Kantara plagiarism row: Kerala court issues temporary stay on Varaha Roopam in theatres, OTT platforms

Last week, the Kozhikode Chief Judicial Magistrate directed the police to seize documents relating to the song under the Copyright Act.

BySreerag PS

Published Apr 14, 2023 | 8:04 PMUpdatedApr 14, 2023 | 8:59 PM

The copyright dispute is considered an important case as it can have widespread effect on future copyright violations in the realm of arts and music. (Supplied)

A Kerala court has issued an interim injunction prohibiting the use of a controversial song from Kannada action thriller Kantara in theatres as well as OTT and digital streaming platforms, citing prima facie violation of the Copyright Act of 1957.

First Additional District Court Judge KE Salih directed that “due credit” be given to the music band Thaikkudam Bridge and Mathrubhumi Printing and Publishing Company Ltd, which hold the copyright of the “Navarasam” track that was apparently adapted for the song “Varaha Roopam” in the 2022 movie Kantara.

The move for legal action was initiated last year, shortly after the release of Kantara on 30 September.

The court pointed out that the music director of the track himself admitted to taking “inspiration” from Thaikkudam Bridge’s 2015 track “Navarasam” — popular for its fusion of rock music with Indian classical — while maintaining an individualistic style, tempo, and melody.

The court passed the interim order on Thursday while deciding on the allegations of plagiarism against “Varaha Roopam”.

The plaintiff claimed that “Varaha Roopam” had infringed the copyright laws by copying “Navarasam”.

Thaikudam Bridge Manager Sujith Unnithan was unavailable for comment as he is travelling abroad.

Related: Timeline of the Kantara plagiarism row

Latest court proceedings

Last week, the Kozhikode Chief Judicial Magistrate, after perusing the case diary, had directed the police to seize documents relating to the plagiarised song under Section 64 (copyright infringement) of the Copyright Act.

Chief Judicial Magistrate S Sooraj on 5 April also instructed the investigating officer to seize the digital audio workstation and all plates used for the purpose of making the infringing copies of the work, and to collect evidence to determine whether the music director had violated copyright rules.

This order was issued after Mathrubhumi Printing and Publishing Company Ltd filed a complaint alleging that the investigation was not progressing in the right direction.

A copy of the order in possession with South First read: “… on perusal of the case diary, it appears that the investigating officer has not even seized copies of plagiarised work and all plates used, to make infringing copies of work. That is important material to prove the offence. The fourth accused is the music director of the plagiarized and he was not even questioned. It is to be remembered that an accused is also a source for collecting materials in a criminal offence under investigation.”

The Kozhikode court further instructed the investigating officer to provide it with a progress report on the case by 4 May.

Also read: Amazon Prime removes ‘Varaha Roopam’ from Kantara

The controversy

The controversy began on 24 October, 2022, when popular Kerala-based rock band Thaikkudam Bridge announced on its Facebook page that its song “Navarasam” had been plagiarised as “Varaha Roopam” in Kantara.

In the post, the band requested the support of their listeners and artists to spread the word and raise their voices about the issue. They also threatened legal action against the makers of the movie.

In an earlier interview with South First, Thaikkudam Bridge’s band manager Sujith Unnithan said, “Our friends from the music community thought we gave the rights of ‘Navarasam’ to the producers of Kantara. But the song is a total rip-off, including the guitar riffs, drum patterns, and everything. You can understand it if you listen to both songs. Musicians will definitely understand and this can even be identified by the general public.”

On 5 November last year, Mathrubhoomi Printing and Publishing Company — the copyright owners of “Navarasam” — filed a complaint before the Kozhikode Town police station and an FIR against Hombale Films and others for offences punishable under Section 63 of the Copyright Act.

This year, on 8 February, the Kerala High Court stated that “Varaha Roopam” in Kantara was a plagiarised version of “Navarasam”.

The 2013-founded band Thaikkudam Bridge is based out of Kochi, while Mathrubhumi, which is headquartered in Kozhikode, celebrated its centenary recently.

(With PTI inputs)