Aamir, Hirani, Chopra – Time to show some grace : Vir Sanghvi

Vir Sanghvi is the Editorial Director of the Hindustan Times. Very interesting article, worth a read.


Here are two images you may remember from television. The first was the Oscar ceremony. Simon Beaufoy won the Oscar for best adapted screenplay for Slumdog Millionaire. It is no secret that Beaufoy’s script differed significantly from the book by Vikas Swarup on which Slumdog was based. But Beaufoy made it a point to thank Swarup on stage and to say that without his book there would be no screenplay, no movie, and no Oscars.

Later that same night Slumdog director Danny Boyle while accepting his own Oscar apologised to the choreographer Longinus, whose name had been left out of the end credits of Slumdog. When the film won the Best Picture Oscar, the entire unit went on stage including Vikas Swarup who had been flown in to Los Angeles by the makers of the film at their expense.

And here is a second image. It is a press conference in Noida on Friday. The cast and makers of 3 Idiots are answering questions from the press as part of the publicity campaign for the film. When journos keep asking about the lack of recognition accorded to author Chetan Bhagat, on whose book the film is based, producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra stands up, points a finger at an inquisitive journalist and shouts ‘Shut up’. Chopra is prevented from saying much more by his colleagues and Aamir Khan then swings into damage control mode. He tries to sound reasonable but manages to abuse Chetan Bhagat, calls him publicity hungry – a bit rich considering the stunts Aamir staged to gain publicity for 3 Idiots – and berates journos for believing Bhagat.

What is the difference between the two images? I think one word sums it up: grace.

Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy and the Slumdog unit behaved with grace. Vinod Chopra and his star behaved with a complete lack of grace.

If you’ve missed the controversy, here’s what it is about. Vinod Chopra bought the rights to Chetan Bhagat’s novel and then turned it into 3 Idiots. Nobody disputes that 3 Idiots is based on the Bhagat novel and indeed Bhagat is credited as such in the movie.

The point of discord is the placing of the credit. Bhagat suggests that it should have been at the beginning along with all the other writer credits. Instead it appears at the very end.

In his defence, Chopra says that the end is an appropriate place for the credit because his scriptwriters, including Rajkumar Hirani, the film’s director, changed so much of the story that the final film has little to do with Bhagat’s novel.

Bhagat says that this is not true. Yes of course there is a lot in the film that he did not write but it is still recognisably his story and on his blog he lists several points of similarity.

For the purposes of argument, I am quite prepared to believe Aamir and Chopra when they deny Bhagat’s version of events. I am also prepared to accept that the screenplay is significantly different from Bhagat’s novel.

But here’s the thing: it shouldn’t make a difference.

Vidhu Vinod Chopra is contractually obliged to give Bhagat a credit as the writer of the source material for the movie. So, the issue is not whether the script is 95 per cent based on the book or 25 per cent derived from Bhagat’s novel. The only issue is one of placing. Should Bhagat have been part of the opening credits? And was it graceless to bury his name in the end credits?

In Hollywood, it is not uncommon for script writers to significantly alter the plots of source material or to only use a part of the book. Slumdog differs significantly from Vikas Swarup’s Q&A. The Firm dispenses with John Grisham’s ending and invents a new one. In Papillon, a major character who was not even in the book was invented by the scriptwriters. David Lean’s Dr Zhivago junked the second half of the book. The recent My Sister’s Keeper differs substantially from Jodi Picoult’s bestseller of the same name.

In every single case, however, the original novel was properly credited and the author mentioned in the opening credits. Nobody believed that this detracted in any way from the screenwriter’s achievements. It just demonstrated a certain grace and honesty on the part of the movie’s maker.

So why, you may well ask, is Vidhu Vinod Chopra being so bloody minded about denying Chetan Bhagat his opening credit?

The honest answer is I simply cannot understand Chopra’s pettiness.

I hold no brief for any of the principals in this drama. At the HT (Hindustan Times), we’ve had a bad experience with Chetan Bhagat, who we believe behaved unprofessionally when he was a columnist. On the other hand, I have met Vinod Chopra, have worked with his wife and have always thought well of him. Personally, I have the highest regard and admiration for Aamir Khan, whom I know slightly.

So, this is not about personalities. It’s not even about principle – Chopra has conceded the principle by giving Bhagat his credit even if he has buried it in the end.

It is about grace.

What does it cost the makers of 3 Idiots to give Chetan Bhagat his credit in the space where a writer’s credit is traditionally placed in the international movie business? It would make no difference to the movie’s massive box-office performance. We would not think any less of Rajkumar Hirani, a fine director with a great track record. And Aamir’s reputation as the most consistently successful star of our times would remain intact.

Finally, it comes down to how big a human being is prepared to be. Even people who did not think much of Slumdog Millionaire were overwhelmed when Danny Boyle used the Oscar platform to say sorry to Longinus for leaving his name out of the credits. That was the single-biggest night in Boyle’s life, a culmination of everything he had worked for. And he still found the time to mention an Indian dance director he would probably never meet again.

That’s what I call class.

Our own film industry, however, has not covered itself in glory by the way in which it has behaved over Bhagat’s credit. Our producers, directors and actors have come across as mean-spirited and petty and ready to get into fights over something as minor as the placing of a credit.

Just as India has the potential to become a superpower in the 21st century so Bollywood has the opportunity to become the world’s leading film industry in this century. Certainly, we are not short of talent or of audiences.

What we are short of, however, is grace. And our directors need to learn that no amount of box-office success can buy you class. Our film industry will never hit the big time if its leading lights continue to think like small-timers.

It’s time for Aamir, Chopra and Hirani to show some grace. Otherwise they risk coming across as three idiots.

Source : Hindustan Times



  • No more coverage of the controversy here, Bhagat too has posted his last blog on what he ‘actually wants’ from the makers. Here it is..


    I just finished my last two interviews with IBN7 and Headlines Today. These were the last interviews I’d give on this issue. There is no point going back and forth with allegations and assertions, and it only creates drama and no solution. Hence, I’d stick to simple facts, and I’ve even offered a compromise, that they may want to consider.

    1. When you are saying ‘based on a novel by’ in a movie, you cannot have a separate original Story credit in the film – not to mention the latter upfront and the former at the end. 3 Idiots has a big front Story credit for Mr Hirani and Mr Joshi. This is just not possible as they are themselves saying the story is based on a novel. The Screenplay, definitely so, belongs to Mr Hirani and Mr. Joshi.

    2. While they did fulfill the ‘based on the novel by’ credit as per contract, by claiming the story as original and claiming it as theirs alone, they have definitely negated and denied my due credit. Especially since the film has many commonalties with the book. They’ve adapted my story, not created a new one. That they’d claim the original story to someone else was never told to me, is not mentioned in the contract and is frankly just not possible under the basic ‘moral rights of the author’ under copyright law.

    3. To the extent they have done this, all I merely ask is put my name as one of the writers in the ‘Story’ credit. They can keep their names above me, and make me the third writer of the story. The screenplay is theirs anyway.

    4. They don’t have to actually change the prints running in the theatres or incur any costs there. They can change it in the official records and in the DVD/Satellite as possible.

    5. This is merely a humble request. The public opinion is already there that the story resembles the book. We don’t have to get into percentages, but if there is a contribution, it should be recognized.

    If they do this, me and all FPS readers will be happy. If they don’t, it is their choice.

    I don’t really want to talk about anything else in this matter. I thank you all for your support. I’ve gained a lot of credibility and love, all of us stood up for what we believed in, and I think my country knows who wrote this film’s story now anyway.

    I am aware of the many opinions and statements the makers and Mr Khan have made about me and the kind of person I am, but I don’t have any issues with that. I also thank the media, for bringing the issue out clearly, and helping me present my side in a fair manner.



  • Both are dragging this issue unnecessarily and why not, no controversy in recent times has garnered so much attention and captured the imagination of the public like this one has.

    Why can’t VVC just end this controversy by givig Bhagat his due credit and end this rather unfortunate and sad issue. And why couldnt Chetan put up this list, in his first blog? Idiots.. both

  • hahahahaha..monkey fight again?? thats in media?? thats between so called intellect film industry folks?? hahahaha… indians need to grow up especially these stupid movie actors and artists..

    first SRK airport drama, he proved to be the biggest cry baby n a hypocrite now this.

    grow up Bollywood. yur no better than skul kids. SHAME!!

  • Like Vinod said if Chetan had approached him and sorted this out as an adult and as literary intellectual person he claims to be, this controversy need never have happened.

  • Rajkumar Hirani has already clarified everything. Also, Mr. Chetan Bhagat is no saint himself! Articles in major newspapers have mentioned that the sales of Bhagat’s FPS have shot up by more than 100% in this weekend and due to this controversy even Bhagat’s new novel 2 States is attracting more attention!

    TOI supports 3 Idiots team:

    When the team of 3 Idiots says that the flick is not an adaptation of Chetan Bhagat’s Five Point Someone: What Not To Do At IIT, they echo others who’ve both read the book and seen the film, whom we spoke to. That includes TOI staffers, who opine that the two are different, with the movie being ‘loosely’ based on the book.
    The skeletal structure is similar, but the differences are many. In FPS, three mechanical engineering students strive against a rigid grading system. In 3 Idiots, it’s only Aamir’s character Rancho who fights the education system. In FPS, no character obtains the degree for someone else unlike 3 Idiots, where it is revealed that Aamir did not actually go to college under his own name. In FPS, the friends undertake no journey to look for the third friend and there’s no delivery sequence in the climax. Yes, there are points which have been taken from FPS, but that is why VVC paid for the rights in the first place. So, when Hirani says that the tale began with FPS, but took a different course, we think he’s right.


    Even as per an article published in DNA India, majority of filmmakers and writers support team 3 Idiots:


    Now that the sales of his books have shot up and he got more attention than the film or its stars itself, CB is asking everyone to chill?! See this:


    If he was so okay, then why did he have to cry out like some male version of Rakhi Sawant?!

    See this document uploaded on VVC’s official website (30 Reasons why 3 Idiots is not Five Point Someone:


    Of course, the agreement between the two parties is also there.

    Chetan Bhagat himself signed the contract knowing fully well as to what would happen. If the 3 Idiots team needs to show grace, then even he should have shown grace instead of shouting hoarse on all TV channels!

    Frankly, this is an issue that should have been settled behind closed doors. Giving press conferences or blogging or Tweeting about it is no way to behave! Both parties have been foolish in handling the issue!

  • Hi Mr. sanghvi!
    its very easy to criticise famous characters rather than chetan,isnt it?chetAn bhagat claimed that 3i is 70% copy of FPS!WOT A LIE THAT IS!!!out of 130 scenes of a film 10 scenses are similiar to his book,thats wot i think!!again after one week of film release he came out of hole and claims that credits due to him!!!so where was he for the last three years and even when he signed that contract!!!!and now he wants to end these matters why???he should fight his case,he must if he is so saint!!!!take that matter to court and fight!!!!
    Forget the Danny boyle and Slumdog millionaire it was joke on Current India dont give us those muppets example please we were ashamed of that film and guy!!
    Chetan bhagat is liar all the way he wants publicity eventually he got wot he wanted!

  • The makers of 3 idiots and Aamir Khan – stop being 3 idiots and do the right thing. This issue I am sure has opened pandoras box. I am sure this has been done to many struggling artists in the past. Bollywood, grow up and really be more honest. Stop stealing ideas from everyone including the west and make your own storylines or just give credits to everyone involved.

  • personally i think dat dis issue is raised to such high levels just because VVC said SHUT UP to a JOURNALIST…
    not due to the conflict between CB nd 3I team..

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