The 3 Idiots story credit issue has been making some noise now. The news is coming out in bits and pieces, and I think it is important I clarify a few things. Yes, clearly, the makers of the film have been unfair and thousands of my readers have been saying so. I am aware of this, and this is not an issue that has ‘just come up’. I’ve been grappling with it for two years, but kept silent about it.
The only reason it has surfaced after the movie’s release is because Five Point Someone has a few million readers, and when you copy a popular story claiming it as ‘original’ and ‘completely different’, people are going to find out. People did, and so did a lot of media journalists.
The case is as simple as the makers claiming the story as their own, and clearly it is not. Pre-release, the makers made press statements like the movie is only ‘very loosely’, ‘2%-5% inspired by the book’. After release, those who have read the book and seen the movie (and frankly, I think those are the only people who have the right to comment) find the film to be an adaptation of Five Point Someone. The setting, characters, plotline, dramatic twists and turns, one-liners, theme, message – almost all aspects that make up the story are from FPS. Yes, there are some changes, any adaptation requires that – but it is no way an original story. Leading movie critics have privately admitted to me that the film is 70% the book. Still, don’t take my word for it – go read the book, watch the film.
I, frankly, was shocked to see this. This is because I was also fed ‘this is an original movie’ line a lot. I wanted to see the final script – it was never shown to me. I wanted to see the film before release – it was not shown to me (even though trials had been done for people). What’s more, the makers had called me to their office and pressured me several times to withdraw my ‘Based on a novel by’ credit, which was by contract. They told me they’d replace it with something like ‘initiated by’ – a credit that doesn’t exist anywhere in the world. I still told them that if the film is indeed original, I’ll happily withdraw the credit, but somehow the promos don’t tell me so. I asked them to show me the film and they fell silent.
Soon, they started doing media promotions for the film, and kept me completely out of it (you’ll never find me in an interview with them). Crores was poured into publicity on shutting me out and cementing the fact that 3 Idiots is not based on Five Point Someone. However, the book had been read by millions of people and the FPS buzz just did not die down.
Ten days before the release, I was called into their office. They said ‘we should be friends now’. I said I am always up for friendship, and the success of the film is good for me as well. They also said, and I quote verbatim ‘even though this is an original film, we have given you a great credit, right upfront. After all, we love writers and a king should treat another king with respect. You are family’. I believed them.
I called my family before release, and told them all not to expect FPS. I even gave a few interviews where I said don’t expect FPS.
Then I went for the premiere. My family sat in the theatre shocked, as sequence after sequence came from the book. 2%-5% means 3-6 minutes, and I had told my family to look for the few FPS moments and note them. However, there were so many that it became impossible to keep track. The plot line was same – people meet at ragging, the first class with definition of machine, the friends separate, Alok (Raju) moves with Venkat (Chatur), Ryan (Rancho) helps Alok’s father, Alok rejoins group etc etc. From Alok (Raju) jumping to stealing the papers and calling out from Cherian (Virus’) office – the book came alive on screen. I was surprised and happy that FPS has made it in such a grand way.
However, my family had not spotted my credit in the beginning (there was none) and they were feeling let down. A screenplay associate credit to VVC had a prominent upfront placement. The story credit was not shared with me. And yes, all the office talk of a ‘king treated like king’ was a white lie.
I knew they had played with me, and that ‘based on a novel by’ credit, which they were legally bound to give would be hushed away at the end – with the clear intention of making sure people miss it. And indeed, it came after the junior artists and still photographer of the movie, and zoomed away fast. My own mother missed seeing my name, and for that she cried after seeing the film. I told her it doesn’t matter, as people know FPS. But yes, that hurt me a lot.
I went up to the makers after the premiere, and they said it is a hit so chill and forget about it. I guess I could, but it is hard. Only a writer or a creative person knows how this feels. I am one of the lucky ones that people have read FPS. Imagine the fate of other writers in Bollywood. Anyway, I came home and thanked God for making my story reach so many people.
Upon the film’s release – my mailbox and twitter account, literally became flooded. Fans and readers wrote stunned mails. They had seen the makers’ interviews which had denied FPS links and they missed seeing the credit on screen. I kept quiet, though I did send a message to the makers telling them audience reactions. They did not respond. Soon media journalists saw the film. They called me and said they have to do a story on this as they are on my side. I tried my best to avoid them. However, many have helped me in the past and I can’t avoid their call forever. One HT journalist from Delhi called, and asked me how I felt about the credit. I used one word – I said ‘strange’. And that’s when the news exploded.
This my friends, is the story. Meanwhile, the makers have accused me of seeking fame – when clearly it is the other way round. They’ve taken my story to make fame for themselves, and shut me out of it. I know my readers will spot it immediately. However, the film also reaches millions of other people who do not read books – and they deserve to know who wrote the story. And that is why I am talking about this issue (and I admit for people who’ve read the book, they may wonder it’s so obvious so why I am going on about it).
I hope my explanation helps. I do have a few additional points to make.
- This has nothing to do with Mr. Aamir Khan – while the makers are fronting him to talk about the issue (as he has the credibility), this is not about him at all. I am a big fan of Aamir and he has made my story reach people. However, he was told by the makers not to read the book, and he hasn’t. Thus, he cannot comment on the issue in a meaningful manner. The media should stop questioning him. When I met him, both of us were told that the movie is original and not the book. He was asked not to read the book – and I wasn’t shown the script. Go figure.
- I don’t need this kind of fame – It doesn’t do anything for me. Like I said, I am lucky to have channels to express my opinion. Other writers don’t. I can’t tell you how much it hurts when this happens. Imagine someone takes your child, dresses him up and tells the world it is theirs. I’ve felt the pain for two years on this issue but I kept silent on it. I can’t help it if millions have read the book and see the movie upon release and spot the issue themselves.
- I don’t want anything from them – They’ve taken the story credit. Let them keep it. All Bollywood award functions have an award for ‘story’, apart from other categories. They’ll collect it all year around and feel good about it. I didn’t write the story for awards. I wrote it as I felt I had something to say about the education system and the race for grades. I have my fans’ love and I am more than happy with it.
- The odds - They have an army of people to promote their side of the story, crores of media budgets and are sparing no efforts to bring me down. The only thing I have is my fans, and the truth. But then, the truth is Krishna, and the Pandavas had only that while there was an army on the other side. Remember who won that battle?
Some people have told me that I should keep silent. I did try to be silent but didn’t work. Also, people say this is how Bollywood works. Sorry, I disagree. Not all Bollywood works like this. There are a lot of good people too. And every event like this helps change things for the better. And that is what I am all about anyway.
I urge you to not believe me at face value. Read the book, see the movie – and like the movie says – think for yourself and decide.
I want to thank the media journalists who are supporting me. Yes, the makers on the other side have a lot of stature – but truth comes above stature – that’s the first rule of journalism. I salute you for having the courage to stick to that. Our country does have free press, and thank God for that.
Like I said, I don’t need anything. Even if I have no more movies made on my stories or nobody wants to read my books and columns, I’ll happily join ISKCON and dedicate my life to Krishna.
But I will not shy away from the truth – ever.