Mumbai-based screenwriters Sameer Wadekar and Mahesh Gosavi have moved the Bombay High Court claiming that the upcoming Netflix horror series Betaal is based on their original screenplay titled Vetaal. Wadekar and Gosavi alleged that co-producer Red Chillies Entertainment and Netflix have infringed the copyright on their work.

In a hearing on May 15, the Bombay High Court asked Netflix and Red Chillies Entertainment to file a reply by May 21. The matter will be heard again on May 22.

Netflix, which is scheduled to stream the four-episode series from May 24, declined to comment on the petition.

Betaal has been written by Patrick Graham and Suhani Tanwar. Its plot: a counterinsurgency squad tasked with clearing a tribal-populated area for a construction project activates an ancient curse that unleashes a zombie army of East India Company soldiers.

Wadekar claimed that in Vetaal, an environmentalist arrives in a village near Goa, where there is rampant mining. A series of murders take place in the village, which is attributed to an undead army led by the titular demigod.

The killings are later revealed to be a human conspiracy to drive the villagers off the land. The real undead army, “who have been living like a lost civilisation from Shivaji Maharaj’s era”, arrive and decimate the fake Vetaal’s army, Wadekar said.

According to Wadekar, Vetaal was intended as a Marathi feature film. “I had copyrighted the story in 2015 with the Copyright Office in Delhi,” he said. “We had also registered the bound script with the Screenwriters’ Association back in March 2018. When the trailer of Betaal released on May 8, 2020, we found glaring similarities with our script Vetaal. Also the synopsis posted on the Netflix website gave us further indication.”

Betaal (2020).

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In Netflix’s ‘Betaal’, East India Company zombies and horror with a social purpose