'Neither can other filmmakers, who have been similarly taken to court. Ask Ram Gopal Varma, Mukesh Bhatt and Habib Faisal.'
Kunal Kohli has lost the legal battle against writer Jyoti Kapoor for alleged copyright infringement and has been ordered to pay her compensation of Rs 25 lakh (Rs 2.5 million).
"There wasn't much else I could do. The honourable Supreme Court gave us the option of a settlement. I settled for it," Kohli explains.
"But the honourable court imposed no stay order on my film Phir Se. I was free to release my film, but I chose the option of settlement. The honourable judge said he believes creative people should promote the culture of settlement," he adds.
Doesn't paying up imply that the complainant was right?
"No. Neither the high court nor the Supreme Court said there was any infringement. But a legal battle can go on for a very long time. The honourable judges said I was free to release my film and let the case go on in the honourable high court. I didn't want to go through court hearings and lawyers' fees," he says.
Doesn't the monetary settlement encourage other writers to come forward with copyright claims?
"I can't afford to keep fighting a legal battle," Kohli explains. "Neither can other filmmakers, who have been similarly taken to court. Ask Ram Gopal Varma, Mukesh Bhatt and Habib Faisal. They have gone through this."
The director is not saying that writers are not within their rights in claiming copyright infringement.
"Writers do become victims of plagiarism, but not this time. Renuka Kunzru wrote Break Ke Baad for me and got credit for it. She was a new writer. I could have stolen her credit if that is the kind of person I was. Shibani Bathija wrote Fanaa for me. Did she have any problem for me?" Kohli asks.
Kohli says he will think twice before entertaining a writer.
"To be honest, I am scared," he says. "I will first have a new writer or lyricist or music composer sit down with my team of lawyers so that they don't drag me to court later. I am moving on. Jyoti Kapoor's lawyer had proposed a settlement and the matter ended there. I was fed of discussing legal strategies instead of marketing strategies for my film."
Kohli will make his acting debut in Phir Se, opposite Jennifer Winget.
Photograph: Abhijit Mhamunkar