Sarkar, the latest AR Murugadoss – Vijay film, finds itself mired in controversy much like Vijay’s previous releases. This time around, the film’s director Murugadoss has been accused of stealing the story of a young writer and using it for his Sarkar.
Murugadoss’ team did not comment on the details the first few weeks after the issue emerged. Lately though, the director has gone on the offensive, targeting South Indian Film Writer’s Association President Bhagyaraj, who has put himself firmly on the side of Varun Rajendran.
Sarkar’s team maintains that the script of the film is completely original. AR Murugadoss, screenwriter and author Jeyamohan have gone on record making similar claims. The way in which the Sarkar team hit back at the plagiarism claims betrays a certain practiced ease.
Such claims are not new to Murugadoss. His films have always been prone to rumours of being inspired by foreign films. Take for instance, Ghajini – starring Surya. At the time of its release, many opined that the film was inspired by Christopher Nolan’s Memento. Even Kaththi, starring Vijay, battled two separate plagiarism claims on its way to release. Minjur Gopi first claimed that the script of Kaththi was his. Insiders say that attempts to mediate the issue with Gopi effectively quenched the issue. Not so with Anbu Rajasekar, an assistant director, who has soldiered on with his claims. Four years after the film’s release, his case against AR Murugadoss is still in court. None of the five people he mentioned in his case (cinematographer George C Williams, director AR Murugadoss, actor Vijay, producers Karunamoorthy and Subhaskaran) have appeared in person for the case despite several summons being issued. “As a result, my case has been stuck in court. There’s just no way to go ahead if they don’t appear,” he tells Silverscreen.
A similar fate could well be in Varun Rajendran’s future. Sarkar has the formidable backing of producer Kalanidhi Maran’s Sun Pictures, who obtained a caveat from the Madras HC earlier this month. According to this, anybody who has issues with Sarkar must first sort it out with the production house itself. Since Rajendran’s case was filed before this, it is being heard by the HC.
Saaranganathan, a legal expert based in Bengaluru, says that the issue with Sarkar is that is not plagiarism. “Let’s get this straight. The issue here is not plagiarism. This is a frequently misused term. From a legal point of view, plagiarism is not valid. The issue here is copyright violation. Someone’s registered creative property has been stolen and that’s what must be addressed.”
He says that Rajendran’s case can pan out in two ways. “The way we see it,there are two options. Varun can get his due while allowing Sarkar to release. Or Varun won’t get credit. Either way it goes, the whole burden will be on Varun alone. He bears the risk here.”
A senior official within the Tamil Nadu Film Producers Council said that the lack of process to solve such disputes has made it tedious and complicated. On the condition of anonymity, he said:
“We wholly believe that such incidents must be dealt with severely, provided that there is enough proof. However, we don’t have a process or system in place to deal with such an event. And that is something we must look into as soon as possible, given the current scenario.”
Thus far, the TFPC has not officially involved itself in the investigation into the alleged copyright infringement. Nor has it spoken out about the court case initiated by writer Varun Rajendran.
Bhagyaraj, who investigated Rajendran’s complaint against Murugadoss in the writers union, says that barring a few members, a majority determined that the script of Rajendran’s Sengol was identical to that of Sarkar. “But that’s all we can do at the moment. We cannot do anything more except add our collective support to Rajendran as he battles his case,” the director says.
The fallout from this issue may well spur producers and writers to bring about a system that will ensure that such incidents are not repeated. “Plagiarism and copyright theft are a bane in the society. It derails the lives of many young people with dreams. Gopi Nainar’s eventual success is an exception to the rule. Many have just vanished after making such claims,” Bhagyaraj adds.
The court will hear Rajendran’s plea later today. It is expected that Murugadoss will appear in person. His spokesperson said that they cannot comment since this is a legal issue. “We cannot verify his presence today,” the spokesperson added.
A long drawn out legal battle cannot be allowed to go on, since Sarkar’s scheduled to release in a week’s time (November 6). Promotions are on in full swing. The Deepavali festival approaches and Sarkar has already secured over 1200 theatres in around 80 countries. With so much at stake, it would be wise to conclude that AR Murugadoss would do everything in his power to expedite the case as soon as possible. Varun Rajendran’s team remains hopeful of such an event. “We are sure justice will be done,” a spokesperson for the writer told us.