Zombie story haunts Betaal! Marathi writers allege that makers lifted the plot of their film Vetaal

Updated: May 23, 2020, 07:07 IST | Mohar Basu | Mumbai

Marathi screenwriters move HC against Shah Rukh-backed Netflix series alleging copyright infringement, claim '10 plot points' similar to their zombie film.

Shah Rukh Khan
Shah Rukh Khan

No sooner did the trailer of Betaal drop online last week than Marathi screenwriters Sameer Wadekar and Mahesh Gosawi moved the Bombay High Court, alleging that Netflix and Shah Rukh Khan's Red Chillies Entertainment have lifted the plot of their zombie film, Vetaal.

"We had taken our script to several production houses. We hadn't pitched it to Red Chillies Entertainment, so the onus isn't on them, but on the platform that commissioned it. I haven't been able to figure out how [the idea] reached them. I am told the show went on floors in July 2019, a year after my script was registered with the Screen Writers' Association [SWA]. We've registered a complaint with the SWA too," said Wadekar, hours after the hearing on Friday.

A still from Betaal
A still from Betaal

While Betaal — written by Patrick Graham and Suhani Kanwar — revolves around a counter-insurgency squad that aims to displace tribals from a village, Wadekar claimed their Marathi feature is centred on an environmentalist who opposes a mining company that tries to drive away the villagers.

Drawing parallels, he said, "There are at least 10 plot points that are similar. We have depicted zombies as descendants of the Vetaal army from Shivaji's era while, in Betaal, they are shown as belonging to the British era. We had written a sequence where the army dances to folk music during a procession. A similar scene is included in their trailer."

Sameer Wadekar, writer
Sameer Wadekar, writer

Though the high court dismissed their petition to put a stay on the show, he has a glimmer of hope. "The court has affirmed that we can seek damages if the plagiarism charges are proved."

Netflix remained unavailable for comment.

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