HC reserves orders on plea against Queen and Thalaivi

Deepa had filed petition to restrain release of web series, film

The Madras High Court on Wednesday reserved its orders on a petition filed by former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s niece J. Deepa to restrain film director Gowtham Vasudeva Menon from releasing his web series Queen, based on her aunt’s life, and director A.L. Vijay from releasing a biopic, Thalaivi, without her express consent.

Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy deferred his verdict on the plea for an interim injunction, after hearing elaborate arguments advanced by the petitioner’s counsel as well as senior counsel P.S. Raman, representing Thalaivi’s producer Vishnu Vardhan Induri, and senior counsel Satish Parasaran, representing Mr. Menon, for nearly half a day.

In a counter affidavit filed through his counsel on record, Vijayan Subramanian, Mr. Induri of Hyderabad said Thalaivi was purely based on a book with the same title, authored by Ajayan Bala alias B. Balaji. The copyright of the book was now held by Saaransh Media Solutions Private Limited, with which the producer had entered into an agreement.

‘No locus standi’

Asserting that Ms. Deepa was not going to figure even in a single scene in the entire movie, Mr. Raman said she had absolutely no locus standi to file the civil suit, in the guise of protecting the right to privacy, since she was a “complete stranger” to Jayalalithaa’s life and came into prominence only after the latter’s death on December 5, 2016.

“Today, she is trying to bask in the glory of her aunt. We have paid ₹20 lakh to the publisher to obtain the right to make the movie based on the book. The book has shown Jayalalithaa in good light and I am also going to show her in good light. Who is this person to object? Am I supposed to go hunting to get consent from every other relative of a public personality?” he said.

When the plaintiff’s counsel insisted that she should be allowed to watch a preview of Thalaivi before its release, along with a retired judge, to find out if there were any objectionable scenes, Mr. Raman retorted: “Let her pay ₹200, purchase a ticket and watch the first day, first show. There’s no need for showing a preview.”

On his part, Mr. Parasaran submitted that the web series was also being shot on the basis of a book, which was a work of fiction, inspired by the life of the former Chief Minister. “Mine is a fictional rendition. We are infact giving a disclaimer that it is fictional. The book has only been inspired by true events,” he told the court. Stating that the producer of the web series had spent around ₹25 crore to shoot the web series, the counsel wondered how the suit could be filed without even making the production company a respondent. He also said Ms. Deepa could not be considered a family member of Jayalalithaa, since they hardly met when the latter was alive.

Further, stating that the web series was under production for long, the senior counsel said the plaintiff could not approach the court at the eleventh hour, especially when the series was also set to release on Saturday, seeking an injunction. He also argued that the privacy rights terminate with the death of the privacy right holder.

“Plaintiff assumes too much of importance for herself in the life of Jayalalithaa. Almost every member of the AIADMK is carrying photographs of Jayalalithaa in their pockets. Can she object to it and and seek an injunction?” he said.

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Printable version | Mar 29, 2020 6:18:42 PM |

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