: Dec 22, 2017 17:38 IST
Monika Rawal Kukreja
Monika Rawal Kukreja
Hindustan Times
Rani Mukerji,Hichki,Siddharth P Malhotra
Actor Rani Mukerji was last seen in the film Mardaani (2014).

The trailer of Rani Mukerji’s comeback film, Hichki, got a great response following its release on December 19. But immediately afterwards, the filmmakers landed in a controversy — Melbourne-based author Nishant Kaushik accused Yash Raj Films and director Siddharth P Malhotra of not giving him due credits for script contributions.

In a long Twitter rant on December 20, Nishant made statements like “how easy it is to treat writers like trash”. The same day, Siddharth issued a statement, calling the accusations “baseless”.

Reacting to Siddharth’s statement, Nishant tells us, “I have no intention of picking a fight over this. I only wanted to make a point; I made one. He made one in response, which I disagree with but don’t intend to dispute.”

This blame game has once again put the spotlight on the question: do writers actually get taken for granted, or is it that they assume their draft would make it to the final cut, without even getting a confirmation from the filmmakers?

On being contacted, Siddharth tells us, “If Nishant had contributed to even a single scene, why would I have not given him the credit? The film was announced a year ago, so why didn’t he feel the need to get in touch with us then? Can he prove through any e-mail or text message that the script was commissioned to him and that he’d be given the credit?”

The back story is that about two-and-a-half years ago, Nishant was contacted by Siddharth through an agency and asked to submit a draft script on the basis of a very short brief, and he did so. And then, as per his tweets, he never got a response. After watching the trailer, Nishant says, he realised that the storyline had many similarities with his script.

We ask Siddharth if this agency failed to keep Nishant informed, and the director replies, “I can’t talk on their behalf. As a filmmaker, it takes a lot of hard work to come out with a film, and then such negativity is not something you want.”

And what was Nishant’s reason for not contacting the filmmakers when Hichki was announced? “Various reasons!” says the writer. “One, living far away in Melbourne has its own challenges — out of sight, out of mind, until I was reminded via the trailer. In the early months, I did follow up, but didn’t hear back from [Siddharth] or from the agency, so I presumed that maybe like several other film ideas, this was either delayed or shelved.”

While Nishant clarifies that he isn’t expecting to be credited as the writer of Hichki, he insists that “the least I expected was closure”.

He adds, “My time is at a premium. I have a day job, a family to look after and my own novels [to write], too. When I agreed to write for Siddharth, I put everything on the line. I developed characters — of the protagonist as well as of the students under him (my protagonist was male). I invested more than three months in this. The lack of responsiveness was disappointing.”

Miffed with this practice of social media ranting, filmmaker Hansal Mehta states, “It’s high time that the concerned parties sort these issues among themselves and stop washing their dirty linen on social media, because people, after reading these long posts on Twitter and Facebook, jump to judgments without knowing the complete truth.”

And Simran. And 3 Idiots
  • Earlier this year, director Hansal Mehta’s film Simran, starring Kangana Ranaut, was in a huge credit controversy — writer Apurva Asrani expressed his fury with the poster showing Kangana as co-writer, saying that she took undeserved credit.
  • In 2009, Aamir Khan’s award winning-film 3 Idiots created a hullabaloo when novelist Chetan Bhagat stated that he felt “strange” when he was not given an opening credit in the film. He got a passing mention in the end credits of the film, which was loosely based on his novel, Five Point Someone.
  • This year, screenwriter Sameer Gautam accused Apurva Asrani of “insisting on a screenwriting credit” for the Rajkummar Rao-starrer Shahid (2013), which was also directed by Hansal Mehta.

Echoing the writer’s view, filmmaker-screenwriter Apurva Asrani says, “In Bollywood, people often take writers for granted and assume that the other person would understand what the response is. I’ve often given one-line pitches to filmmakers, who have not responded to me. So, all we ask for, as writers, is timely communication, whether the draft we wrote has been liked or rejected or is being used for the final script.”

On Nishant’s claims, Apurva states, “He’s alleging that his efforts haven’t been acknowledged and that he wasn’t given feedback on the material he sent. I’m not sure [if] he’s claiming plagiarism. What seems to have gone wrong is a lack of communication. Whatever work he has done in good faith, used or unused, deserves a response and proper feedback, like in Hollywood. That’s how they nurture good writing.”

Filmmaker Anurag Kashyap believes that Bollywood needs to change its outlook towards writers. “More than the credit, I feel writers should get their money right after they have given the story or the draft to the filmmakers. A writer shouldn’t be subjected to the risk [of] whether the film would be a hit or not. If the filmmakers say that the writers would be paid after the project goes on the floors, then writers have every right to demand profit-sharing, because then it becomes a bigger risk for them, too.”

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First Published: Dec 22, 2017 15:32 IST