Anniyan was produced by ‘Aascar’ Ravichandran who also produced Shankar’s I (also starring Vikram). So, what’s his role in the Hindi remake? Nothing—and he’s not happy about it. But before we look at the tussle between Ravichandran and Shankar, does it even make sense to remake a superhit film that’s fifteen years old?
Anniyan was a blockbuster with Vikram’s three roles — Ambi, Remo, and Anniyan — capturing pop culture imagination. Ambi and Anniyan, who represented the pacifist and angry sides of the common man under government apathy, continue to stay relevant through memes. Anniyan came to define a certain opulent style of filmmaking until Shankar redefined them again in films like Enthiran and 2.0.
Anniyan’s main idea of a common citizen turning into a superhuman vigilante could still be interesting. The protagonist of Anniyan is every ambitious actor’s dream role. The scene at the psychiatrist in which a naive Ambi transforms into the terrifying Anniyan is still enjoyed when the film plays on TV. Anniyan has not become irrelevant.
‘Aascar’ Ravichandran claims remake rights
‘Aascar’ V. Ravichandran in his letter (followed by a legal notice) to Shankar says that he was “utterly shocked” to hear about the Hindi remake of Anniyan. He even asserts that adapting the storyline of Anniyan would be “illegal” without his consent.
The letter also takes an emotional, almost poignant, turn: Ravichandran reminds Shankar that he gave him an opportunity to direct Anniyan when Shankar was under stress due to his “dented image” after Boys. He asserts that Shankar regained his position in the industry only due to his support. He accuses Shankar of having “conveniently forgotten” his help and of resorting to “unlawful acts”.
— Ramesh Bala (@rameshlaus) April 15, 2021
The notice ends on a more practical note that asks the director to stop the “illegal copying of the story line” of Anniyan, with a friendly reminder that a legal note follows.
Shankar asserts his own claim
Director Shankar hit back at Ravichandran saying he was “shocked” at the producer’s accusation. Given that he’s officially credited for the story, screenplay, and direction of Anniyan, he claims that he has sole rights to the story.
— Rajasekar (@sekartweets) April 15, 2021
His letter too takes a moral turn with the director suggesting that the producer had already gained financially from Anniyan and that he should not “unjustly enrich” himself through its Hindi remake. He calls Ravichandran’s “avaricious and illegal claims” an attempt to jeopardize his project.
But who really owns Anniyan’s story?
Ravichandran claims that he acquired the story rights from writer Sujatha Rangarajan (who passed away in 2008) and says that he has records to prove that. That would make him the sole owner of the story and the only person with the right to negotiate a remake.
Shankar, in his letter, rebuts that by saying that Sujatha was engaged “only to write dialogues for the film and was accordingly credited” and he was not involved in anything more than that.
In fact, he asserts that he is the de facto owner of the story in the absence of anything that has been given in writing to Ravichandran. Typically it’s the producer who owns the story and the film’s remake rights. But directors are also known to retain at least a part of the lucrative right to the story. It’s the story, not the screenplay or dialogues, that’s sold for a remake.
Recently, we saw a similar issue when Zee Studios began working with director Ali Abbas Zafar on a remake of Mr India, but the film’s original director, Shekhar Kapoor, and actor, Anil Kapoor were not even aware of it. That’s because Indian copyright law vests all ownership with the producer in the absence of a written agreement that gives the director or other stakeholders rights.
Ravichandran asserts that he has separately acquired the rights from writer Sujatha Rangarajan while director Shankar believes, according to his letter, that the story being credited to him makes him its owner. Only their agreement from 2005 and the ever-truthful, legal eagle Ambi from Anniyan can give us the answer.