Hours before its release, Shah Rukh Khan's new web series, Betaal, which will be streaming from 24th May onward on Netflix, landed itself in a soup when a pair of Marathi screen writers, Sameer Wadekar and Mahesh Goswami, filed a case against SRK’s Red Chillies Entertainment and Netflix — producers of the web show — alleging that they've lifted the story of their original screenplay, Vetaal, with at least ten similar plot points between both scripts, including zombies being the descendants of an army.
As per a report in Mid Day, both writers moved the Bombay High Court soon after the Betaal trailer was unveiled, stating, “We had taken our script to several production houses. We hadn’t pitched it to Red Chillies Entertainment, so the onus isn’t on them, but on the platform that commissioned it. I haven’t been able to figure out how [the idea] reached them. I am told the show went on floors in July 2019, a year after my script was registered with the Screen Writers’ Association [SWA]. We’ve registered a complaint with the SWA too. There are at least 10 plot points that are similar. We have depicted zombies as descendants of the Vetaal army from Shivaji’s era while, in Betaal, they are shown as belonging to the British era. We had written a sequence where the army dances to folk music during a procession. A similar scene is included in their trailer. The court has affirmed that we can seek damages if the plagiarism charges are proved.”
However, advocate Hiren Kamod, representing Shah Rukh Khan's Red Chillies, responded to the plea, saying, Betaal web series can by no stretch of imagination be termed as either adaption or reproduction of the plaintiffs (Sameer Wadekar and Mahesh Gosavi) work or its substantial parts. There was no similarity either in the concept, narration, arrangement, characters, properties etc. as alleged..” Senior counsel Sharan Jagtiani, representing Netflix also said, that the show was created without any prior knowledge of the plaintiff’s screenplay or concept note, arguing that the similarities highlighted were merely generic ideas, holding not copyright-infringement elements.
In a huge relief the the producers of Betaal, the single judge bench of Justice K R Shriram declared that the show can meet its premier deadline, but allowed the plaintiffs to amend their plea to include claims and damages. The court posted further hearing till after eight weeks.
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