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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

‘Felt I had an obligation to speak up’: Sudhanshu Saria on AltBalaji’s controversial His Storyy poster

In an exclusive interview with indianexpress.com, filmmaker Sudhanshu Saria opens up about the significance of the National Award, his upcoming projects and the alleged plagiarism of his work by Ekta Kapoor's AltBalaji.

Written by Anvita Singh | New Delhi |
April 22, 2021 8:57:06 am
sudhanshu sariaSudhanshu Saria was recently in the news after he alleged that the poster of his movie Loev had been copied by AltBalaji. (Photo: Instagram/Sudhanshu Saria)

Sudhanshu Saria, who won the National Film Award for Best Non-Feature Film Direction for Knock Knock Knock, was recently in the news for alleging that AltBalaji had lifted the poster of his movie Loev for their new series His Storyy. In this interview with indianexpress.com, the director gets candid about the projects that he is presently working on, and how ‘invisible’ he felt after seeing a poster uncannily similar to one of his own works.

Excerpts from the conversation:

First, a love story and now, a thriller. How do you choose your projects?

I have been doing this for a while now, initially as a producer, then as a director and writer. And everything, no matter how big or small it is, just always takes time. So I am very aware of that. So if somebody approaches me for something, I just know this is going to take up two years of my life. All you can do is remember that you have to be passionate about this.

And if I am going to give it that much time, it better have a thesis, a point of view and perspective. And it better be trying to say something useful which is of some value to someone. Everyone has their own take, but I would have a difficult time working on something that was just entertaining or a spectacle, even though there are so many times when I have needed cheering up and I have turned to ‘these’ movies.

What is the significance of winning a National Award? Does it open more doors for you, especially the ones which were inaccessible before?

I am waking up to that now. I am seeing it unfold in real time. I wasn’t fully aware of it when I received the award. I feel like I just got lucky. It really helps you on the days when you doubt yourself and you feel you are not good enough. Being given such an honour reminds you that your voice matters. I would highly recommend it (laughs). And as I am trying to put together future projects, I do feel that it helps change perceptions. It is a question that I would be better able to answer in a couple of years, but for now, I think it (winning a National Award) can’t hurt.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Sudhanshu Saria (@iamsuds)

 

What was your first reaction when you came to know that AltBalaji has released a series poster very similar to one of your works? I read your tweet stating that you felt helpless.

That’s what it was. I wrote from the heart when I put up that post on social media. At that time, I couldn’t predict what would happen, if anybody would even notice it. The fact that it met with such overwhelming support made me feel less alone, less invisible and less helpless. But yes, when I first saw it, I definitely felt that I am a part of this community, and I should not be that invisible or insignificant that someone from my own industry can take my work and rip it off without any hesitation. It felt very weird. Everything that followed made me feel more empowered.

I am going to take them at their (AltBalaji) word. I am going to believe that it was an unfortunate coincidence. All I can hope for now is that collectively we can do better.

Also, did you reach out to anyone from the industry after the incident occurred?

I didn’t reach out to anyone. Not a single person. I just said what I had to say publicly and went about my day. Most of them found out through social media. Some of them were shocked. I am sure some of them just read it and moved on. I never wanted to put anyone in an uncomfortable situation. They have relationships to protect. I just felt I had an obligation to stand up for what is right and speak up.

This is not the first time AltBalaji has been accused of plagiarism. What do you think should be done to prevent this in future?

I feel like all of us with five minutes and some common sense can come up with hundred better solutions, right? Everybody knows right from wrong. And sometimes, we keep doing the wrong thing because we feel that there are no consequences.

Did you speak to Ekta Kapoor?

Absolutely not. I don’t think I am worth her schedule or time. We don’t know each other. We have been in the same rooms, but we don’t know each other personally. I never actually aimed this at her. It (the post) was for Balaji.

You are writing the third season of the acclaimed Netflix series Delhi Crime. Do you think about the show’s legacy when sitting down to write its script? How do you keep off the pressure?

I am not trying to think about any of that right now because I am in the middle of it. I was not involved in the first or second season, but I am so proud of the work my colleagues have done on those two seasons. If anything, I want to build on it. I want to take that baton and run faster. They got so much right. The most incredible gift of that show is its ensemble cast. I am very happy they thought of me and wanted me to participate.

Please tell us a bit about your upcoming project with Amazon Prime Video, where you are working in collaboration with Nitya Mehra.

It is a young adult show. It is a coming-of-age show about a group of girls set in the mountains. We spent a year and a half writing the script, and it has turned out incredibly well. We are getting ready for production now, assuming this Covid madness ends.

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