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Oberoi Films wins 'Yeh Jo Hain Zindagi' rights legal battle

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That's Life! It took all of 14 years of litigation for the rights of the popular eighties comedy Yeh Joi Hai Zindagi to finally land with the creator of the TV programme - the late filmmaker S.S. Oberoi.

And the irony of it all is that quite a few people associated with the serial are no more: Shafi Inamdar (who plays the harangued but loved and loving husband of the beautiful Swaroop Sampat), writer Sharad Joshi and Oberoi himself.

The series - which ran successfully on DD National in 1984-85 - was sponsored by toothpaste maker Vicco Laboratories (owned by the Nagpur-based Pendharkar family which makes Vicco Vajradanti and Turmeric cream) for all of 52-54 episodes.

Thereafter DD increased the rates it was charging for the time slot, and the Pendharkars decided they could not continue with the sponsorship. Oberoi, who had made successful commercials for Vicco and Nirma, then approached Brooke Bond for a sponsorship and got its backing. The series continued for another 13-15 episodes before it was pulled off when the Vicco promoters said they owned the rights to it as they were the sponsors.

They took the matter to the City civil court in Mumbai in 1986 which turned down its plea. Vicco then approached the Mumbai high court in 1990, which once again ruled in Oberoi's favour in 1998. Vicco finally went to The Supreme Court in 2000, which also dismissed its special leave petition seeking ownership of Yeh Jo Hain Zindagi on 13 August 2001.

"There were no contracts signed; no one knew anything about copyright then," says Ujwala Oberoi, Oberoi's daughter. "The Supreme Court ruling is a vindication that the ownership of a creative product lies with the person who creates it."

The rib-tickling series featured other actors like Satish Shah, Rakesh Bedi and Tikku Talsania drew nearly 93 per cent viewership in 1984-85.

Ujwala says that the series has since been upgraded to digi beta format (it was shot on low band) since then and quite a few channels have evinced interest in buying up the rights. Well, that's life once again.

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