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The White Tiger: Delhi HC Refuses to Stay Film’s Release, Dismisses Copyright Violation Plea

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Photo Credit: 'The White Tiger' Poster

The Delhi High Court on Thursday refused to stay the release The White Tiger, the Netflix film starring Priyanka Chopra, Rajkumar Rao and Adarsh Gourav, in the alleged copyright violation petition filed by American producer John Hart Jr.

A day before the film’s release, Justice C Harishankar held an urgent hearing for the last-minute injunction against the streaming of the film.

“There is no material on record to justify the plaintiffs approaching this court less than 24 hours prior to release seeking stay.. Any party approaching court at the end hour, seeking interlocutory indirection against the release of cinematographic film, is disentitled to any such relief,” the court’s order stated.

However, the court asked the makers of the film to keep an account of the film’s earnings so that it can provide a compensation to the petitioner, if needed, in future.

Reacting to the court’s decision, Hart’s lawyer Kapil Sankhla told Silverscreen India that it was high time that courts take cognisance of the fact that there was a significant delay in hearing cases filed by foreigners in India.

The White Tiger is based on Arvind Adiga’s Man Booker Prize-winning debut novel of the same name that was published in 2008. The film is directed by Ramin Bahrani and produced by Mukul Deora and Prem Akkaraju.

Hart, along with producer Sonia Mudbhatkal, claimed that since he had already purchased the book’s copyrights, Bahrani’s film was a case of copyright infringement.

“My right in the movie and the adaptation is absolute. For them it’s merely a commercial venture, but for me it’s a grand dream. I will never be able to make the movie the way I envisaged it. When I purchased the rights, this was the second highest selling Man Booker prize winner,” said Sankhla to the court as reported by the Live Law.

The court said that Hart had failed to make a case fit for a grant despite the fact that “the cause of action had arisen as far back as 1.5 years ago” while he waited till the last moment to move court for the alleged “infringement” suit without any “justifiable” reason.

Sankhla told the court that Hart was unaware of the film releasing on OTT platform due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Responding to this, the court asked him not to “blame Covid-19 for everything”. The court observed that a film, which might be “dream” for him that he couldn’t achieve, will be a serious financial loss for many people, including the actors, stakeholders and film makers, whose ventures were at stake.

Despite the refusal on the stay of the release, Sankhla said to Silverscreen India that it is “extremely magnanimous” on the court’s side to have arranged for the last moment hearing and “it is a win for us” with the financial protection that the court granted.

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