Suresh, the writer who alleged that his story was used to make 96, says that he has all evidence necessary to prove that the story is his. The writer has worked as an assistant director with Bharathiraja for ten years, during which time he narrated the story of 92 to the director. “In late 2012, Bharathiraja sir and a few others discussed my story and we had a story discussion for more than a month.”
Suresh says that this discussion happened in Bharathiraja’s vacation home in the foothills of Kodaikanal. “I have written about these events in my diary. Bharathiraja sir spoke about the plagiarism with the media since he knew the truth. But his name is unnecessarily being dragged through the mud. He is an important director and person in the film industry. This is because he has amassed so much respect in his decades long career. What does supporting my standpoint bring him? Absolutely nothing. He is supporting me because he has heard my script. And he knows that what Prem Kumar has done is wrong”
Suresh says that strict action must be taken against 96 director Prem Kumar and Asuravadham director Marudhu Pandian. “I discussed the story of 92 with him in 2014, shortly after we met. Marudhu himself approached Bharathiraja sir because he had an ongoing issue in his debut film. When he knew enough to approach Bharathiraja sir to sort out his problem, why didn’t he do the same when he first heard the story written by Prem?”
Marudhupandian is believed to have worked on the story discussion of Prem’s 96. He is said to have accepted that he heard the story for 92 from Suresh. Later he has also reportedly admitted that the story of 92 and 96 are very similar. When contacted he chose not to speak to Silverscreen.
Bharathiraja, on the other hand, did confirm that he’d had a meeting with Marudupandian and that the director had accepted that the stories are almost the same. “But Prem never came and met me even though I requested” the director said.
Bharathiraja has complained to the Producers Council regarding this issue after all attempts at peaceful mediation with 96’s Prem Kumar failed. Producer Nandhagopal of Madras Pictures is believed to have met Bharathiraja and Suresh regarding this issue but he too has not helped to bring about a solution.
When Suresh approached the directors union with his complaint regarding the story theft, he was told that the writers union would investigate. “But there’s no progress on any front,”Suresh tells us. “The interesting development to note is that a red card has been issued to Producer Nandhagopal by the Nadigar Sangam. This is not related to our issue but it’s a significant development nonetheless,” he added.
Above all, Suresh says that he can even understand the story theft, as cinema is a competitive field. “What I cannot excuse is the fact that directors like Thiagarajan Kumararaja and Balaji Tharaneetharan spoke so badly about Bharathiraja sir. They behaved very badly,” he said.
Suresh is unable to prove his case largely because he did not register his script with the union. “That evidence I do not have. However there are a lot of diary entries and emails that point to the fact that several of the scenes that made 96 so iconic were in fact conceived by me. This should have been directed by Bharathiraja sir with music by Ilaiyaraaja sir. Paalpandi Engira Bharathi and Nee Naan Mazhai Ilaiyaraaja were the titles under consideration for my film. But it never happened,” he said.
It is curious that the actor Vijay Sethupathi, who headlined 96, has not said anything about this issue. “Bharathiraja sir has acted in his film Seethakathi. Why is he so silent now?” Suresh questioned.
The TFPC and writers union both tell us that they are aware of the developments in the case. As of now, though, the investigation into the issue has not been launched leaving Suresh no other option except to go for a trial by media.