Delhi High Court Denies Interim Injunction: Rejects Petition to Halt OTT Streaming of Shamshera Starring Ranbir Kapoor, Upholds Non-Monopoly Principle Over Ideas

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By Legal Referencer


In a recent legal tussle, the Delhi High Court grappled with a plea from filmmaker Bikramjeet Singh Bhullar, who sought an interim order to halt the OTT airing of the Ranbir Kapoor-featured movie “Shamshera.” This plea, raised against Yash Raj Films and others, alleged that the film’s essence and narrative closely resembled Bhullar’s work, ‘Kabu Na Chhadein Khet,’ thereby infringing upon his copyrighted material. [Bikramjeet Singh Bhullar v Yash Raj Films & Ors]

However, Justice Jyoti Singh, presiding over the case, dismissed Bhullar’s plea, emphasizing a significant point—the attempt to establish an exclusive grip over themes recurrent in Bollywood narratives. The court reasoned that granting such exclusivity would counter established legal norms.

The heart of Bhullar’s argument revolved around his conception, in 2006, of a period drama set in the 18th century, later condensed into a 10-minute short film, screened at the Spinning Wheel Film Festival in Toronto. Bhullar claimed interactions with the creators of “Shamshera” in the past but was allegedly informed in January 2017 that they had no intention of collaborating with him.

Upon the release of “Shamshera’s” trailer on YouTube in June 2022, Bhullar asserted substantial imitation or adaptation of his work, prompting his recourse to the Court for redress.

His contention rested on the similarity between both works: period drama backdrop, underdog tales, North Indian settings, oppression narratives, dynamic protagonists, and formidable antagonists. Bhullar’s legal team highlighted shared themes of vengeance, enslavement, spanning generations of father and son, and common elements like burning oil, hot water, birds, navigation by the North star, secret underwater passages, all woven into both narratives.

On the flip side, the defendants, represented by Yash Raj and associates, refuted any claim of copyright in a story merely due to its period drama setting. They argued against copyright protection in themes, plots, or ideas alone.

The Court meticulously reviewed Bhullar’s script alongside the movie “Shamshera,” discerning disparities that outweighed the alleged similarities. Elements like North Indian locales, fiery oil, water, avian motifs, star-based navigation, covert underwater passages, horses, traditional attire, and certain scenes were deemed clichéd and commonly used across cinema eras, lacking distinctiveness or copyright worthiness.

Further, the Court emphasized the prevalence of father-son narratives in Bollywood and pointed out that “Shamshera” primarily revolved around Kartar’s resistance to Afghan invasions rather than solely focusing on Shamsher Singh’s character.

Ultimately, the Court dismissed Bhullar’s plea for interim relief, citing a lack of a prima facie case and negligible potential harm in the absence of an injunction. The primary case is slated for further deliberation on January 16, 2024.

Senior Advocate Chander M Lall, accompanied by advocates Joseph Koshy, Ananya Chugh, Indrani Mohan, and Ankit Chauhan, represented Bikramjeet Singh Bhullar, while the defendants were represented by Senior Advocate Rajshekhar Rao, along with advocates Abhishek Malhotra, Atmaja Tripathy, Partharasarathy, Aman Gandhi, and Deepak Biswas.

Read the full Judgement here:



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