Pooja Bhatt is an angry woman. The actress-producer-director, who made headlines last week for taking objections to film-maker Vipul Shah’s upcoming Akshay Kumar-Sonakshi Sinha’s film title — Holiday-A Soldier Is Never Off Duty, wants the film industry to tackle the issue of the title game. Bhatt, whose company Fisheye Network alongwith her partner Sujit Kumar of Shreya Creations, had registered and used Holiday for her Dino Morea-starrer in 2006, still has rights to it till November 2016.
When contacted, Bhatt said her stance to voice her displeasure was not motivated to grab headlines or extort compensation money, but to question the role and validity of primary associations like the Association of Motion Pictures and Television Producers, (AMPTP), Indian Motion Pictures Producers Association (IMPPA) and the Guild (Film and Television Producers Guild of India) that govern the film industry.
“I don’t want to gloss over the details of this issue or water it down, and neither do I want to stir up trouble. But the fact is that the title game has become a racket, and it’s not about Vipul Shah and Akshay Kumar. Vipul has used the loophole in the trade bodies to take the title, Holiday, and this has exposed the rot within the industry, which seems to be dishonest, unreliable and dysfunctional. I come from a respected film family, but in this business a woman protesting against anything shakes the equilibrium,” said the actor-producer-director. In another instance, she had approached the High Court against UTV two years ago, when the title Thank You, registered by her in 2005 for the remake of Arth, was used by the studio for the Akshay Kumar – Sonam Kapoor starrer directed by Anees Bazmee.
“Two years ago I moved the High Court when my copyright was violated. I did not wish to, as we are all part of the industry. Going to court was the last resort as no action was taken by AMPTPP who I had approached. What’s the use of an association, who cannot protect the rights of its members even after we pay them for registration and re-registration of titles? If they are transparent in their dealings and producers rights not validated, we need not go to court,” she said.
Mahesh Bhatt’s spunky daughter, who at 22 was the youngest producer when she made Tamanna in 1997, and turned director with the John Abraham starrer Paap in 2003, now wants the trade bodies to look into these loopholes. Apparently, they allow the usage of a title if the word, (in this case Holiday) is part of a longer title. According to Bhatt, Shah has taken advantage of this fact. The film-maker had sent a mail to Bhatt on June 29 last year, asking her permission to use the title Holiday for his upcoming film. Within an hour, Bhatt shot a reply that she had no hesitation in parting with the title, but because the film was a big flop, she owed it to her partners to make good some losses. She was in the process of negotiating for the satellite rights of three films that she is making, and wanted to include Holiday in the bouquet. “I understand that in this day and age if a reputed film-maker like Vipul Shah makes a film with my title, my small product will not stand a chance of recovering the investment if aired,” said Bhatt, who assumed then that the matter was sorted.
It was on the morning of February 11 this month that Bhatt woke up to read an article in a daily, which stated that Shah referred to his upcoming film as Holiday. She was shocked that he still went ahead with the title despite her categorically refusing to part with it. Apparently Shah, who was refused the title by the producers Guild on the grounds that the title was already registered with them, approached IMPAA who registered the title as Holiday – A Solder Is Never Off Duty. “The Copyright Board in Delhi has given us self-goverance through these bodies but things are not going as they should. And because of the loopholes within these associations, I cannot take further action,” she mentioned.
When contacted, Shah confirmed that he had approached Bhatt requesting her for the title. “But when she did not agree, I registered the title with IMPPA using the tag line, and they agreed to let me use it,” he said.
Bhatt adds, “If Vipul gets away with this, it will once again be proved that ‘Might is right’ and there has been no change in the industry since the Thank You tussle with UTV.”