Two short films have become involved in what is shaping up to be a very long legal dispute. The plot thickens in Shirish Kunder's Kriti vs Aneel Neupane's BOB, both of which have been blanked out on YouTube because of allegations and counter-allegations of plagiarism.
After Nepali filmmaker Aneel Neupane wrote a Facebook post accusing Shirish Kunder of copying his plot, the makers of Kriti say they will be suing him for defamation.
Of the two films, BOB is relatively obscure while Kriti stars a high-profile cast of Radhika Apte, Manoj Bajpayee and Neha Sharma. Both deal with a psychiatrist who treats a man unsure if his girlfriend exists outside of his mind.
"A takedown on YouTube is not proof of wrongdoing but only that the matter is being investigated," reads a statement from Kriti's producers, which also says that legal action has been initiated.
Team Kriti's statement also alleges that Mr Neupane has failed to respond to a legal notice: "We have asked the director of BOB to substantiate his allegations with facts. Not only has he failed to do that but has so far chosen to not even reply to our legal communication."
Kriti could not have been lifted, the statement insists: "BOB was initially released online with a private key to the director's personal friends, none of whom are known to anyone at our end. If otherwise, we would like to know who amongst those with access shared the private key and more importantly to whom was it shared with. Kriti was shot in Feb 2016 (we have extensive proof of the same), BOB was published on YouTube in May 2016, so the idea that Kriti was copied purely because it was released a month later on YouTube is ridiculous."
The statement was concludes with a note to fans: "Clearly, the above facts belie such frivolous allegations and only serve to further enhance the popularity and viewership of Kriti. We repose full faith and conviction in our fans that they will not be deluded by these petty self-serving diversionary tactics and support us in our endeavour to make Kriti an even bigger success."
Shirish Kunder, who claims it is BOB that has been copied and not Kriti, sent Aneel Neupane a legal notice asking him to apologise some days ago.
On Thursday, Mr Kunder's lawyer Rizwan Siddiquee told news agency IANS that the video is available on other platforms and that YouTube has been asked to restore it: "As of now, my client's film Kriti is being exhibited on Muvizz.com, Dailymotion, Vimeo and Facebook. We have also explained our legal position to YouTube channel. YouTube has accordingly forthwith removed the film BOB from its channel because of objections. It is apparent that no case of plagiarism is made out against my clients as was alleged by Aneel Neupane. Nonetheless, my clients are fully co-operating with YouTube in the said matter and are hopeful that their film shall be exhibited soon on their esteemed platform."
Kriti was released on YouTube on June 22 and was watched 2.5 million times before it was made offline.
However, it is not just plagiarism of plotline that Kriti has been charged with. On Wednesday, as the hashtag #KritiSeeksTruth trended, a tweet pointed out that the poster of the film bears a striking resemblance to that of 2015 Japanese film Gekijourei.
This is how Mr Kunder responded to the observation: