The popular Kochi-based band Thaikkudam Bridge recently sought legal action against the team of the Kannada hit movie ‘Kantara’. The band had claimed that portions of the film’s song ‘Varaha Roopam’ was directly lifted from the band’s song ‘Navarasam’ from their debut album titled the same. This is one of the first instances where an independent artist from India has sought legal action for copyright infringement. The fact that it’s against a huge production house also goes unnoticed. The band made its announcement through an Instagram post on 24th October urging their listeners to support them. They were represented by the Music Attorney Satish Murthi, an advocate of the Supreme Court of India.
A few days later, the Principal District and Sessions Judge of Kozhikode passed an order on a suit for injunction moved by the band. The Instagram post by TB read “Kozhikode has injuncted the Producer, Director, Music Composer, Amazon, YouTube, Spotify, Wynk Music, Jiosavan and others from playing Varaha Roopam in the film Kantara without the permission of Thaikkudam Bridge.” ‘Kantara’ makers have to now move the court for a stay order for relief. The team hasn’t responded yet.
However, the director of the blockbuster movie, Rishabh Shetty recently negated the allegations at Kochi claiming no copyright violations. Nevertheless, he did say that ‘Navarasam’ was familiar to him. The music director, B Ajaneesh Loknath too, had previously denied the allegations stating that he might have been inspired by the song but asked people not to say that ‘Varaha Roopam’ was a copy. He argued that the two songs might sound similar because of the use of similar ragas. In response to this, Govind Vasantha, one of the founding members of the band, said “If we consider ragas, it is true that every song will fit into the ragas of every other song. But, the whole arrangement and packaging, the use of guitars and percussion instruments, everything sounds similar in both the songs. How is that possible?”
In conversation with Sandhya Surendran, Entertainment Lawyer and Founder of Lexic, she talked about how independent artists have had very little or no say in how their music was being used so far. When asked about what the band’s move means for independent artists, she said, “This is very encouraging to other independent artists who have faced or might face similar situations in their careers – that your right to protect your art is something the law provides for regardless of who the opposing party might be.”
As Sandhya Surendran also rightly pointed out, it can be argued that these developments took place because TB is backed by a prominent, well-established name in the media industry called Mathrubhoomi. “Regardless, the fact is that Thaikkudam Bridge is one of the well-known bands from the indie community and their decision to take legal action goes to show that exploitative industry practices are not going to be ignored,” she added.
So what could ‘Hombale Films’ ideally have done? “The Kantara team could have either bought the rights of our song ‘Navarasam,’ collaborated with us to recreate the music or credited us for the ‘Varaha Roopam’ song,” says Govind Vasantha. The frontman of the band, bassist and vocalist Vian Fernandes also said that it was important for the team to give the credit to the band, in an interview with Hindustan Times.
Nevertheless, the movie set in a fictional village in Dakshina Kannada, ‘Kantara’ is seeing massive success. It is now dubbed and re-released in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, and Hindi.