Monday November 25, 2013

The sorry story of Imman vs. Manam Kothi Paravai’s Kannada remake

Posted by Karthik

Back in September this year, Kannada composer Gurukiran sued the producers of the Telugu film ‘Potugadu’ for using two songs from his film, Govindaya Namaha’ without his permission. Potugadu is the official (that is, rights sought and paid for) remake of Govindaya Namaha. The Times of India reported that Gurukiran was offered a tidy sum of money (the news report puts it at Rs.10 lakhs) as out-of-court settlement.

The most interesting thing here is that Gurukiran is credited as the original composer in the audio CD of Potugadu, while Achu is the Telugu composer, who, most probably, has rearranged the tunes in Telugu.

potu1

 

 

 

 

potu2

 

 

 

 

So, there are 3 things to note here,

1. The producer does own the rights to the audio soundtrack, but it looks like the composer holds the rights if the tunes move out of the language it was composed for. Rakesh Prabhu, Gurukiran’s advocate is quoted in The Times of India story as,

After a composer gives tunes for a Kannada film’s songs, the producer has the rights over it. His rights, however, are for the Kannada songs only. Even when he sells the rights to an audio company, it is for the Kannada songs only. A composer does not lose his rights and he does not have to seek permission to use his own work again. The rights were always there under the Copyright Act but secured by the amendment last year. The music composer’s hands were strengthened. The only reason why nobody is using their rights is lack of awareness.

2. Merely adding a note of credit does not seem to be enough, as this Potugadu case explains. Consent of the original composer seems to be mandatory too.

3. An out-of-court settlement either indicates that the producers of the Telugu version were sure to lose the case, or they did not want to stall the film’s release with a case ike this (though, the audio may have got stalled, not the film’s release, I’m assuming).

That brings us to Tamil composer D.Imman. One of his best scores in recent times was for Manam Kothi Paravai.

Yesterday, I noticed a Kannada film called ‘Anjada Gandu’ (not to be confused with the 1988 Ravichandran, Kushboo starrer of the same name, which was a remake of the Rajinikanth film Thambikku Endha Ooru) that was a remake of Manam Kothi Paravai. The music was credited to D.Imman and I was naturally intrigued to see if Imman has scored fresh songs for his Kannada debut… or, if he had chosen to reuse his original tunes.

It was the latter. I was happy for Imman since the original tunes are really good and I was also keen to see how they’d be received in Karnataka.

Then, I noticed these tweets from Imman!

imman

 

 

 

 

 

 

That is rather shocking!

If this is the line of thought – of producers owning absolute, anything-goes rights to soundtracks – then, why not let producers win and receive awards for best music? Why even bother crediting composers by name?

Also, Manam Kothi Paravai had 5 songs with singers like Aalaap Raju, Javed Ali, Vijay Prakash, Chinmany among others. The Kannada version too has the same 5 songs with singers like Akanksha Badami, Rajesh Krishnan, Vijay Prakash (who sang this song’s original Tamil version too – ‘Yenna Solla’, but with Chinmayi; in Kannada, he joins Anuradha Bhat) among others. Now, isn’t a composer the source of such decisions – for the choice of singers and orchestration? If his name is credited, shouldn’t he decide on all this?

Who exactly arranged the Kannada version on behalf of the producer? For instance, if one of the songs sounds bad, because of wrong choice of sounds (if redone, afresh using the original as a guide) or because of wrong choice of singers, wouldn’t Imman be blamed for it? The respective producers who sold and bought the rights would nowhere be in the picture!

I strongly feel that Imman should contest this atrocious trend with his Tamil producer. But, chances are, given how the industry functions and the fact that he needs to continue (and because he’s doing rather well now, after a long struggle) in the industry, he may not press this issue beyond those 2 tweets that seem to reflect his true state of mind.

I’d love to know what kind of rights existed, legally, between Imman and his Manam Kothi Paravai producer for the soundtrack. Was it for Tamil alone, or did it include versions of the songs in all languages including Na’vi? If it was Tamil alone, as Gurukiran’s lawyer explains, I really would love to see him assert his rights and get paid for the Kannada remake rights. I’m sure they wouldn’t dare to do this with A-list composers like Ilayaraja or A R Rahman.

Comments

comments

  • Amith Chandhran

    In the contemporary industry, music is treated as a product. The factors like salability of this product and handling it in various market fashions may have their huge impact upon the business fashions. Basically the ground market treats the product (music) and the copyrights as bundles – subject to the local practices. The disputes arise from vague interpretations. In most of these cases, unless proven illegal, the terms of the agreement in between the producer and the composer prevail.

    In a too generalized example, say: if a composer signs a contract for a consideration of Rs. 100/- and considering the future market, retains the copyrights or part thereof with him, then the producer will have to have the written consent from the composer before he repackages the product for a different market. But in case if a composer signs a contract for a consideration of Rs. 1,000/- and waives the entire bundle of the copyrights in favor of the producer completely, then the producer doesn’t need to have the written consent again. These are necessarily two different cases.

    There’s a legal maxim which says ‘no one can give what he doesn’t have’. The producers of the Telugu version must have learnt that – and therefore, I guess, they opted to settle the case out of the court. Because, the personal convenience. 🙂

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