Law Suit for Libel Filed By All Leading Hindi Film Production Houses, and Associations

Well, this is satisfying! And answers a question I have been wondering about, what are the libel laws available in India?

Saturday was Mental Health Awareness Day, which reminded me of something that I think is a good example for why this law suit is important. Over a year ago I think, on this blog, someone in the comments mentioned that she was shocked by an anonymous reddit post she read by someone claiming to be part of a PR team that had worked with Deepika, and implying that Deepika did not actually suffer from depression but it was all a PR scam. This really bothered me. On several levels. First, that an anonymous reddit commentator is believed ahead of a public figure who has put her name and face out there and told her truth. Second, that something so illogically horrible as to lie about being mentally ill (in a culture where mental illness is considered a stain on the whole family) was easily believed, about anyone. And third that, on some level, people WANTED to believe it. Wanted to think that the public figure was a liar and the anonymous internet person was telling the truth, about everything.

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🤝 #youarenotalone

A post shared by Deepika Padukone (@deepikapadukone) on

And she puts up lovely instagram posts like this, which immediately get trolled by people telling her she is a liar.

This is why this lawsuit matters. When I started watching Hindi films, 16 years ago, this would never have been believed. Or, if it was, it would have resulted in cheerful jokes and not anger. Movie stars were movie stars, you gossiped about their personal life, laughed at their scandals, treated them as entertaining people there to be discussed and enjoyed. Now, movie stars are the enemy, they are there to be torn down, destroyed, their ugly “truth” revealed.

That didn’t happen overnight, and it didn’t happen because of the tragic death of Sushant Singh Rajput. There has been a public campaign against the Hindi film industry for years. I’m not necessarily saying a conspiracy theory (although of course the BJP funded social media attacks on the three Khans is a reality). But Hate sells, and Movie Stars sell, and combine the two, and you’ve really got something.

There’s a kind of shortsighted self-destruction at play here. The Media gets more attention by their stories on Hindi film than anything else. But if they succeed in tearing down the industry and turning the audience against it, then there won’t be any Hindi film any more and they won’t have anything to report on. That’s what has always been the protection in the past, the media would go just so far and no farther, there was always a balance between the Hate articles and the Love articles. If you want the movies to keep flowing and the audience to keep coming, you can’t go too far.

10 Vintage Magazine Covers That Shocked Bollywood - GoodTimes: Lifestyle,  Food, Travel, Fashion, Weddings, Bollywood, Tech, Videos & Photos
Every single headline here is an actionable lie. But no one bothered to sue them because it would be so hard to win the case, and more importantly, it didn’t really matter. Everyone kind of knows Cineblitz is lying, and it is balanced by the happy loving lies you get in FilmFare. Now, everyone seems to think the media tells the truth (or anonymous internet people tell the truth). And there is no happy loving side to balance it.

That’s what this lawsuit is about. It is beyond proving “truth” or “lies”, it is assuming that everything is lies. What it is saying is that those lies are recklessly damaging. The industry is suffering enormously because of what is being spewed out on media channels and taken up and repeated on social media. If the film industry goes away, thousands of people will be out of work and India as a whole will suffer a massive loss in “soft power” as the main international identity of the country is taken away.

Today, a civil suit has been filed before the Hon’ble Delhi High Court by four Bollywood industry associations and thirty-four leading Bollywood producers praying the Hon’ble Court direct Republic TV, Mr. Arnab Goswami and Mr. Pradeep Bhandari of Republic TV, Times Now, Mr. Rahul Shivshankar and Ms. Navika Kumar of Times Now, and unknown defendants as well as social media platforms to refrain from making or publishing irresponsible, derogatory and defamatory remarks against Bollywood as a whole and members of Bollywood, and to restrain them from conducting media trials of Bollywood personalities and interfering with the right to privacy of persons associated with Bollywood. The Plaintiffs are also praying that the Defendants abide by the provisions of the Programme Code under the Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994, and to withdraw, recall and take down all the defamatory content published by them against Bollywood.

This comes in the wake of these channels using highly derogatory words and expressions for Bollywood such as “dirt”, “filth”, “scum”, “druggies” and expressions such as “it is Bollywood where the dirt needs to be cleaned”, “all the perfumes of Arabia cannot take away the stench and the stink of this filth and scum of the underbelly of Bollywood”, “This is the dirtiest industry in the country”, and “cocaine and LSD drenched Bollywood”.

It is pleaded that Bollywood is a distinct and well recognised class, comprising the Hindi film industry in Mumbai. Since several years Bollywood is a huge source of revenue for the public exchequer, earns significant foreign exchange for India by way of revenue from overseas releases of films, tourism etc., and is a big source of employment, with various other industries also being largely dependent on it. Bollywood is unique and stands on a different footing from any other industry inasmuch as it is an industry that is dependent almost solely on goodwill, appreciation and acceptance of its audience. The livelihood of persons associated with Bollywood is being severely impacted by the smear campaign being run by the Defendants. This is in addition to the ongoing pandemic which has resulted in extreme revenues and work opportunity loss. The privacy of the members of Bollywood is being invaded, and their reputations are being irreparably damaged by painting the entire Bollywood as criminals, seeped in drug culture, and making being part of Bollywood as synonymous with criminal acts in the public imagination.

https://www.bollywoodhungama.com/news/bollywood/bollywood-producers-film-associations-file-civil-suit-irresponsible-derogatory-defamatory-reporting-certain-media-houses/

Looking at the wording, this is the equivalent of someone saying “okay, you have set my movie theater on fire. I’ve given up on anyone caring that you did something morally wrong, or on quantifying the loss of life and human damage you have done. But what I can prove is that you burned down the building and therefore caused loss of money, let’s see if taking you to court for the cost of my building will do anything”.

It’s an interesting tactic, and I wonder who came up with it. Looking at the loooooooooooooong list of production houses, clearly this involved some connected person going around and talking to absolutely everybody important and getting them to sign on. And when I say “important”, I don’t mean like Karan Johar (although I am sure he signed off), I mean Karan’s college friend Apoorva Mehta who runs the day to day finances of Dharma. I’m gonna guess a few important people (not famous, important) got together in a room with lawyers and hammered out the basic idea, then each took part of the list and went around to everyone else and got them to sign on.

If the case stands, it will be a good precedent. Personal libel cases don’t seem to work, for one thing the sympathy is immediately with the defendant. Obviously the movie star is lying, just as Deepika Padukone lied about suffering from depression because someone on reddit said it. You may win the case, but you lose the public opinion shift that was the true goal. But perhaps proving actual financial damage will both cause media houses to be more cautious and help the general public to WAKE UP and see that these vendettas only hurt themselves, and that the Hindi film industry is a valuable commodity for the whole country.

Or at the very least it will remind people that these aren’t some sort of demons having sex and drugs all day, but reasonable business people just trying to run a reasonable business.

22 thoughts on “Law Suit for Libel Filed By All Leading Hindi Film Production Houses, and Associations

  1. I have a dear friend, a young man from India. We talk a great deal about Indian culture and politics and watch Indian films and and damn cricket matches when he forces me to. He’s only 35 so that may explain it, but he believes all the gossip. We recently watched the Telugu series Gangstars together and I loved the leads, Navdeep and Shweta Basu Prasad and wondered why I didn’t see more of them. He told me they were druggies, EVERYBODY in the industry, North, South, all of it, was a druggie. They spend their money on drugs, cheat their staffs, support corrupt politicians, and on and on. I have met many of his friends who feel the same. There’s no way to convince them otherwise. And yet, they’re all big fans. Don’t understand it.

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    • I don’t either. How can you support someone you think such terrible things about? Or enjoying watching stuff made by people you believe are bad people? I can do a certain amount of mental blocking myself, separate art from artist, but I think I would have to have some kind of overall sense of good before I could enjoy a product. Where is the pleasure in being a fan and paying attention to an industry you hate?

      On Tue, Oct 13, 2020 at 9:09 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • The bigger problem is,there is so much fake news,they leave little to the imagination and people end up believing it.If you read about Deepika and her resilience in visiting JNU,the amount of fake news almost makes you disbelieve her.But the fact that where this bullcrap news comes from also matters.People unfortunately don’t use their brains with news and are either staunchly supportive or staunchly critical,which is why I think this “you wish you were us” approach of Bollywood news needs to die down.No one would believe such fake news about Ayushmann or Vicky,and that sort of reliable,career based news is very important for Hindi cinema news briefings for people to relate to stars and see their real,natural side.

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        • Yes! This is another one of those issues that seems to work by opposites. Like the politician trying to pass a law against, I don’t know, having sex with pumpkins, is GUARANTEED to secretly be having sex with pumpkins. If someone says “I think for myself, I don’t believe anything people tell me, that’s why I know all those movie stars are really drug addicts” what that means is, they DON’T think for themselves at all, they are blindly believing what they are told by TV news.

          And then you ask them why they believe that, and it is all sources from social media, and the thing their auntie told them, and nothing about anything REAL.

          On Tue, Oct 13, 2020 at 9:28 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • Leaving aside the fact that this is sad to know, what do you mean ‘he’s only 35’? That’s not old enough to develop an informed opinion?

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      • Just in case Maria doesn’t see this comment, I read it as “he has been raised to awareness in the era we are defining as most suspicious of film culture”. Of course, I’m also 35, and as I said, I remember when there was a very different attitude towards film stars. But that was a long time ago, and for the past 10 years at least I’ve been fighting a slide towards hatred. If I were 65, then 55 years of my life, and 36 years of adulthood, would have been when film culture was seen as harmless. It’s different if almost all your adulthood you have only been taught one thing.

        At least, that’s how I saw it.

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        • I dunno, I’m a few years younger and have never experienced this attitude growing up. Mostly film stars were seen as aspirational, people usually liked them or were neutral. Of course, I can’t generalize for everyone.

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  2. This news was so soothing,and I think that I like that the lawsuit is filed now.Because TV channels had moved on since last week or so,but now media gets a taste of its own medicine and things do not have to work in their favour always.Blind articles are one thing when we have opinions,but these media houses were literally showing fake news and corrupted facts,which makes you question if we could even defend the actors.Like,questioning the legality of drugs is one thing but they were literally showing fake news by accusing the actors with eXcLuSiVe facts.NCB went on record to clarify the fake news,but they don’t have their independent news outlets which caused real information to be buried down.Channels went so far as suggesting a couple was booked for procuring drugs,while they had only been called for investigation and no apology was sought after this media blunder.Channels were rivaling YouTube thumbnails in their lies(don’t start searching up for those thumbnails like a child putting his finger in a socket despite being told not to).
    By the way,some questions were raised on the issue of justice in courts.However the courts did do a good job recently women property rights,release of Jamaat victims,ignored Prashant Bhushan fiasco,reprimanded SS in Mumbai,and have been warning the media for a long time now with the COVID misinformation.They have at least started speaking up now,and it might have a dominos effect.Part of me wishes that the court comes down heavily this time with suspension of license,and a legal issue basically means TV channels are emancipated of such anchors for a long time.
    Consider it as a PSA-do NOT hatewatch these blacklisted channels,if you care for your eardrums.Worse than Trump’s Twitter handle or Fox News,but Americans may disagree.
    I will not be surprised if the “important” person who brought media houses together turns out to be a woman.Men have been uncomfortably silent this entire time.And there is this weird thing in India where men try to keep legal matters and FIR as the last resort,they overthink it.

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    • Ha! “Soothing” describes my feelings exactly.

      I should say, I’ve also been pretty impressed by the courts. The whole legal process seems fairly sound, Hrithik was able to file against Kangana and clearly explain that the only reason he couldn’t file a police report was because the laws were gendered. The FIR system is a disaster, obviously, but that tends to get conflated with the actual court decisions that come down later. The challenge being to get the court to say something in such a way that the media and public actually believe it. For instance, Sanjay Dutt was found innocent of terrorism charges. The court said it, it’s clear and defined and legal and certain. And yet, no one believes it.

      And I really want it to be a woman too! You are so right, this kind of collective movement at just the right time from an unexpected angle feels very female. Especially without any figurehead leading, just a lawfirm on behalf of many clients. I really really want it to be Ekta Kapoor, but Balaji Films isn’t listed, so probably not here. Can we say, in our head-canon, that it was Vidya’s idea and she convinced her husband to use his influence and get it moving?

      On Tue, Oct 13, 2020 at 9:18 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  3. The thing I always marvel at is WHY CARE. What if she lied? Her message is sound, and if she gets attention for it, all that does is bring attention to the issue.

    So what if they’re all druggies? Too bad for them, but their drug use has no influence on anyone else’s lives as long as they’re not openly advocating it.

    This same thing happened in the US in the 20s and 30s (and again in the 50s with the McCarthy witch hunts), and all it led to was more censorship, discrimination, and undesirable control over the movie industry. I don’t know if a libel suit is the way to address that but it is a step, anyway.

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    • Yes!!!! EXACTLY! This isn’t a public health issue, or even a “poisoning the morals of our young” issue. They are trying very hard to NOT poison the morals of our young by hiding whatever behavior it is, and the behavior is clearly limited to this small group, so what difference does it make to us what they are doing????

      That’s part of the reason I’ve just stopped reporting on things. Even when I try to take the side of deconstructing the propaganda (like in my most recent post on nepotism), it just ends up adding another voice talking about this issue. We shouldn’t be talking about it! It DOES NOT MATTER!!!!!! YRF possibly launching a new streaming site, that matters. Release dates of films shifting, that matters. New streaming serieses releasing, that matters. That has a measurable effect on our day to day lives as fans of the media. Whether or not someone new someone who took drugs simply DOES NOT MATTER.

      On Tue, Oct 13, 2020 at 9:38 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  4. This whole thing saddens me so much. Such a great art form being attacked by the very people who grew up on it and if they are honest, can’t wait to go back to the theaters. And DO NOT get me started on Kangana and the gas she has thrown on this fire….Hope this FIR etc. quenches it.

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  5. I’m not sure how far this will go. I have a feeling a backdoor deal will be struck where the channel removes the offending anchors like Navika Kumar and both sides let it go. They will be made sacrificial lambs and the channels will keep quiet for a while on BW until the next controversy emerges when it will be back to normal.

    There were some important names missing amongst the production houses: Balaji, Vishesh Films, RSVP Movies, Viacom18, Bhansali Films and no female led production house has stepped in other than Anushka Sharma’s Clean Slate Films. I love the quiet feminist Anushka, the kind of woman who never backs down in a man’s world. Foreign studios like Disney are also not there.

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    • At least the initial filing is not backdoor, which (I hope) will make a difference. Even if there is a deal, it has changed the conversation a bit to say “you are lying about us, and we are coming together to fight back”.

      Interesting point about the missing names. I think Viacom is international as well. I wonder if groups like Balaji and Vishesh will sign on later, perhaps they just were slow on joining and so aren’t on the initial list? That sounds silly, but it happens all the time with class action suits, the lawyer wants to file, and just gives up on waiting for the folks where their legal department is on vacation so they aren’t ready yet. And then they join on later. Or perhaps they made a calculated decision that they aren’t big enough and strong enough to stand up.

      Obviously the international won’t join, because this whole thing is just gravy for them. The more the local Indian industries are run down, the more money guess to foreign products. I keep waiting for their to be a backlash, for someone to start a cry of “Boycott Disney, see local made films!”, but it hasn’t happened yet.

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      • The other thing that worries me is that the Indian court system is so slow that I wonder if any resolution can come for years? I don’t know much about the legal system there but if Salman’s court cases are still ongoing after 20 years, what hope is there for this?

        I just hope they’re serious and it’s not just a publicity stunt so that people stop saying they are cowardly.

        I also wonder why they chose these two channels when there are many other pathetic ones that were doing the same thing. The Hindi channels like Zee News, ABP news and Aaj Tak hard porn stars coming to give interviews about how they were once at a party and saw BW stars doing drugs. It had reached that level. So why Republic and Times Now? Republic is understandable but if you continue to appear on Filmfare covers and attend and host their awards, there is no onus on the Times Group to stop doing what they’re doing.

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        • I don’t know about the Indian court system, but I would hope that if there is an agreement reached, that also becomes a matter of public record at this point. If the channels apologize or something, that would be a matter of record. Even if it isn’t, filing an official suit is an excellent step because it is so strongly (to me) NOT a publicity stunt. Law suits are expensive and exhausting, it’s far easier to just post stuff on social media (as the media houses and film-haters are doing).

          I’m gonna guess they chose those two channels for legal reasons, something specific about their content gives a good wedge for this lawsuit where the other channels managed not to do it. For instance, you mentioned interviews about being at a party and saw BW doing drugs. I’m gonna guess that that is not actionable, because the channel isn’t saying it, the interviewee is saying it. So no matter how horrible it is, and how clear it is to common sense that the channel is controling the interview, there’s no legal recourse.

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  6. I cheered when I saw this, finally they grew a spine and came together to fight back! Though I don’t know what it’s going to accomplish. I mean they’re going after Times Now, which is owned by the same people who own Filmfare. Is Bollywood gonna boycott Filmfare Awards, Filmfare magazine? I bet that would get the media to do an about-turn faster than anything else.
    On a lighter note, someone on twitter called this the ‘Deewangi Deewangi’ lawsuit, and it’s fits brilliantly!

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