Madhuri Dixit and Juhi Chawla- starrer film ‘Gulaab Gang’ will hit theatres tomorrow across the country as scheduled as the Delhi High Court today lifted the stay granted on its release by a single judge bench on the ground that the movie depicts an activist and her ‘Gulabi Gang’ in poor light.
“The film can only be shown after giving a clear disclaimer that it has nothing to do with the life of Sampat Pal (respondent) and her organisation Gulabi Gang,” a division bench of acting Chief Justice B D Ahmed and Justice Siddharth Mridul said.
The film is scheduled for nationwide release tomorrow and it had landed in trouble after a single judge bench yesterday stayed its release by nearly nine weeks after taking note of defamation law suit filed by Sampat Pal, a Uttar Pradesh-based activist.
Pal, who runs ‘Gulabi Gang comprising women vigilantes wearing pink sarees, said she and her members help harassed women and girls by resorting to peaceful means and the prommos of the film show that the lead actor, playing her character, was shown as an anti-social element, wielding swords and sickles, contrary to her real life persona.
The larger bench agreed in the forenoon to hear today itself the plea of producer Sahara One Media and Entertainment Ltd against the interim order of single judge bench.
“When did you come to know that the film is based on your life? Why you came so late”? the bench said.
Citing the case records, the counsel for Pal said there was no delay on her part and she has moved the court after the producers refused to reply to the legal notice.
Senior advocate Rajiv Nayar, appearing for the producer, said “the law is well settled that the pre-publication injunction cannot be granted in such cases.”
Countering the plea, Pal cited the earlier High Court judgement and said the release of ‘Bandit Queen’ was first stayed and was allowed to be screened only after some objectionable portions were removed.
During the hearing, the court said “the film may be influenced from your life but it is not you. Tell us the storyline as to whether she has been shown in good or bad light.”
“Good,” the counsel for the producer replied. “The protagonist is shown as a crusader of women’s right,” senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for the distrbutors, said.
The lead actor is shown as an anti-social element, wielding swords and sickles, contrary to her real life persona, the counsel for Pal said, adding Madhuri Dixit and Juhi Chawla “are on record” as saying that the film is based on Pal and her ‘Gulabi Gang’.
“You can always seek damages,” the bench said and fixed the matter for further hearing on February 10.
The single judge had restrained the producers and their agents from “releasing, exhibiting, distributing and promoting” the film in India till the next date of hearing on May 8, saying “irreparable damage and injury” would be caused to Pal if it is released.
The single judge had noted that while the producers might suffer monetary loss, Pal will suffer both financial loss, as her copyright over Gulabi Gang has been used without her permission, as well as loss of reputation “which cannot be calculated in terms of money”.
Pal in her plea has claimed her permission was not sought prior to making of the film and had alleged it contains defamatory content which would adversely affect her reputation.
She has alleged that as per the film’s prommos, the lead actress playing her character was shown as an anti-social wielding swords and sickles, contrary to her real life persona.
While staying the release of the film – censored or uncensored–the court had rejected the argument of the producers that Pal should not be granted any relief as she came to the court at the last minute despite knowing about the making of the film since March 2013, saying it found no merit in the contention.
The producers’ counsel had argued that the intention of Pal from the start was to derail the film’s release at the last moment as she took no action, till filing of the case, after sending a cease-and-desist notice in June 2013.