Amit Sharma, Priti Shahani back film’s writers Shantanu Srivastava, Akshat Ghildial

Last year’s big hit family drama Badhaai Ho has been embroiled in a controversy after one of its credited writers, Jyoti Kapoor, filed a complaint against producers Junglee Pictures for taking her name out from the Filmfare award nominations.

Kapoor had filed a complaint about this with the Screen Writers Association. Now Junglee Pictures and director Amit Sharma have expressed disappointment on the issue and backed their writers Shantanu Srivastava and Akshat Ghidial.

“Badhaai Ho, the film that came out in October 2018, was written by Akshat and Shantanu. Ms Jyoti Kapor had nothing to do with the story or the script that was transcribed to the motion picture that was loved by audiences,” Sharma said in a statement. 

Sharma claimed that he had never met Jyoti Kapoor nor read her Hum Do Hamaare Chaar script, which is said to be similar to Badhaai Ho.

In the trailer end credits for Badhaai Ho, however, Kapoor’s name appears as ‘Story [Junglee Pictures]: Jyoti Kapoor’.

Speaking to Cinestaan.com, Sharma said, “If you have seen the credits, Jyoti Kapoor has been given credit for Story for Junglee Pictures. Her name doesn’t figure with the main writers because she had nothing to do with this film. When Junglee Pictures and Chrome Pictures [Sharma’s own production house] had not joined hands, that is when Kapoor had written a similar concept for Junglee Pictures. It was just a one-line idea for a story of an old parent getting pregnant, which she was also writing. Along with my writers, I too was writing on a similar idea. This was in 2015.”

Sharma said the idea had first come to him and his writers in 2012 and was to be used for an ad film. Once they met Junglee Pictures in December 2015, they registered their story with the SWA. It was only after the meeting with Junglee Pictures that Sharma realized the company had discussed a similar idea with Kapoor. 

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In her interview to the website Firstpost.com, Kapoor had said she had registered her story on 24 March 2015. Sharma played down the dates and stuck to his stand that the similarity ended with the one-line idea. 

“A particular idea, a one-line idea can occur to more than one person,” he said. “No one has a copyright on ideas. Kapoor’s story has nothing to do with the Badhaai Ho script. I request that the full script of Hum Do Hamaare Chaar be put in an open forum. Badhaai Ho is already out there in the public. See the two and you will find the truth.”

Sharma also asked us to refer to his official statement that he had sent to Junglee Pictures. We received that shortly. In the statement, too, he said the idea had first originated in 2012 and was to be made into an ad film.

“Akshat, one of the writers on Badhaai Ho, came up with the idea back in 2012 for an ad campaign. He narrated the idea to me and we started work on it. This was in 2015. Soon after, when Priti got to know I was working on a similar idea, we met and she heard our story. She loved it so much that she said we should continue developing it.

“Akshat and Shantanu started developing the story which became Badhaai Ho. I am not insinuating anything here, neither am I leaving anything for the grey area or for odd assumptions. The story was developed only by Akshat and Shantanu keeping Junglee in the loop. Neither Ms Kapoor nor her version of the story were ever responsible for what became Badhaai Ho.

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“Priti spoke to Akshat and Shantanu and in good faith, they agreed to give Ms Jyoti Kapoor the credit for ‘Story for Junglee Pictures’. As you can see, it appears not with the main writers but towards the end of the credits roll.”

Shortly after speaking to Sharma, we also received a statement from Junglee Pictures president Priti Shahani. She revealed that writers Srivastava and Ghildial were willing to withdraw their names from the nomination.

“It is disheartening that our writers Shantanu and Akshat have been put in a position where they believe the right thing to do is to withdraw their names from the Filmfare nomination for Best Story,” Shahani said in her statement. 

Shahani acknowledged that Junglee was first working on an in-house concept with the story idea from Kapoor.

 “Jyoti Kapoor was commissioned as a writer to develop a story based on an in-house concept which was tentatively titled Hum Do Hamaare Chaar. During the development phase, we learned that director Amit Sharma was also working on a similar idea. As prudent producers, we met Amit Sharma to understand and discuss the direction of each other’s work.

“It was then that Junglee Pictures made a creative decision to collapse our in-house development and back the story being created by Shantanu and Akshat. We had this discussion with Jyoti Kapoor, compensated her for her time and effort as per the agreement, and terminated our contract with her.

“Junglee Pictures agreed to give her credit only if her work was used. However, we gave it on good faith as we were crediting our in-house team member for the story idea. The story by her, Hum Do Hamaare Chaar, bears no resemblance to Badhaai Ho. She does not share top billing with the writers for the same reason,” Shahani explained.

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Shahani clarified that Kapoor was never meant to get a credit if the film was to be nominated for any awards.

“Filmfare mistakenly had her name in the story credits for award nomination. On our clarification they made the appropriate change. It is our duty to stand by our writers and their work and we will support this in every way we can. Their work has been loved and appreciated and they have been rightfully nominated for it,” Shahani said. 

But if the producers have officially credited Jyoti Kapoor separately in the credits, what is the harm in including her name in the nomination?

“Where she deserves, her name will appear, but where it doesn’t merit, how will the name be included?” Sharma said. “Like I said, she has been credited for writing for Junglee Pictures. But she cannot get credit with Shantanu and Akshat. Had we made Hum Do Hamaare Chaar, she would have got the credit for that.”

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