Krishna Shastri Devulapalli’s novella deals with IP rights and its gross violation in the film industry

A few weeks ago, when a poster of a superhero Hindi film was unveiled, film lovers were quick to spot the Hollywood inspiration. There’s a thin line between being inspired by a recognised body of work and copying an idea. A character in Krishna Shastri Devulapalli’s new book Jump Cut feels the only two departments in the film industry that do original work are the transport and catering departments. Harsh it may seem, but this work of fiction talks about the utter disregard for Intellectual Property (IP) rights in the film industry.

Jump Cut (Harper Collins; Rs. 299) tells the story of Ray Raman, who comes to visit his father in India. His ailing father, a writer for films, is crestfallen after a powerful filmmaker takes credit for his writing. Ray takes on the filmmaker and gets a taste of the underbelly of the film industry.

It took KSD a year to pen the book. His grandfather, the celebrated poet and lyricist Devulapalli Krishna Shastri, was the only insider to the film industry in his family. “I had two influences while growing up — that of my grandfather and my father, a cartoonist and an avid watcher of Hollywood films. I wanted to emulate my father and watched as many English films as I possibly could. This was an era before the arrival of VCPs and VCRs,” he says.

Over the years, KSD keenly observed the Indian film industry. This and his own knowledge of IP rights as an illustrator and writer came in handy while writing the book. “Our cinema is a multi billion dollar industry that thrives on borrowed ideas,” he says.

Wishful thinking

In Jump Cut, Ray takes an unconventional path to fight his opponent. “Ideally, one should take the legal route. But if Ray had done that, it wouldn’t have made for an interesting book. Why do we like vigilante movies and books? These stories are a result of wishful thinking,” says the author.

With the book set against the backdrop of the Tamil film industry, there’s liberal use of Tamil phrases. “The story is universal and could have been set in any film industry or even in the corporate sector. Stealing of ideas happens everywhere. I set it in Chennai since I know the city and its people well. I’m unapologetic about using a few Tamil phrases in the book. When we don’t mind Hindi phrases like ‘yeh dil maange more’, why not Tamil? A good writer can set regional phrases in the right context and make it accessible to readers,” he argues. KSD feels colloquial phrases lend authenticity to a few characters. “For instance, if I were to translate all that a driver talks in Tamil into English, it wouldn’t ring true.”

Next, KSD is working on the second part of his first book, Ice Boys in Bell-bottoms, which was set in Madras of the 70s. “I had planned three books, set in the 70s, 80s and 90s. The first book is a coming-of-age story of a boy in a family of writers/artistes, which was partly autobiographical,” he says. KSD wrote Jump Cut to challenge himself with a complete work of fiction before he got back to the trilogy. The second of the trilogy is titled Rally Days and Disco Nights. Apart from this, KSD, also writes and illustrates for school text books with his wife Chitra.

With most of his writing closely intertwined with cinema, does KSD intend to write for films? “I’m planning to write and direct a film. If Jump Cut were to be made into a film, ideally there is no place for songs. Hopefully there will be scope for such films in Tamil/Telugu industries soon,” he says.