Vijay's 'Bigil' Runs Into More Trouble With Accusation Of Copyright Infringement

Telangana filmmaker Nandi Chinni Kumar says ‘Bigil’ has ‘striking similarities’ with the life story of a slum football player called Akhilesh Paul, whose biopic rights he had bought.

Kozhikode, KERALA: Close on the heels of Tamil filmmaker K.P. Selvah, who filed a petition with Madras High Court requesting an interim stay on the Vijay and Nayanthara starrer-Tamil film Bigil, a Hyderabad based filmmaker, Nandi Chinni Kumar, has approached the Telangana Cinema Writers Association accusing the film’s makers of “copyright infringement”.

While Selvah had approached the Madras HC earlier this month with allegations that the film’s story resembles his 256-page long script registered with the South Indian Film Writers Association, Nandi Kumar filed his complaint on October 16.

As per Kumar’s complaint, Bigil, which was first named Thalapathy 63, has “striking similarities” with the life story of slum football (soccer) player Akhilesh Paul. Kumar had acquired the “exclusive copyrights” of Paul’s biography in 2018, the complaint notes.

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The rights, story and script of Kumar’s feature film based on Paul’s life was registered with the same association on 7 July, 2018, the complaint claims. According to the complaint, Kumar had acquired the rights to make the feature film in all languages.

Bigil is expected to be Vijay’s big Diwali release, later this month. A dubbed version of the film titled Whistle is expected to be released simultaneously.

As per Kumar’s complaint, he had pitched the story and script to “major film studios and production companies in Bollywood and Tollywood listing copyright of Akhilesh Paul”. Paul is a football player who has been coaching children and adults living in slums. He himself was a slum-dweller and a notorious thug until he took up football. His story was featured in an episode of Satyameva Jayate, hosted by Bollywood actor Aamir Khan.

In his complaint, Kumar writes that he noticed similarities in the script when the Bigil production team released “poster, teaser and trailers” this month. The lead character, played by Vijay in Bigil, is a “soccer player who is also a don/gangster”, notes the complaint. The film is set in slums and the trailers depict the lead character as a person who trains women in football even as he himself plays matches, the complaint alleges. These depictions have “cleared the doubts and ascertained copyright infringement”, stated the complaint.

As per the complaint, the tagline of Kumar’s film with detailed description of his story is available online. One of the taglines mentioned in the complaint reads, “Don/gangster turning to soccer player, later becoming Indian soccer team captain and plays for homeland world cup and slum soccer world cup”. In 2018, major news dailies had also covered the news of Kumar acquiring the rights to Paul’s life story, the complaint notes.

The complaint also makes a reference to Selvah’s petition, which was filed in the Madras High Court. “Atlee and Vijay are accused of several counts of plagiarism and copyright infringement in the past…K P Selvah, writer and director is fighting a plagiarism complaint,” the complaint copy reads.

Speaking to HuffPost India, Nandi Kumar alleged, “I tried contacting the film’s production team, including the director Atlee, numerous times. They did not respond. I was forced to lodge the complaint with the writers association.”

“The complaint is addressed to 'Bigil’s writer and director Atlee, the production company, AGS Entertainment and Mahesh Koneru, producer of East Coast Production, which produced the dubbed version in Telugu.”

Kumar who has made a few short films earlier, was hoping to debut as a writer and director with his film based on Akhilesh Paul’s life.

In the complaint, Kumar has demanded an “immediate explanation” from the makers of Bigil. The complaint also cautions the makers that Kumar may issue a “notice of ‘cease and desist’” and demand that he be compensated for copyright infringement.

The complaint addresses Bigil’s writer and director Atlee, the production company, AGS Entertainment and Mahesh Koneru, producer of East Coast Production, which produced the dubbed version in Telugu.

Telangana Cinema Writers Association has registered the complaint and is expected to issue notices to Bigil’s makers.

Bigil was made on a budget of Rs 180 crore.