On January 1, when Shah Rukh Khan tweeted the first teaser for his December release Zero with the lines “Ticket liye baithe hain log meri zindagi ki, tamasha bhi poora hona chahiye” (People are waiting with tickets to witness my life, they must be fully entertained), little did he know that he would be in the firing line of poet Mithelesh Baria’s admirers.
Soon after Khan’s tweet went out, several Twitter users pointed out to the actor and director Aanand L Rai that the lines used to promote the film had been written by Baria, who lives in Vadodara.
Baria has been writing short verses on Twitter since 2011. He developed a sizeable online fan following, but his poems often appeared on the internet under the names of others, such as Piyush Mishra and Gulzar, Baria told Scroll.in. To avoid this situation, he published Chhoti Chhoti Baatein, consisting of 500 of his best verses, in 2016. The lines used by Khan had been published in Baria’s book and are thus copyrighted.
Rai reached out to Baria on January 3 over the phone and admitted that a blunder had been made by the creative team, which was asked to give a quote to Khan to go with the teaser. “Even I was not aware about what tweet was being used to promote the film,” Rai told Scroll.in. “If a person’s work is being used, of course, he will be credited. The mistake will be rectified.”
Zero, which also stars Anushka Sharma, Katrina Kaif and Tigmanshu Dhulia, will feature Khan playing a dwarf. “The character is inversely proportional to a superhero,” Rai had told Scroll.in in a 2017 interview.