The Delhi High Court has refused to stay the release of the film The White Tiger on the Over-the-Top (OTT) platform Netflix on January 22, 2021. The movie is based on the Booker-prize winning novel The White Tiger which was published in March 2008 and features Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Rajkummar Rao in the lead roles.
In an urgent hearing conducted late evening on Thursday, Justice C Hari Shankar dismissed the stay application filed by Hollywood producer John Hart Jr. and his associate, filmmaker Sonia Mudhbhatkal, and said that not a single reason was shown to approach the court less than 24 hours before the release of the film. The court also noted, â€śIt is settled that any party approaching the court at the end hour, seeking interlocutory indirection against the release of cinematographic film, is disentitled to any such reliefâ€ť.
The court, which heard the issue for over two hours, had also issued summons to the producer of the film, Mukul Deora, and Netflix. Hart Jr. and Sonia Mudbhatkal claimed that the producers had infringed their copyright which they had got after paying Aravind Adiga, the author of the novel.
Senior advocate Kapil Sankha, appearing for Hart Jr. and Sonia Mudbhatkal, said that Hart Jr had thought of making a magnum opus like Slumdog Millionaire, and also added that he would be emotionally and financially shattered if the movie is released on Netflix. He also said that since Hart Jr was in the USA, he did not have any idea about the movie being made in India, and that they had also not expected that the movie would progress due to the pandemic.
Senior advocate Sandeep Sethi, who appeared for Mukul Deora, argued that a reply was given by the producer of the movie within a few days after Sonia Mudbhatkal had sent a legal notice in October 2019, and also noted that no objections has been raised by her since then and they had approached the court only at the last moment.
Advocate Sethi also added that there would be huge consequences as many stakeholders were involved in the release of the film even though it was released online and the court agreed with his arguments, noting, "Prime facie case, irreparable loss, balance of convenience-these considerations become relevant at the last minute.â€ť
Senior advocate Sai Rajagopal, who appeared for Netflix, explained that Mukul Deora had only gone ahead with the film after Sonia Mudbhatkal had signed an agreement with them and also added that Hart Jr and Sonia Mudhatkal had not raised any objection when the movie was released in the USA on January 11, 2021.
The court, while turning down the plea for stalling the release of the film, however kept the case pending and asked the producers of the movie to maintain the accounts of profits from the film. The case is now scheduled to come up before a registrar on March 22, 2021, for the completion of pleadings and paper work.