When Amit Mehra decided to foray in films by producing a remake of his father Prakash Mehra’s iconic Zanjeer, little did he know that the stumbling blocks ahead would almost destroy his yet-to-kickstart career.
Mired in controversy, the remake has to struggle some more with the original film’s writers Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar refusing to part with the film's remake rights. To make matters worse, the film is being remade in Telugu too, creating copyright complications.
When contacted, Javed Akhtar opened up on the issue for the first time and revealed that he has the legal papers to prove that the South Indian remake rights of Zanjeer belong to the Salim-Javed partnership.
'It’s very simple, really. Salim Saab and my contract was with Prakash Mehra Productions (PMP) for our script to be made only in Hindi.
'The South Indian rights for Zanjeer were with us. Back in those days, we’d just sell our hit films to the South without determining which South Indian language it would be remade into. They would give us Rs 1 lakh or so for the rights. We had sold South Indian rights of several of our hits like Don and Yaadon Ki Baraat.”
The noted lyricist says he was shocked to hear that Prakash Mehra’s son was remaking Zanjeer in not only Hindi but also in Telugu.
“Salim Saab and I informed Amit Mehra of our misigivings and advised him to sort the matter out amicably with us but he didn’t take us seriously.
“The super-hit Hindi films that are made into Telugu get up to Rs 3 crore. So we feel we too deserve a compensation of Rs 3 crore for the rights to remake Zanjeer which we hold and have papers to prove it. Secondly, when we had sold the Zanjeer script to PMP it was for a film titled Production No.1 which starred Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bhaduri and Pran. If it’s the same script that is being remade then the same cast should be in the film. We gave the rights to make a film with a particular cast and crew. We did not give the right to remake that film in Hindi with any other cast and crew. So money must be paid for remake rights in Hindi as well," he explains.
Akhtar sees the whole Zanjeer fracas as another example of how badly writers are treated in the Indian film industry.
“They are willing to spend huge amounts on everyone and everything -- stars, locations, costumes, choreographer, action director -- bhut they won’t spend money on a script. The truth is, only those filmmakers who have taken the scripts seriously have survived for long," he says.
Meanwhile, a prominent member of the remake crew reveals, "Amit Mehra is not averse to the idea of paying the remake rights. But why would he pay to two parties for the same script when his brothers claim that they have the remake rights of the film and he has already paid them for it?'
While the court will have the last word on who really has the remake rights of Zanjeer, the film could turn out to be the costliest remake in Indian film industry till date if Mehra is asked to pay both the parties.