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Surya-starrer Thaanaa Serndha Koottam Runs Into Legal Roadblock

Sadly, Tamil Nadu has gained a notorious reputation for attempting to stall a film release at the very last minute – probably with the intent to wrest a huge sum of money from a producer pushed to the wall and nervous to the core.

Gautaman Bhaskaran | News18.com

Updated:January 11, 2018, 10:39 AM IST
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Surya-starrer Thaanaa Serndha Koottam Runs Into Legal Roadblock
A first look of the film's poster (Image courtesy: AFP Relaxnews)
Film after film in India has been getting into one hurdle or the other. The reasons can be as varied as criticism of a caste or religion, copyright violation, missing credit and overdue payment. A movie can also get stalled for mucking up historical facts, and so what if the feature is pure fiction. And like in the case of Udta Punjab, the authorities can have a problem with “truth” being depicted.


In Tamil Nadu, a film often gets stalled at the 11th hour, much to the chagrin of the filmmakers who can run into huge losses, because theaters had already been booked and big money paid. The Surya-starrer, Thaanaa Serndha Koottam in Tamil, all set to open on January 12 to attract the huge merry-making footfalls of Tamil Nadu's most important festival, Pongal – which celebrates the new harvest – has now hit a roadblock.


Tamil actor Prashanth's mother, Shanti Thiagarajan, filed a case against the makers of Thaanaa Serndha Koottam, because of a dispute over remake rights. The film has been remade (or maybe inspired by) from Neeraj Pandey's riveting Special 26 with Akshay Kumar, Manoj Bajpayee, Anupam Kher, Jimmy Shergill and Kajal Aggarwal. Critically acclaimed and a box-office money spinner, this 2013 movie was based on the famous 1987 Opera House heist in Mumbai where a group of men posed as officers of the Central Bureau of Investigation and raided a jeweler. Pandey had worked out a climax which lent itself to a sequel. This is yet to happen. And I keep bugging Pandey for one!


Getting back to the Chennai “heist”, Thiagarajan alleged that her Staar Movies had signed an agreement valid for three years with the producers of Special 26, Viacom 18, which also owned the copyright of the film. Staar Movies had obtained the rights to remake Special 26 in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada.

In September 2016, Star Movies assigned the right to remake the film in Tamil to RPP Film Factory for a consideration of Rs 1.5 crore. But RPP failed to produce the remake within the agreed-upon one year period. And Staar Movies came to know that Studio Green was making the Tamil version. Alleging that the remake was being made without its consent, Staar approached the High Court. But noting that the petitioner had approached the court at the 11th hour seeking an injunction against the release, a single judge dismissed the application seeking an interim relief.


Now Thiagarajan has filed an appeal before the Division Bench, headed by Chief Justice Indira Banerjee. The verdict may be passed today.


Sadly, Tamil Nadu has gained a notorious reputation for attempting to stall a film release at the very last minute – probably with the intent to wrest a huge sum of money from a producer pushed to the wall and nervous to the core. He cannot let a release be delayed, for big amounts are involved. If this kind of arm-twisting is absolutely unethical – especially when it involves fellow professionals (actors, directors, producers and the like) – then, with all due respect to the legal system, courts must also decide on some kind of cut-off date for a dispute of this sort to be placed before a judge. The High Court had dismissed Thiagarajan's first application seeking interim relief.


No movie gets made in a jiffy. It takes months to get a film ready, and no movie is made secretly, particularly when it involves big stars like Surya. Maybe, producers and others in Tamil Nadu must come together to decide on a date beyond which an appeal of this sort cannot be filed in a court of law. Nobody says that the right to resort to a legal process is wrong, but the way these cases involving Tamil cinema have been timed appears so unfair. Really.


(The author is a writer, commentator and film critic)
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