Director Ram Gopal Varma, no stranger to controversy, has found himself in a spot of bother after he changed the name of a film with risque content he is presenting from Saavitri to Sridevi. After being sent a legal notice by actress Sridevi (for whom RGV has publicly and often professed admiration) and her producer husband Boney Kapoor, the Satya director posted an explanation on his Facebook page, also writing that he would go ahead with the actress' name in the title.
He writes that that the name of the film has nothing to do with his 'crush' on the actress. Instead, it was given to the makers of the film by the Andhra Pradesh Film Chamber. RGV also writes that the title change took place because the producers were unable to acquire the rights to use the name Saavitri. He stresses that the film would be made as Sridevi, despite the legal notice.
RGV also posted the cease and desist order sent on behalf of the English Vinglish actress which asks him not to use Sridevi's name or likeness in relation to the film and to publish an apology in the press. An answering notice from RGV's legal team makes it clear that the film's title would not be changed.
The poster of the film has already provoked outrage from women's groups, after it was released earlier this month.
Ram Gopal Varma has often been the focal point of controversies. A day after the 26/11 attack in Mumbai, he accompanied then-Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh to the Taj Mahal Hotel - prompting a huge outcry that eventually cost Mr Deshmukh his office. He has also taken flak for the tweets he posts and the content of his films, many of which deal with the underworld and the fortunes of a fictionalized political dynasty, thought to be a thinly-veiled version of the Thackerays.
Sridevi, the film that is the pivot of the current controversy, is directed by Kiran Prasad and featured debutante Anushkriti Sharma in the lead.
Read RGV's Facebook post:
"In the legal notice sent to me, there seems to be an apprehension that the film "Sridevi" is based on a crush I personally had for Sridevi in my college years ..I,many times over the last 5 years expressed this publicly in both the media and also to her which was taken by all concerned in a humorous and healthy spirit.
Now coming to the film "Sridevi",the story is about a teenager's infatuation towards a 25 year old woman...a subject matter like this was earlier dealt with,in such films as Malena,Cinema paradiso,Summer of 42,Rajkapoor's Mera Naam joker etc to name just a few...But coming to the film "Sridevi" neither is the woman playing the title role in my film is an actress nor the boy is a director..Also there's a huge age gap between the boy and woman in the film "Sridevi " which is not the case with me and the real Sridevi.
The title has been given to us by the Andhra Pradesh Film Chamber which is the authorised body for such deeds..moreover films with this same title "Sridevi "have been made and released atleast 3 times in the last two decades ...The Film chamber already sent a reply saying that they are well within their rights to grant the title to us.
The film was earlier titled "Saavitri" but we changed it not for reasons of the protests as some sections of the media are falsely reporting ..The reason for the change in title is due to a miscommunication on the production part they went ahead with the title without acquiring it from the previous right holder of the title...when the previous title holder refused to give the title we changed it to "Sridevi".After the producer got the title he went ahead with the printing of standees and hoardings with the new title..When Mr.Boney kapoor called me I explained to him both orally and in a msg which I have also given to the press with regard to clearing the speculations on the so called controversial content of the subject...
I am deeply hurt by this action of Sridevi whom I always admired and respected and I strongly believe that she was influenced by others with vested interests..I am going ahead with the title "Sridevi" because I am well within my legal and moral rights to use it..legal because a name cannot be copyrighted and also like I said the film has nothing to do with the real Sridevi to the extent that the protoganist is not even an actress...moral because I know in my heart that I will never do anything to degrade or demean Sridevi and the final outcome of the film will prove that..."
Ram Gopal Varma