"Laawaris" and "Housefull" dispute over the song "Dhanno"
If you have been following the recent Bollywood news,[this, this and this] chances are that you already know about the legal battle being fought with respect to the song "Apni Toh Jaise Taise", originally of the film "Laawaris", which has been synchronised and re-recorded as "Aapka Kya Hoga (Dhanno)" in the just-released film "Housefull". You may have also watched the movie "Housefull" already and, like many others, have come to the conclusion that this song is the only highlight of the movie.
But some of the facts as reported by the media are wrong and this post will give the full correct facts of the case as unfolded till now.
"Laawaris" is a movie which released in 1981, directed by Prakash Mehra, starring Amitabh Bacchan, Zeenat Aman, Rakhee, Amzad Khan etc, music score by Kalyanji Anandji and music label by Saregama-HMV. It had wonderful songs, of which two were super-hits – "Mere Anganey mein tumhara…" and "Apni toh Jaise Taise…" and whose lyrics were written by Prakash Mehra himself.
In July 1981, Prakash Mehra entered into an assignment agreement with Saregama Limited, whereby he assigned "the copyright and all other rights, title and interest in the musical, dramatic, literary works, sound recordings and all other works" to Saregama Limited and authorised it to exploit the same, in exchange of royalty.
Ever since it became known that Sajid Nadiadwala planned to use parts of the song "Apni toh Jaise Taise…" in an item number in his movie "Housefull", legal notices reached the offices of Saregama, Super Cassettes (the music label of "Housefull"), Sajid Nadiadwala, Eros International (distributor of "Housefull") etc both from the offices of Prakash Mehra and Kalyanji-Anandji to cease and desist from using the said song, asserting copyright over the same.
On 16 April 2010, Saregama moved an application ex-parte (without notice to the other parties involved) before the Calcutta High Court and prayed that others be restrained from claiming any right over the said song "Apni Toh Jaise Taise…". They obtained an interim injunction and served such order upon the other parties.
As soon as the news of such an interim order became known, the heirs of Prakash Mehra filed a suit before the High Court of Judicature in Bombay, claiming infringement of copyright by Saregama, Sajid Nadiadwala etc. However, they could not proceed there, since a suit in the same cause of action was pending before the High Court at Calcutta. On or about 22-23 April 2010, lawyers representing both Kalyanji-Anandji and the heirs of Prakash Mehra appeared before the Calcutta High Court and made it clear that they were filing their own suits.
Now there were three cases before the Court:
1. One by Saregama whereby they claimed that they were the copyright holders by way of the Assignment Agreement of 1981;
2. Second by Anandji and heirs of Kalyanji, claiming copyright over the music composition and stating that the synchronised song has mutilated and distorted the original song, harming the reputation of the music-composer duo.
3. Third by the heirs of Prakash Mehra, claiming that by way of the Assignment Agreement, only the right to exploit the works as embodied in the original film was transferred, but not the right to use the same in any other cinematograph film.
Three days of intense argument followed. A number of legal stalwarts placed their cases before the Court, each trying his best to defend his client. The court where the hearing was taking place, heard it continuously for the whole day. From the second day onwards, a number of lawyers as well as members of the press came to witness the legal battle being fought in full earnest.
On 29 April 2010, at around 12-45 pm, after hearing the lawyers representing Kalyanji-Anandji and Saregama, the interim orders that were previously granted in favour of Saregama were vacated by the Learned Judge. At 3 pm, they moved an appeal and prayed for stay of operation of this order.
Next day, on 30 April 2010, the Learned Judge heard the arguments of the lawyers representing the heirs of Prakash Mehra and Sajid Nadiadwala and gave another order, whereby she restrained the exploitation of the song "Apni Toh Jaise Taise…" in the film "Housefull" till 30 June 2010 (and not 2 June 2010, as reported everywhere). She also held that under the Assignment Agreement of 1981, Saregama could not have given permission to Sajid Nadiadwala to synchronise and re-record the song in his film. However, she also held that the re-recorded song has not mutilated or distorted the original song. This finding was only on an interim basis and directions were also given for filing of reply and counter-reply to the suits and the matter would again be heard after 6 weeks.
This order was given at 12-30 pm, by which time, the movie "Housefull" had already released world-wide. On a prayer made by the lawyers representing Sajid Nadiadwala and Eros International, the Court gave two-days’ time and also ordered the box-office collection of the weekend to be separately accounted for in the meanwhile.
Its just the beginning of another long-drawn battle before the Appeal Court. It remains to see which parties settle the matter out of court and who all remain in the battlefield. It also remains to see whether the movie-goers would be able to catch the movie along with the song "Aapka Kya Hoga (Dhanno)" from today onwards.