Gulabo Sitabo is the newest Hindi film to have been plagued by a copyright controversy. The allegations are against the writer of the film Juhi Chaturvedi. Akira Agarwal, son of writer Rajeev Agarwal, has alleged that the script for Gulabo Sitabo has been copied from his story 16, Mohandas Lane.
The story in question was submitted as an entry to Cinestaan India’s Storyteller Script Contest that is promoted by The Screenwriter’s Association, a trade union of screenwriters and lyricists who work for films, TV, and digital media in India. The jury of the contest was chaired by Anjum Rajabali, Juhi Chaturvedi, and two other jurists. The final eight scripts did not include Akira’s story and reportedly came to the jurists on 24 October 2018.
Following the plagiarism claim, the team behind Gulabo Sitabo have reached out to media outlets and have shared statements refuting these claims. In a press release, PR company Universal Communications, has clarified the stance of writer Juhi Chaturvedi and has also cited instances to dispute Akira’s claims.
The release says that Juhi had approached Amitabh Bachchan with a story of a crooked old man, who resides in Lucknow, in 2017. “The senior actor liked her narration and asked her to develop the story further. The story and concept were registered by Juhi in May 2018. It is further clarified that Juhi never received the script in contention, a claim that is backed by the Screenwriters Association and Anjum Rajabali. The SWA ruled in favour of Juhi on 29 May 2020,” it said.
The release includes a statement by writer Juhi Chaturvedi: “My conscience is clear and so are the facts in this matter. Gulabo Sitabo is my original work and I am proud of it. I also must clarify the speculations around my conduct as a jury member for Cinestaan’s contest. I had no access to the so-called infringed script at any point in time, as alleged. This fact has been independently confirmed by Cinestaan as well. Even the SWA, who has looked at this dispute in May 2020, and decided in my favour. I speak now to request the press and public not to be disillusioned by false accusations, which are for publicity only. Acts of harassment, defamatory comments, and leaking confidential notices by the accusers only show their lack of faith in their own case. I stand by my truth.”
Anjum Rajabali, Jury Chairman, Cinestaan Script Contest, said, “It has come to our notice that there are some reports in the mainstream as well as social media about allegations that Juhi Chaturvedi, the screenwriter of the soon-to-be-released film, Gulabo Sitabo has plagiarised the script, 16, Mohandas Lane, written by late Rajeev Aggarwal. While it is true that ’16, Mohandas Lane’ was submitted to the first edition of the Cinestaan India’s Storytellers Script Contest of which Juhi Chaturvedi was one of the jury members, we want to clarify that she had absolutely no access to this particular script.”
He further clarifies, “The process of reading, assessing, screening and judging involved three clear stages. While 16, Mohandas Lane made it to the top 20, it did not enter the final list of eight scripts which were sent to the jury. The jury, including Juhi, had absolutely no access to any script except for the eight which were sent to them. So, it is totally incorrect to assume that since Juhi Chaturvedi was on the contest’s jury she had received the said script. There is clear documentation, including a trail of e-mails from myself to each jury member, which bears out the above facts unambiguously. Moreover, there is a video recording of me done by Cinestaan in 2018, which clearly outlines the above protocols.”
Producer Ronnie Lahiri of Rising Sun Films has also added his support to his team member with a strongly worded statement against the allegations. He said, “Releasing the notice to the press, harassing Juhi and the Gulabo Sitabo producers on social media, seems to be a deliberate attempt to malign Juhi and damage the film. At this time, when we have taken the bold decision to release the film on OTT, these baseless allegations only create unnecessary controversy. We request the press to stand by us and condemn the behavior of these allegers and their lawyer for resorting to such tactics only for press, limelight and ulterior motives”
Watch the trailer of Gulabo Sitabo here: