The news of Shootjit Sircar’s ‘Gulabo Sitaabo’ starring Amitabh Bachchan and Ayushmann Khurrana has come under scrutiny for being a copy of another story written by the late Rajeev Agarwal. However, the film’s producers have come out with a statement that this is in fact untrue, and the nature of the allegations are baseless.
As reported by Box Office India, the son of the late writer, Akira Agarwal claimed that his father’s work titled ’16 Mohandas Lane’ was submitted in the Cinestaan India’s Storytelling Script contest in October 2018, in which writer Juhi Chaturvedi, who has now used the story as her own work. However, it has now been revealed that though the story was submitted, it did not pass the stage in for it to be given to Chaturvedi in the first place.
Fellow screen-writer Anjum Rajabali, who was also a jury member and was responsible for the protocols for the judging process release a statement that read, “It has come to our notice that there are some reports in the mainstream as well as social media about allegations that Juhi Chaturvedi, the screenwriter of the soon-to-be-released film, ‘Gulabo Sitabo’ has plagiarized the script, ’16, Mohandas Lane’, written by late Rajeev Aggarwal. 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.”
“The process of reading, assessing, screening and judging involved three clear stages. In the first stage, all the submitted stories were read by a bunch of readers and around 325 were shortlisted for me to read. From these, we invited 152 writers to develop their stories into screenplays and submit them to the contest. 126 screenplays were received. In the second stage, these were read by our readers and 20 shortlisted scripts were sent to me, which were read by two senior readers and myself. From these, we shortlisted 8 scripts. And, in the third stage, these 8 scripts were sent to the other three jury members, Aamir Khan, Raju Hirani and Juhi Chaturvedi, to be read by them and by me again. From among these, five were selected for the awards, and ranked in order of merit. 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. Moreover, there is a video recording of me done by Cinestaan in 2018, which clearly outlines the above protocols,” it went on to state.
Chaturvedi also released her own statement where she expressed, “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 and lead actor of the film in early 2017. I subsequently registered the concept note for the film in May 2018. 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 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.”
With the lockdown still in place, ‘Gulabo Sitabo’ is set to release on 12th June and will be among the many other films that will release straight on the online streaming platform Amazon Prime Video.