A Mumbai court last week issued summons to the authors of The Mafia Queens of Mumbai, the producers of the film Gangubai Kathiawadi, and actress Alia Bhatt in a criminal defamation complaint filed against them.
Bhansali Productions including Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Metropolitan Magistrate at Mazgaon, Mumbai Shital Bangad deduced from the book and the promo shown to her that the film is going to be based entirely on the book.
The Court observed in its order,
“Even if it is considered that she was prostitute, that does not mean that anybody has permission or write to show or mention her as a prostitute in public.”
The novel authored by S Hussain Zaidi and Jane Borges contains chapters on the late Gangubai Kathiawadi, a social activist who worked for the rights of sex workers. Bhansali Productions is in the process of making a feature film called Gangubai Kathiawadi, based on the novel.
The complaint filed by one Babuji Shah, who claims to be the adopted son of Gangubai Kathiawadi, claims that the chapters on Kathiawadi in the novel were defamatory, tarnished her reputation and infringed upon the right to privacy and self-respect of his purported deceased mother.
Shah apprised the Court that in the promo of the film, which is based on the book, they have not only used Kathiawadi’s entire name but also shown the residential area where she was a known figure and had a good reputation.
According to his complaint, Kathiawadi lived her life with dignity and respect. She was a social worker who fought for the rights of sex workers and to prevent human trafficking. Her work was admired by the then Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Shah stated.
Shah claimed that he was unaware of the book till it came to light on social media and in the news after the release of the film’s promo.
He approached the Court after the release of the promo of the film, claiming that his “mother” was portrayed as a prostitute, brothel keeper and mafia queen. He raised objection to the fact that Kathiawadi was shown to be smoking a bidi in the promo.
Shah stated that after the release of the promo, people in his vicinity started passing inappropriate comments on him and his family members. He stated that the female members in the family allegedly suffered the consequences of being associated with a prostitute.
After perusing the evidence, the Court observed that “all accused have acted in common intention to portrayed the image of Gangubai Kathiawadi which has affected the reputation of deceased Gangubai in the area where she is living. Now it’s effect are seen on the family of complainant.”
The Court noted that no consent was obtained from Shah prior to the publishing of the novel or release of the promo.
“To portray the image of deceased Gangubai without consent of family members amount to defaming her image,” the order states.
The Court also noted that Shah had previously filed a complaint with another police station in December 2020, which portrayed the mental agony which he and his family were undergoing.
It was held that in the context of the allegations and the grounds raised by Shah, the release of the promo of the film can be considered prima facie defamatory.
Even though the book released in 2017, the cause and effect of the act of defamation ensued only after the promo was released, considering the large-scale viewership of TV channels, films, OTT platforms and other social media mediums which could lead to the defamation to the family, the Court opined.
Finding that Shah could show sufficient grounds to proceed against the accused for offence of defamation as per Sections 500, 501 and 502 of the Indian Penal Code, the Court issued process returnable on May 25, 2021.
Last month, the Mumbai City Civil Court had dismissed Shah’s suit seeking a permanent injunction against the authors of The Mafia Queens of Mumbai to restrain them from publishing, selling, or creating third party rights on their novel.
The suit had also sought an injunction against Bhansali Productions from producing, directing, or airing the promo of any film based on said novel.