Leading Bollywood producers approached the Delhi High Court on Monday seeking to restrain Republic TV and Times Now from making or publishing alleged "irresponsible, derogatory and defamatory remarks" being made against the film industry and conducting media trials against its members on various issues.
As scores of netizens hailed the lawsuit against news channels and their lead anchors, a video featuring Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami and India Today senior journalist Rajdeep Sardesai has gone viral for its ‘normal’ and ‘soft-spoken’ approach.
The clip doing rounds on social media is a montage from Goswami and Sardesai’s time at Star News.
Rajdeep shared the same on Twitter and wrote, “This video makes me wonder: does news mirror the times in which we live? Was the world less ugly, spiteful, less polarised 20 years ago? Or did News tv just lose its moral compass and become more noisy? Thought for the day. Responses welcome!”
Actor Ranvir Shorey commented on the tweet and wrote, "Everyone sold out to TRPs."
Meanwhile, the lawsuit by four Bollywood industry associations and 34 leading production houses including those owned by Aamir Khan, Shahrukh Khan, Salman Khan, Karan Johar, Ajay Devgn, Anil Kapoor, Rohit Shetty, as also Yash Raj Films and R S Entertainment, have sought to restrain the news channels from interfering with the right to privacy of persons associated with the industry.
They have sought direction to Republic TV’s Goswami and reporter Pradeep Bhandari, Times Now, its editor-in-chief Rahul Shivshankar and group editor Navika Kumar as well as social media platforms to refrain them from making or publishing allegedly irresponsible, derogatory and defamatory remarks against Bollywood.
The suit filed through DSK Legal firm said, "This comes in the wake of these channels using highly derogatory words and expressions for Bollywood such as 'dirt', 'filth', 'scum', 'druggies' and expressions such as 'it is Bollywood where the dirt needs to be cleaned', 'all the perfumes of Arabia cannot take away the stench and the stink of this filth and scum of the underbelly of Bollywood', 'This is the dirtiest industry in the country', and 'cocaine and LSD drenched Bollywood'." The suit, which cites reportage of the death of actor Shushant Singh Rajput and the subsequent NCB probe of certain actors following allegations of drug abuse in the industry, is likely to come up for hearing later this week.
The producers said they are "not seeking a blanket gag order" but want the defendants (media persons) to abide by the provisions of the Programme Code under the Cable Television Networks Rules and to withdraw, recall and take down all the defamatory content published by them against the film industry.
It said Bollywood is a distinct and well recognised class, comprising the Hindi film industry in Mumbai and for several years, it has been a huge source of revenue for the public exchequer, earns significant foreign exchange for India by way of revenue from overseas releases of films and tourism.
It claimed that the industry is a big source of employment with various other industries also being largely dependent on it.
"Bollywood is unique and stands on a different footing from any other industry inasmuch as it is an industry that is dependent almost solely on goodwill, appreciation and acceptance of its audience," it said.
"The livelihood of persons associated with Bollywood is being severely impacted by the smear campaign being run by the defendants," the plea said, adding that this is in addition to the COVID-19 pandemic which has resulted in loss of revenue and work.
It claimed that the privacy of the members of Bollywood is being invaded and their reputations are being irreparably damaged by painting the entire industry as "criminals, seeped in drug culture, and making being part of Bollywood as synonymous with criminal acts in the public imagination".
The suit contended that this is not the first time that legal action has been initiated against the defendants and some of them have been penalised earlier by the courts and authorities for alleged irresponsible reportage and defamatory content.
It cited Rajput's unfortunate death and said even after the case was transferred to the CBI, the concerned media houses "indulged in what could be aptly described as a frenzy suggesting that the CBI would start making arrests. That has still not happened".
The suit alleged that the defendants are conducting and publishing parallel private investigations and effectively acting as courts to condemn persons connected with Bollywood as guilty based on what they claim is evidence found by them, thereby trying to make a mockery of the criminal justice system.
"The plaintiffs (producers) are not seeking a blanket gag order against media reportage of the investigation in the cases relating to the death of Sushant Singh Rajput or of FIRs...filed by the NCB, Mumbai. The Plaintiffs are merely seeking perpetual and mandatory injunction against the defendants from carrying on reportage and publication of material that violates applicable laws," it said.
Those who have filed the suit are the Film and Television Producers Guild Of India (PGI); Cine and TV Artistes' Association (CINTAA); Indian Film and TV Producers Council (IFTPC); Screenwriters Association (SWA); Aamir Khan Productions; Ad-Labs Films; Ajay Devgn Fflims; Andolan Films; Anil Kapoor Film and Communication Network; Arbaaz Khan Productions; Ashutosh Gowariker Productions; BSK Network and Entertainment; Cape of Good Films; Clean Slate Filmz and Dharma Productions.
The list also includes Emmay Entertainment and Motion Pictures; Excel Entertainment; Filmkraft Productions; Hope Production; Kabir Khan Films; Luv Films; Macguffin Pictures; Nadiadwala Grandson Entertainment; One India Stories; R.S. Entertainment (Ramesh Sippy Entertainment); Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra Pictures; Red Chillies Entertainment; Reel Life Productions; Reliance Big Entertainment and Rohit Shetty Picturez.
The other plaintiffs are Roy Kapur Films; Salman Khan Films; Sikhya Entertainment; Sohail Khan Productions; Tiger Baby Digital; Vinod Chopra Films; Vishal Bhardwaj Pictures and Yashraj Films.
With PTI inputs