Television

"In terms of judging an idea, Arunaji is more open to discussion. Earlier, Ekta too was, but of late, she is not the same person": scriptwriter Mrinal Jha

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"I have a fascination for thrillers, but don't forget, I also wrote many episodes of Rajni. Today, I would even love to do a soap. I have the basic criterion of a good writer, that is because I have been an avid reader from childhood," says writer Mrinal Jha, who also wrote a chunk of Mano Ya Na Mano and Kaahin Kissii Roz. Currently, she pens Meher for DD too.

As of now, Jha, who co-authored the novel November Rain on which Aruna Irani's Tum Bin (Zee) is based, is terribly peeved. "Ekta Kapoor has taken concept credit for Kya Haadsa Kya Haqeeqat (Sony) but the first episode of her current series was almost a frame to frame copy of my series," she complains.

Jha has gone ahead and served a legal notice on Balaji Telefilms for "concept theft" over their latest series Kya Haadsa Kya Haqeeqat.

In her freewheeling interview to indiantelevision.com's Vickey Lalwani, Jha spoke about her distress, Balaji House stint, and lots more. Excerpts:

When did you first realise that the "concept theft" had happened?

Before it came on air. I had read the synopsis of the show released by the channel in a section of the press. It read word to word of what our content of Tum Bin is. I made it a point to see the first episode. And I even recorded it. To say that I was flabbergasted would be an understatement.

How did you check your doubts?

What doubts? It was as clear as a crystal from the first scene. There are certain key sequences which define a concept clearly. The key sequences shown were an exact replica of Tum Bin: A boy's lover dies. He does a planchet to figure out where she is likely to be reborn, and is guided to the exact place. But upon reaching there, he realises there isn't a newborn at that site and returns disappointed. However seconds after he leaves, a pregnant lady enters the scene to suggest that the prophesy was true, but the hero could not meet his lover in a reincarnated form. The order of sequences gave it away. I am not laying any copyright claim on the planchet concept per se.

You have blamed the person who originated with the concept (Ekta), not the writer (Mushtaq Sheikh)?

The concept originates before the screenplay writer pens his stuff, doesn't it?

You and Ekta have worked together before. Couldn't you'll have resolved it amongst yourselves?

To be frank with you, Ekta knew about this concept. I had discussed it with her. She has even read November Rain. When this serial was being made, I was still working with Balaji. The fact that she lifted it without even asking has hurt me considerably. She very well knows how close Tum Bin is to my heart.

"If the audience has already seen the chain of events in Kya Haadsa Kya Haqeeqat, and the mystery that will unfold, why will they sit and watch a daily Tum Bin?"



A still from 'Tum Bin'

Still, isn't your complaint too harsh? Recently, 'Bhabhi' did a take on 'Trishul', 'Saara Akaash' did a take on 'Lagaan', 'Sanjivani-A Medical Boon' did a take on 'Masoom'. We all are inspired by each other...

(Interrupts) It's okay if a scene or two is same. Don't miss the point. How can the entire concept be the same? I have seen the latter episodes and I know what I am talking. If you recall, a party had raised objection to the serial Kanhaiya (Zee) saying that the concept was their's. The Court gave a decision in favour of that party.

Does 'Tum Bin' stand to lose out?

Yes, it might. Due to its condensed format, KHKH is moving at a faster rate. If the audience has already seen the chain of events and the mystery that will unfold, why will they sit and watch a daily Tum Bin?

You sound extremely peeved?

I am. If this is allowed to pass, this would signal the end of creativity on Indian television. Every second TV serial maker will lift concepts from anywhere and everywhere.

How do you expect to be compensated?

I am not fighting for money. I am fighting for justice to creativity.

Would you be okay if she puts your name in credit titles hereafter?

No. That cannot be done. It would suggest that she has run out of ideas. It would also contradict my selling of the rights to A K Films. The ideal thing would be that this particular series of KHKH is taken off air.



A still from 'Tum Bin'

"I am not fighting for money. I am fighting for justice to creativity"

Is there originality on television today?

There "is" originality. But we need to place a value on that. This is a golden opportunity to send out the message loud and clear that originality should be protected.

How do we do that?

There should be a Copyright Act which should clearly spell out what plagiarisation is. Believe me, plagiarisation is one of the main causes of why there's a dearth of writers in India. If there's no law to protect what is rightfully mine and doing well, why would any other writer work hard to be innovative? Besides, there should be a punishment for copying; a punishment which should be implemented in practice and not remain just on paper.

Do you blame the channels for asking the producers to dish out only what is working? In other words, aren't the channels responsible for the herd mentality if one may put it mildly?

You said it! This is one of the biggest problems in today's television in our country. It is easier to convince people by telling them ideas similar to what is already on air rather than dishing out something different.

Think of it, the herd mentality is a collaborated effort?

I would put it this way. Collaboratively, we aren't doing anything (laughs). Believe me, it's a very dangerous scenario. Soon, Indian television might find itself in the morass which Indian cinema found itself in the late 90s when it ran out of ideas and subjects.

Rewind. Why did you leave Balaji House?

I worked on the second phase of Mano Ya Na Mano and also Captain House. I was working on Kaahin Kissii Roz and during that time, it had entered the reincarnation phase. Tum Bin which also featured reincarnation had come on air and I felt I was repeating myself.

Are you hinting that 'Kaahin Kissii Roz' should have ended before it entered the reincarnation phase?

No. I understand that if a daily is doing reasonably well, there is no need to end it. Continuity is the basic funda of a daily. But KKR was a thriller set against a family backdrop. I didn't like the fact that it was gaining supernatural overtones. The decision had been taken jointly by the production house (Balaji) and the channel (Star Plus). I couldn't do much about it. As a writer, I knew I wouldn't be enjoying myself on that track. So I opted out. If it would have remained in its original thriller format, I would have definitely continued.

Why do you think the decision to change the format was taken?

Most serials have moved 20 - 25 years ahead. I guess, they wanted to do the same in KKR. Seems, the general feeling is that new characters need to be introduced. It also may have something to do with the demographics of the country. There is a large amount of young population wanting to work. This is a new trend. Perhaps there is some study that has gone into this. They feel that they can rope in the young audience to watch family serials this way.

You are currently writing 'Meher', but earlier someone else was writing. Is a change of writer good for the serial?

Ideally, a writer should not change. It's not easy for the new writer who comes in. In case of Meher however, I have managed it easily because too many episodes had not rolled when I stepped in.

What's the difference between Aruna Irani and Ekta Kapoor? You have worked with both of them.

In terms of judging an idea, Arunaji is more receptive and open to discussion. Earlier, Ekta too was. Of late, she is not the same person.

Is there any chance that you and Ekta may work again?

Interestingly, I was in talks with Balaji for a new show when this mess happened (laughs). But from here on? (shrugs). I think the answer is obvious.

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