Juhi Chaturvedi: ‘My conscience is clear, Gulabo Sitabo is my original work’
Days after being accused by late writer Rajeev Agarwal’s son, Akira, of plagiarising his father’s story idea for her upcoming film, Gulabo Sitabo, screenwriter Juhi Chaturvedi claimed that the story is her original work and her conscience is clear.
"My conscience is clear, and so are the facts in this matter. Gulabo Sitabo is my original work and I am proud of it. I shared the idea with the director (Shoojit Sircar) and lead actor (Amitabh Bachchan) of the film in early 2017. I subsequently registered the concept note for the film in May 2018," said Chaturvedi who has written the story, screenplay and dialogues for Shoojit Sircar’s Gulabo Sitabo, which stars Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana.
Alleging that the story of Gulabo Sitabo, its background and theme resemble "16, Mohandas Lane", Akira has claimed that his father had submitted the latter in Cinestaan India's Storyteller Script Contest where Chaturvedi was a jury member. Akira has filed a complained at Mumbai’s Juhu Police Station and a legal notice has been sent to the makers of Gulabo Sitabo, by advocate Rizwan Siddiquee on behalf of Akira, demanding to see the film's complete script.
According to the legal notice, Agarwal had submitted his story in the month March 2018 and his entry had subsequently been shortlisted. On June 28, 2018, the final script of the story was also submitted for the contest and all jury members had full access to the same.
Responding to this, Chaturvedi said, "I also must clarify the speculations around my conduct as a jury member for Cinestaan's contest. I had no access to the so-called infringed script at any point in time, as alleged. This fact has been independently confirmed by Cinestaan as well. Even the Screenwriters Association (SWA), who has looked at this dispute in May 2020, decided in my favour. I speak now to request the press and public not to be disillusioned by false accusations, which are for publicity only. Acts of harassment, defamatory comments, and leaking confidential notices by the accusers only show their lack of faith in their own case. I stand by my truth.”
On the plagiarism row, Anjum Rajabali, Jury Chairman, Cinestaan Script Contest, said, "While it is true that '16, Mohandas Lane' was submitted to the first edition of the Cinestaan India's Storytellers Script Contest of which Juhi Chaturvedi was one of the jury members, we want to clarify that she had absolutely no access to this particular script.”
Further elaborating that the process of reading, assessing, screening and judging involved three clear stages, Rajabali clarified that until the third and final stage, where eight scripts were sent to 'Aamir Khan, Raju Hirani and Juhi Chaturvedi, to be read by them and by me again', Juhi Chaturvedi had no access to any other script.
"While ‘16, Mohandas Lane' made it to the top 20, it did not enter the final list of 8 scripts which were sent to the jury. The jury, including Juhi, had absolutely no access to any script except for the 8 which were sent to them. So, it is totally incorrect to assume that since Juhi Chaturvedi was on the contest's jury she had received the said script. There is clear documentation, including a trail of e-mails from myself to each jury member, which bears out the above facts unambiguously,” added Rajabali.
Commenting on the ongoing row, producer Ronnie Lahiri of Rising Sun Films, said, "Clearly the allegers are upset as the Screenwriters Association decision didn't go in their favour. Releasing the notice to the press, harassing Juhi and the ‘Gulabo Sitabo' producers on social media, seems to be a deliberate attempt to malign Juhi and damage the film."
The film, produced by Ronnie Lahiri and Sheel Kumar, and is set to premiere worldwide on June 12 on Amazon Prime Video.
With inputs from IANS