Bollywood director Shirish Kunder has always been in the news for all the wrong reasons. He made his directorial debut with Jaan-e-Mann in 2006. That hardly created any ripples despite starring Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar along with boasting of a release in 1200 screens worldwide.
His next directorial venture Joker in 2012 was an even bigger disaster. Farah Khan has directed four movies. Three were super hits—Main Hoon Na (2004), Om Shanti Om (2007) and Happy New Year (2014).
Her only flop was Tees Maar Khan (2010) and the only one produced by Kunder for wife Farah! Kunder was allegedly slapped by Bollywood badshaah Shah Rukh Khan and been made fun of regularly in social media.
But at the end of the day Kunder is still a powerful person, being the husband of a successful choreographer and director and having access to the high and mighty of Bollywood. Then on Twitter he became a (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi Hater and his clout only grew.
India’s powerful #AdarshLiberals started loving him and even Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal started interacting with him on Twitter on a regular basis. It is in this backdrop that Kunder re-invented his career directing a short film Kriti which stars Manoj Bajpayee, Radhika Apte and Neha Sharma.
Kriti started getting rave reviews and even crossed 2.5 million views on YouTube. Bollywood stars like Hrithik Roshan, Sonu Nigam and Arjun Kapoor, sportspersons like Jwala Gutta along with journalists and politicians started praising it.
Kunder seemed to have made a second coming in the world of short films. However that’s when things went awry. A little known Nepali film-maker called Aneel Neupane cried foul and said it was eerily similar to his short BOB.
That’s when a David versus Goliath battle started and Kunder came out with all guns blazing. When Neupane pointed out that he put BOB on YouTube in May, as against June for Kriti, Kunder countered that he was in post-production in March.
When Neupane pointed out that he had first put it for private viewing in October 2015, Kunder countered that he did not have access to Neupane’s Vimeo viewing. Kunder activated his entire network and prominent people all across India sprang to Kunder’s defence and rubbished Neupane.
Farah claimed that Kunder had in fact been working on Kriti for 3 years. When Kunder slapped a legal notice on Neupane, it might have been curtains for the latter. There’s no way an average guy can counter the legal onslaught of a moneyed and well-connected guy.
The first round clearly went to Kunder and had it been just the offline world, then things might have ended there with Neupane tendering an apology.
However the online world is more of a level playing field. Neupane quietly built up support on Facebook and Twitter and soon his side of the story was taken up prominently by many online news sites.
Neupane complained to YouTube and the Kriti was taken down despite its 2.5 million views and widespread acclaim on Twitter. David Neupane had virtually slayed Goliath Kunder. Of course the matter didn’t end there and a complaint against BOB saw even that video being pulled down from YouTube.
That’s when the Kunder camp claimed victory and said that they had won Round 3 and another onslaught was unleashed on Neupane. They are already behaving as if they have won the final battle even though Kriti hasn’t been put back on.
But here’s the thing. Matters of copyright cannot be decided by popularity contests and certificates by Chief Ministers.
It will be decided by who put out the video first. Here Neupane holds the trump card. Both videos may have been pulled down on YouTube, but as of writing this article, BOB was still on Vimeo.
Check it out for yourself…
And guess what date Vimeo has put for BOB? November 8, 2015!
And the end of the day, whoever makes the decision will have to note the following…
Kriti was released on YouTube in June 2016.
BOB was released on Vimeo in November 2015.
As you can see, it’s a no contest.
Kunder’s only hope is that whoever makes the final decision will find no similarities between BOB and Kriti. Only then can he sue Neupane!
Otherwise the small guy Neupane has already won.
BOB was subsequently removed from Vimeo and the Kunder camp claimed that Vimeo videos could be updated and changed after they were first put up. They put up Kriti went on Muvizz.com. Meanwhile Neupane through a Delhi-based lawyer has claimed INR 25 lakh damages from Kunder and pointed out that the video was shared widely on Facebook in July 2015.
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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here