Mumbai: Just a week ahead of its release, news is out that director Vishal Bhardwaj’s Rangoon starring Shahid Kapoor, Kangana Ranaut and Saif Ali Khan is caught up in legal trouble.
Film production company Wadia Movietone Pvt. Ltd. has reportedly filed a commercial suit against Vishal Bhardwaj and others in the Mumbai High Court on grounds of copyright infringement.
According to a media report, Roy Wadia on behalf of Wadia Movietone Pvt. Ltd. has claimed that Miss Julia, the character of Kangana Ranaut – a strong stuntwoman – is based on real-life Australian stunt actor Mary Evans, popularly known in India and around the world as Fearless Nadia.
Wadia’s firm hold rights to all scripts, publicity material and posters for the Fearless Nadia films it has produced. The Wadias’ suit alleges that the makers of Rangoon have infringed on the copyrighted Fearless Nadia’s characters, costumes, persona and even her signature “Bloody Hell!” phrase.
Roy Wadia, the Managing director of Wadia Movietone Pvt. Ltd. alleges that Rangoon’s makers have carried out a “breach of trust.”
Back in 2006, Ronnie Screwvala of UTV was approached by Roy Wadia to make a film on Nadia. Things did not work out but soon news emerged that Vishal Bhardwaj was making a similar film for UTV.
UTV and Vishal Bhardwaj reportedly told Roy Wadia that their film, then-titled Julia, was not inspired by the story of Fearless Nadia. Later, Wadia learned that the film was shelved. In 2008, Wadia signed an agreement with a German firm that it could use all of Wadias’ copyrighted material on Fearless Nadia to make a film on her.
Seven years later, Roy Wadia got news that a film called Rangoon was being made and that it was supposedly based around Nadia’s life. Wadia reportedly told the film’s makers that the rights to Fearless Nadia’s character and story were with a German firm and if Vishal and co. still went ahead with Rangoon, they could land in legal trouble. Disney UTV (then, headed by Siddharth Roy Kapur) assured Wadia and the German firm that the film wouldn’t be made.
Then in 2016, while Vishal was making Rangoon with Sajid Nadiadwala, Vishal assured Roy Wadia that his film was a love story set in the backdrop of World War II and was not remotely inspired by Nadia’s life. UTV Disney by then was not in the picture.
When Wadia finally saw the film’s promos in 2017, he realised that Kangana’s character Julia was indeed inspired from the life of Fearless Nadia.
Now, the suit comes up for hearing in Mumbai High Court on February 20.
While the Rangoon camp has been quiet about this since the matter is sub-judice, a member from Rangoon’s cast, requesting anonymity said, “Kangana was advised to watch Hunterwali (a famous 1935 Fearless Nadia stunt film), and the stylists told to reference her dressing for Kangana, who plays Julia. Some of the male characters also resemble those from Nadia’s life.”