Chhapaak copyright row! Rukmini Sen denies receiving any script from Rakesh Bharti

The former Fox Star Studios Associate VP claims that Bharti’s e-mail only mentioned about a ‘story of a girl from Delhi’ but there was no mention of Laxmi Agarwal. Bharti admits that there, perhaps, was no legal contract with Agarwal to produce a film on her.

By Mayur Lookhar

Rakesh Bharti

Screenwriter, filmmaker Rakesh Bharti had claimed on Saturday (4 January) that he had shared his script of the Laxmi Agarwal story with former Fox Star Studios official Rukmini Sen.  Sen acknowledged meeting Bharti at NFDC Film Bazaar in Goa in 2014, but has vehemently denied receiving any script from him.

Speaking to BeyondBollywood, Sen said, “Firstly, I believe he claimed that I was the content head of Fox Star Studios, which I wasn’t. Back then, I was reporting to the content head.  He never sent us any concept note or script which was like Chhapaak [2020]. He sent us some concept note on a totally different subject on e-mail. I didn’t even share it with my creative head because there was no script.”

Sen though claimed that Bharti perhaps may have mentioned orally about an acid attack victim story but he never named Laxmi Agarwal in their conversation. Besides, there was no mention of Agarwal in the docket which he e-mailed her in November, 2014.

“He had sent a docket which had a concept note but it was about some other story. Besides, he had sent three one liners, one of them mentioned ‘story of a girl in Delhi and how her life changes’. There was no mention of Laxmi Agarwal,” Sen said confidently.  

The former Fox Star Studios official stated that she never forwarded Bharti’s concept to her creative heads – Aalif Surti, Rucha Pathak.  While Pathak is currently Chief Creative Officer at Fox Star Studios, Surti had left Fox Star Studios in 2015, where he last served as the Chief Creative Officer.

We contacted Pathak who refused to comment as the matter is sub-judice.

In the press conference on Saturday, Bharti had claimed that he had registered his script with Film Writer’s Association in 2016.  

Bharti claimed to have shared the script with Sen but once she left in 2015, he received no further communication from Fox Star Studios.

Sen ruled out Bharti sharing any unregistered script. “First of all, we never even open any unregistered script. Registered or unregistered, he never shared any script with me,” Sen said categorically.  

We contacted Bharti today and apprised him of Sen’s side of the story. “She can say whatever she wants, but I did share a PPT [Power Point Presentation] document with her in our first meeting in Goa,” Bharti told BeyondBollywood.

We contacted Sen again to seek her reaction to Bharti’s ‘sharing PPT document’ claim, the former Fox Star Studios official simply sent a text message that read, “Ask him PPT of what?”

In our earlier telephonic conversation, Sen revealed about receiving a call from Bharti recently where she reminded him that he wasn’t clear in his e-mail communication.

“He recently called me where I reminded him that his e-mail had just mentioned about a story of a girl from Delhi and how her life changes. Back then, when I asked him about this one liner, he had simply said ‘yeah, this is the story’.  But he never elaborated the story,” explained Sen, who is now an independent filmmaker.

Sen also revealed that till the time she was there at Fox Star Studios, the idea of Chhapaak didn’t even take birth and Fox Star Studios was working on Neerja [2016] then.

Interestingly, in the press conference on Saturday, both Bharti and his lawyer Ashok Saraogi were kind of evasive when asked about whether they had any legal contract with Agarwal to make a film on her. Bharti had shared a copy of a Chhanv letterhead that mentioned about assigning rights to Rakesh Bharti to write, direct, produce a documentary and a feature film on Agarwal. The document dated 17 November, 2015. has Laxmi Agarwal’s signature on it. [We haven’t been able to verify that from Agarwal as yet].

In our telephonic conversation with Bharti today, we asked him whether there was any legal, duly signed, stamped contract assigning rights to him, Bharti simply said, “Woh naubat hi nahi aayi [That stage never came].  Look, that is not our agenda. Our fight is for copyright.”

We lost contact with Bharti at this moment and the subsequent call went unanswered.  With the filmmaker, producer making it clear that there, perhaps, was no legal contract between Agarwal and him, we wonder whether the content in the Chhanv letterhead was a mere consent letter.

Earlier, our request to both Bharti and Sen for sharing screen shots of their e-mail communication was politely turned down.

Efforts to contact Laxmi Agarwal and her former partner Alok Dixit didn’t yield any response.

Bharti has filed a criminal and a civil case against Fox Star Studios, Meghna Bhatt, Deepika Padukone and five others but nothing against Agarwal or Dixit.

The Bombay High Court will hear the arguments in the case on 7 January, while two days later, the Borivali court will look into Bharti’s allegations.

Chhapaak is set to be released on 10 January.

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