Mumbai: Actor's pic used without nod; HC seeks reply of Telugu movie makers

The Bombay High Court on Thursday directed the producers of Telugu movie 'V' to file their affidavits in response to an application filed by city-based actor Sakshi Malik seeking costs to be imposed on them for using her photograph in the movie without prior permission.

Justice Gautam Patel noted that while the said scene has now been deleted, the approach of the film's producers was casual.

"The entire approach (of the producers) is casual and cavalier in the extreme with no thoughts spared to the consequences on the person's (Malik) image whose photograph is used," Justice Patel said.

The order came on a defamation suit filed by Malik against the illicit use of her photograph by Venkateshwara Creations Pvt Ltd and V Venkata Ramana Reddy in the Telugu film 'V', released in September last year on OTT platform Amazon Prime.

As per the suit, the scene in question showed Malik's photograph, referring to her as a commercial sex worker.

Malik in the suit said her photograph was taken from her social media without prior permission.

The court on Tuesday directed Amazon Prime to take down telecast of the movie until its makers delete the scene.

On Thursday, the defendants informed the court that the scene was deleted, following which Justice Patel permitted Amazon Prime to re-release the film.

Malik's advocates Alankar Kirpekar and Saveena Bedi Sachar argued that the actor is, perhaps, the latest and not the last woman to be objectified and taken for granted, and whose privacy is considered in a most misogynistic and patriarchal manner.

"This has to stop and a signal needs to be sent that persons, such as the defendants in this case, should not be left with a mere slap on the wrist and deletion of the scene in question," they told the court.

The advocates sought that the court impose a cost on the film's producers which they could either be directed to deposit in court, or pay to any charity, or to Malik.

The court, while agreeing to this, directed the producers to file their affidavit in response to Malik's application seeking cost to be imposed.

The bench, while directing the producers to file their affidavits, noted that Amazon Prime, which is also a defendant in the case, need not file any affidavit at this stage as the court cannot hold it responsible.

The court posted the matter for further hearing on March 25.

The HC noted that Malik in her suit has not cast any aspersions on commercial sex workers, but her only problem is the movie's portrayal of commercial sex workers and how demeaning and degrading their (producers) perception is.

"This is really the cause of action. Any artistic expression is always subject to the right to dignity, right to privacy and the right to be not defamed. A person has to be mindful and careful of these parameters," Justice Patel said.

The producers told the HC that they had given the contract to a Hyderabad-based agency, Capricorn Event Management, to procure an image for the scene and they assumed that prior approval would have been taken from the woman whose photograph was to be used.

The court on Thursday said Malik was at liberty to take any action as per law against the agency.

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