96 director Prem Kumar denied on Thursday that his breakout hit was plagiarised, and asserted that the allegation of intellectual theft has surfaced only because the movie is a box office winner.
Filmmaker Suresh has claimed that the October 4 release, which stars Vijay Sethupathi and Trisha, has been plagiarised from his screenplay, which is titled 92 and is about the journey of two lovers from a small town. Suresh, an assistant director of Tamil filmmaker P Bharathiraja, claimed that he had narrated the story to the filmmaker and occasional actor Maruthu Pandian, whose assistance with the story was acknowledged in the film’s credits.
“Even the Ilayaraaja songs of the ‘80s and ‘90s sung by the heroine in the movie can be found in my script which I had emailed to this common friend in 2013,” Suresh was quoted as saying by Outlook magazine.
At the press conference in Chennai, Kumar strongly denied the charges, and said that Suresh had made his remarks after the film emerged as a hit and its Telugu remake rights were sold. Kumar said that he had registered his screenplay with the South Indian Film Writers Association in 2016. As evidence, he brandished rough drafts of his screenplay and a hand-written book, which he said was a spin-off novel about the film’s hero, Ram.
“Suresh showed a few location stills that he clicked as evidence. But how is that proof?” Kumar said. “Is he accusing us of stealing location stills or his script? In fact I had released the name of the film too long time back. They are accusing us without any evidence and details.” He was accompanied by filmmakers Thiyagarajan Kumararaja, Balaji Tharaneetharan and Pandian.
Suresh told Silverscreen.in in a previous interview that 92 was supposed to have been directed by Bharathiraja in 2013, with music by Ilaiyaraaja. The project was delayed. Suresh claimed that in 2014, he met Pandian, who would go on to make Chennai Ungalai Anbudan Varaverkirathu the next year. Attempts were made to narrate the film to Vijay Sethupathi, Suresh claimed, but when they went nowhere, Pandian put Suresh in touch Prem Kumar, who told him that the actor was busy with many projects and asked him to stay in touch.
Suresh has not registered his script with the South Indian Film Writers Association, and has no legal grounds to fight for his claims. “The story I wrote is not just any other story,” he told Silverscreen.in. “It is my life. It was a part of my life that I wanted to show onscreen. So I never felt the need to register it.”
Kumar has maintained that his script was written during the Chennai floods in 2016. In an interview with Scroll.in, Kumar said that his inspiration came from seeing a romance between two of his classmates at during a school reunion in 2015.