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Shruti Haasan to take legal action against producers of Tamil D-Day

With Shruti Haasan taking a stand against the makers, the issue has raised several pertinent questions, about the non-consent of an actor stopping the release of a film.

Mumbai |
Updated: February 7, 2014 4:29:09 pm
“We do not want to speak on this issue right now. We are contemplating legal action. What Shruti Haasan has already said to the press was an immediate reaction to what happened, but now we want to know what can be done to put things right. We can give a broader picture in a couple of days.” With Shruti Haasan taking a stand against the makers, the issue has raised several pertinent questions, about the non-consent of an actor stopping the release of a film. “We do not want to speak on this issue right now. We are contemplating legal action.”

With actor Shruti Haasan disassociating herself from the Tamil version (dubbed) of her Hindi film D-Day, Screen takes a look at the pertinent question it raises — Can an actor really have a say in the matter?

When D-Day, released on July 19, 2013, it received rave reviews. Directed by Nikhil Advani, the film was about how a group of Indian intelligence wing officers kidnap the dreaded don Dawood Ibrahim from his Pakistani hide-out. Shruti Haasan, who played a Karachi-based call-girl, had shot several intimate scenes with Arjun Rampal.
However, what seems to have irked Shruti Haasan is the decision of producers DAR Motion Pictures (DMP) to release the film’s dubbed version in Tamil, and using promos of her in Tamil Nadu with a new title. She took to Twitter to voice her displeasure,

“I am disassociating myself from the release of D-Day in Tamil called Dawood, as it is being done without my consent or approval and is a clear breach of contract. It is a matter under legal consideration at the moment.”
When contacted, Shruti Haasan asked us to speak to her spokesperson who said, “We do not want to speak on this issue right now. We are contemplating legal action. What Shruti Haasan has already said to the press was an immediate reaction to what happened, but now we want to know what can be done to put things right. We can give a broader picture in a couple of days.” With Shruti Haasan taking a stand against the makers, the issue has raised several pertinent questions, about the non-consent of an actor stopping the release of a film.
“I have faced the problem early in my career,” says R. Madhavan, who is a well-known name both in Hindi and Tamil films.

Alaipayuthey, a success in Tamil, came after the release of my first Kannada film Shanti Shanti Shanti. Wanting to cash in on its success by showing me as its hero (I was in the second lead), the makers decided to release the Tamil dubbed version of Shanti … This is possibly what is happening in the case of Shruti too. As for me, I put a stay order on the Tamil release. In such cases, the court re-evaluates the contracts and if the papers are in order, the producers of the dubbed film lose all their money. The dubbed version of Shanti … never got released in the theatres, though they must have sneaked it into videos and YouTube. However, I learnt my lesson then and decided to be careful thereafter.”
Although, there may have been many such cases in the past, Jayantilal Gada of Pen Movies, who has films like Kahaani to his credit, asserts that an actor cannot claim any rights to the film that he/she has starred in. “At best, he can refuse to dub for the other language. It is the producer who has the sole rights and can release the dubbed version of his films with someone else lending their voice to the project,” said Gada.

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Seconding this, Krishika Lulla, producer at Eros International stated, that while it is just the producer and the company that holds the right to a film, when it comes to the release, all the actor can do is request the producer to shift the date, in certain cases. But there is no hard and fast rule anywhere that says that an actor can take any major decision where a film is concerned. “The producer always looks for a good space which is beneficial for everyone to release his project. At times there is no choice as the date is fixed long back and cannot be shifted,” she said.
However Tanuj Garg, CEO of Balaji Motion Pictures explains the bigger picture. Asserting that not being aware of what the contractual understanding between Shruti Haasan and her producers is, he was not willing to comment on the issue.

However, speaking on behalf of his company, he stated that, “Technically and legally, as producers, we own the copyright of our film and therefore what we decide to do with the copyright is our prerogative by virtue of being 100 per cent Intellectual Property Right holders. Nobody has any right to interfere with what we do with what we own. Having said that, if there is a clause or a contractual understanding, then Shruti is within her rights to demand that the film should not be released in Tamil. Also if the actor is a partner in the film or if the copyright is shared between two people then obviously the permission of both have to be taken. Shruti is a big name in the South and I assume that she may have some clause in her agreement regarding the South Indian version, and maybe she is exercising that. Except for a proper contract, nobody can claim ownership to any project ever. Thankfully Balaji has never faced such a problem.”
Clearing the air about Shruti’s unhappiness over the dubbing or the title change of D-Day’s Tamil version, an official statement was released by DMP stating that D-Day’s distribution MOU (memorandum of understanding) for Hindi, Tamil and Telugu languages across India was shared by them with Nikhil Advani and his company Emmay Entertainment via email and multiple conversation. Before the Tamil release, when the irregularities about the posters and the title of the film were brought to DMP’s notice, they immediately addressed the issue with the distributors and ensured that all the inappropriate posters were pulled out of the market and the title was restored to the original D-Day. Regarding the breach of Artist contract (i.e. Shruti Hassan in this case), the statement says, DMP is in no way legally obliged to go through any consultation with them as all lead artist contracts, were directly entered into by Nikhil Advani, through his company. Apparently there have been cases in the past when the local exhibitor in Tamil Nadu had changed the credit, posters, or pictures of Hindi films that have been dubbed just to attract the audience into the theatres without the producer’s knowledge. “All one can do is approach them and get it changed,” said spokesperson of DMP.
When asked if an actor can claim stake if she/he has invested in the project, Lulla said , “In that case, it should be an unanimous decision. Nikhil was a co-producer of D-Day so he has a right to every decision made. It could be the same for Shruti in the capacity of a producer. However, there is no clause as such where actors can stall a release.” So how does one come to an amicable decision? And Lulla replies, “In this case, I think Shruti should place her trust in the makers and request them to do the needful.”
Talking about a contract clause, for Madhavan, it was a case of once bitten twice shy. Very cautious since the beginning, the actor states, “Right from my first films, in both Hindi and Tamil, my contracts are very clear that under no circumstances is the producer allowed to either sell, exploit or dub my film in either languages. However, he may sell the remake rights if he wants. When I have a line of films in both the industries, I don’t want to break the line of order of release. For example, if I have promised to do a film after 3 Idiots, suddenly another producer, trying to cash in on its success, releases a dubbed version of my Tamil film. Here he is taking undue advantage and it is not fair. Hence my contracts are always very clear and I enforce it very strictly. Sometimes people play dirty with us and so we too have to retaliate. It is the responsibility of the buyer as well as the seller to look at the contract and they cannot be naïve and say ‘I did not know when I bought the film’.”
Assuming that Haasan is shying away from the fact that she is playing a prostitute in the film and so is apprehensive about the release, Gada states, “A film is released globally and everyone has seen it, be it in the theatre or on YouTube. Today, there are so many ways to watch a film. So an actor has to decide before signing the project whether he/she wants to play such a role. Moreover, ours is a democratic country and anyone can take legal action, but there should be a basis to the issue. Having said that, ultimately the producer is the owner of the film.”
Before going to the press when we tried contacting Haasan again, her spokesperson texted us saying, “Shruti has disassociated herself from the Tamil/Telugu release. We do not want to comment on this anymore as it gives the film more mileage.”

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