French filmmaker Jérôme Salle, in an exclusive chat with Silverscreen, said that it was on Twitter that he came to know about the story of Pawan Kalyan’s Agnyaathavaasi being inspired from his Largo Winch. “Everything happens on Twitter ever since Donald Trump became President,” he said, before he started discussing the plagiarism row over the Telugu movie.
Salle watched the movie soon after its release. “I saw the film in Paris, I was probably the only French guy in the theatre. Not just the plot, there were many many other similarities – the third act, location, sets,” Salle says. He adds that it would have been a great experience if not for the realisation that a lot of it mirrors his own work.
— Jérôme Salle (@Jerome_Salle) January 9, 2018
He goes on to explain that the Bollywood production company T-Series had the remake rights of Largo Winch but there were certain limiting clauses in the agreement. “The movie cannot be remade in any other language other than Hindi and no company other than T-Series can produce the film. When I first heard of Agnyaathavaasi, I thought T-Series was producing it.”
Salle shared a relevant excerpt from his agreement with T-Series:
“Optioned rights, as used herein, shall mean the sole, exclusive, sub-licensable and irrevocable right to produce, own and control and exploit (…) one remake motion of the Prior picture and based on the literary work of the Prior Picture in the Hindi language version for theatrical and non theatrical distribution and exhibition and exploitation for the entire world. Owner (French production) reserved rights: “all rights to produce or authorize the production (remake, prequel, sequel, spin off) based upon the Prior Picture in any language version other than the Standard Hindi language version or any other Indian languages as above defined.”
Agnyaathavaasi, starring Telugu superstar Pawan Kalyan, is directed by Trivikram Srinivas and produced by S. Radha Krishna. The story revolves around an exiled heir to a billionaire, who returns to avenge his father’s death and put his company in order.
The IMDb plot summary for Largo Winch reads: “After a powerful billionaire is murdered, his secret adoptive son must race to prove his legitimacy, find his father’s killers and stop them from taking over his financial empire.”
Agnyaathavaasi, despite being panned by critics, has done well at the box office, having entered the haloed Rs 100-crore club for box office revenue. Pawan Kalyan, who is also the founder and president of the Jana Sena Party has now turned his attention to politics. In a press conference on Monday, he said, “Movies are out of my mind. Right now, the focus is on politics.” He might have moved on from Agnyaathavaasi, but concerns remain for Salle, and his questions to the filmmakers have not been answered.
Reacting to the reports of a settlement between T Series and Agnyaathavaasi team, Salle says, “No one from T-Series has gotten in touch with me. I was not involved in any of the discussions and am not aware of any such settlement. It is of no value to me. ” As of today, Salle’s lawyer has sent a legal notice to the producers of Agnyaathavaasi. If need be, Salle is ready to send a legal notice to T-Series as well. The director is aware of Pawan Kalyan’s stature, but said “He has to apply the law. I have a lot of respect for Indian cinema, but I respect my work and they have to respect that.”
Earlier, a source from T-Series told Deccan Chronicle that they hold the rights to the French film and said, “We are checking with the producers of Agnyaathavaasi if any copyright infringement has taken place, and if so, follow the procedure required.”
Salle, who is also a scriptwriter, has many French films to his credit. His film Zulu was selected as the closing film at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival and The Tourist, starring Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp, is based on Salle’s film Anthony Zimmer.