Marathi screenwriters move HC against Shah Rukh Khan-backed Netflix series 'Betaal' alleging copyright violation

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It was only last week that Shah Rukh Khan-backed Netflix series Betaal's trailer released. But soon Marathi screenwriters Sameer Wadekar and Mahesh Gosawi moved the Bombay High Court, alleging that Netflix and Shah Rukh's Red Chillies Entertainment have lifted the plot of their zombie film titled 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.

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

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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."

However, there has been no official statement from Netflix or Red Chillies Entertainment on the same.

Betaal's story is set in a remote village, which quickly becomes the arena of a breathless battle when a two-century-old East India Company Colonel, infected with the Betaal's curse, and his battalion of blood-thirsty zombie redcoats are released from their tomb - attacking anything with a pulse. With the CIPD (Counter Insurgency Police Department) forces pitted against the undead army, hapless civilians are trapped in a gripping, edge-of-your-seat conflict. The show stars Aahana Kumra, Viineet Kumar, Suchitra Pillai and Jeetendra Joshi and will release on May 24. 

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