Bhopal: Do you think it’s fair enough to sign a contract, seeking copyright rights for a real life story for a mere five lakh Indian rupees, while shelling out 18 crores to shoot the film? Well, that’s what exactly happened with Akshay Kumar’s much talked about Toilet: Ek Prem Katha.
The filmmakers, san Akshay, met Anita Narre, the lady on whom the film is based upon just twenty days prior to the film’s release. Director Shree Narayan Singh and actor Bhumi Pednekar went to meet Anita and her husband Shivram Narre, and handed over an agreement paper seeking their permission from the couple to allow the filmmakers to use their story for a commercial film for a nominal fee of Rs 5 lakhs.
Speaking to eNewsroom, Shivram said, “The first thing that we asked them was – why did they come to us so late? Why come to us when the film is ready? To which, they told us that they were not aware of our story. They need to shoot a few clips, which would be shown at the end of the film.” He then added, “I was surprised at their reply, but we are poor people and could not counter them much.”
Interestingly, a soft copy of the agreement papers which they shared with eNewsroom clearly has the copyright clause which means, Anita, the Personality (as mentioned in the contract) had given the filmmakers the rights in lieu of Rs 5,00,000 to publish, republish or narrate her story anywhere in the Universe and she couldn’t object to it.
Two sections of the contract clearly states: “The personality is a well-known personality who brought about a social revolution, by standing up against the issue of defecation in the open and has taken great efforts to create awareness among the people of the country to construct toilets in their houses.”
“The producer was desirous of making a film on this entire incident, related to the personality on the issue of fight against defecation in the open and had approached the personality for narrating the story of the particular incident and certain important, ancillary aspects thereof (“story”) which the producer wanted to develop in a film script (“script”) and subsequently produce a cinametograph film based on the script (“film”).”
As evident from the contract details, the film is based on Anita’s life and the filmmaker was seeking her consent. Narre’s family realizing the significance had not readily accepted the amount. They had requested the director and his team for a bigger compensation amount, as the commercial film would be earning in crores by selling their story. “I politely asked them for Rs 30 lakhs, but the fillmakers felt that it was too big an amount. They refused and gave us 48 hours to take or leave the offer. We had even pleaded for more time as the contract was in English.”
He further revealed, “We got a call stating that if we fail to sign, we should return the papers and money. We are poor people, with little earning, so we gave in to this tactic and went to Bhopal and signed the contract on July 20.”
Significantly, in 2012, Sulabh International had rewarded Anita with Rs 5 lakh cash for her revolutionary work. But five years down the line, the film makers, who will earn billions of rupees, gave the same amount to her.
Seeking an insider’s take on the issue, legendary script writer Salim Khan told eNewsroom, “Copyright rights are not very stringent in India. One can’t do much. However, I would like to add that since the concerned lady has signed the dotted lines, she has no option but to honour the contract.”
Interestingly, Shivram also informed that, their agreement copy has also been taken by the Friday Filmworks lawyers. The film has been produced by Friday Filmworks (India) Pvt. Ltd. “They said us that they will post the papers from Mumbai,” added Shivram.