HC nullifies winners’ list for cine awards amid plagiarism row

Updated on Jan 20, 2023 12:15 AM IST

The Orissa high court has scrapped the entire winners’ list of the 31st edition of the Odisha state film awards, announced in 2019, after it found that two films were “scene by scene copies” of a Korean and a Punjabi film

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ByDebabrata Mohanty, Bhubaneswar

The Orissa high court has scrapped the entire winners’ list of the 31st edition of the Odisha state film awards, announced in 2019, after it found that two films were “scene by scene copies” of a Korean and a Punjabi film.

The reproduction of already existing work in the two films, that were to win five prizes between them, harmed the integrity of art, the court observed.

The Odia State Cine Awards are handed out by the state culture department and are the state-level equivalent of the National Film Awards.

In 2019, 41 such awards were announced.

In his order on Thursday, justice SK Panigrahi said that a fresh list of nominees should be published within a month.

The order came on a petition of filmmaker Bobby Islam, who approached the HC in December 2021, alleging that two movies in the winners’ list — Khusi and Golmal Love — were reproductions of Korean film Hope and Punjabi film Carry on Jatta, respectively.

While the 41 awardees were announced, the HC stayed the award ceremony two days before it was scheduled to be held.

The court, in its order, also made it clear that both these films will not be eligible for fresh nominations.

“Considering a comparison of the films (Khusi and Golmal Love) with the plot and scenes in the Korean film “Hope” and Punjabi film “Carry on Jatta”; it is clear that from the plethora of facts, circumstances and stated overlap that the impugned motion films are un-credited remakes of the aforementioned non-Odia films. These films have been manipulated slightly to evade the scanner of an uncanny resemblance. The content of the films cannot be called ‘original’ with respect to Orissa Film Award Rules from any angle of judgement,” the HC said in its order.

Calling it a matter of “great embarrassment”, the HC said, “The manner in which those films were considered and declared the winners of the prestigious Odia State Cine Awards is a matter of great embarrassment and concern for the Odia cinema and artiste community.”

In his petition, Islam had alleged that Khusi and Golmal Love breached the rules for entry for the awards under section 3(b) of the Orissa State Awards for Films Rules, 2010 as they were not original films. While Khusi won the awards in best actor, best actress, best editor and best child artiste category, Golmal Love won for best comedy. Islam alleged that like the Korean film Hope in which the female protagonist, a young girl named Hope, gets sexually abused by a male stranger and undergoes major surgery, Khusi released in 2019, is based on an incident of rape of a schoolgirl named Khusi that leaves the victim and her family completely shaken. Similarly, Golmal Love, released in 2019, was a frame to frame remake of 2012 Punjabi comedy film Carry on Jatta, Islam said.

The High Court said that the irregularities in selection could easily have been avoided had the jury been more vigilant and mindful of their responsibility.

“The duty of judgement is a sacred one; be it a judge of law or the jury of the cine awards. The jury should be mindful that their duty is the application of standards of highest quality to the matters of consideration, that the state is an institution of law and not of men. The jury should fulfill their duty with a due regard to the integrity of the system of the law and integrity of arts, remembering that he/she is not a depositary of arbitrary power, but a judge with the responsibility to uphold the integrity of themselves as well as the institution,” the HC said.

Justice Panigrahi said that it is this same lack of standards and “heedlessness” that allow plagiarism in the film business to go unpunished and unregulated, and said that the film business must develop a self-regulatory mechanism.

“In fact, due to lack of regulation and significant costs of litigation, the majority of dis-satisfied creators choose not to pursue legal action. A strict system of checks and balances must be implemented in order to support and encourage the triumph of originality in the Odia cine tradition. Even the film business should develop a self-regulatory framework to deal with plagiarism, educate people about it, and punish guilty creators,” the HC said.

However, other awardees on the 2019 list said that the order had penalized them for no fault of their own. Bobby Mishra, who won the award for best supporting actor said, “The whole process has already been delayed by more than a year. I wish the HC had not cancelled the entire list and hope the new jury completes its selection and does justice to the prestige of the awards.”

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