Jyoti Kapoor & The Badhaai Ho Fiasco: Can Bollywood Please Start Crediting Writers?

Now, she simply wants Filmfare to reinstate her nomination.

Last week, screenwriter and Vice President of India’s Screenwriters Association, Jyoti Kapoor got nominated by Filmfare for Best Original Story, along with Akshat Ghildial and Shantanu Srivastava for Amit Sharma’s Badhaai Ho. But she was soon in for a huge shock. Her name had mysteriously disappeared from the nominee’s list from Filmfare’s website overnight. 

When it comes to giving credit to writers, Bollywood has always had a bad reputation. Last year, it was a big deal when Karan Johar decided to put the names of the writers of Takht in the first-look poster of his upcoming period film. In an industry where films are marketed on the backs of celebrity actors and filmmakers, someone as vital as the writer of the story is usually the first one to be overlooked.

According to Jyoti Kapoor, who spoke to InUth over the telephone, she had written and registered the story of Hum Do Hamaare Chaar with the Screenwriters Association on 24 March, 2015. The story followed a middle-aged couple from Haryana who “accidentally” get pregnant much to the chagrin of their three adult children.

InUth also spoke to Sunil Salgia, General Secretary of the Screenwriters Association. This is what he had to say about the entire episode:

“The Screenwriters Association received a complaint from our member Jyoti Kapoor that her name had been dropped from the nominations for ‘Best Story’ category in Filmfare Awards. She has been credited in the film along with two other writers. Her name has appeared in all official publicity and on Wikipedia pages and IMDB too. She also showed us that initially her name was there in the Filmfare nomination list but it was removed later.

The Screenwriters Association has sent a letter of condemnation to the producers Junglee Pictures and Filmfare and also reminded them that this is violation of contract and legal proceedings can be initiated against them. They haven’t replied to our letter yet. Now, if the complainant member wishes to take a legal recourse, Screenwriters Association will stand by our member in solidarity and support.

We condemn this petty behaviour of the producers. It is like acknowledging the mother’s name on the birth certificate and denying it later socially. It seems to me that someone at the production house is taking a personal vendetta with Jyoti, because it has come to our knowledge that a certain person from the marketing team of Junglee is sending out mails to other awards too to take out Jyoti’s name. It’s a shame that big companies do such petty things.”

In an interview to Film Companion, screenwriter and lyricist Varun Grover had mentioned, “If you go on YouTube and official channels of music companies put out songs, they will give the names of the music director and singer in the video. Sometimes they put the name of the actor who is in that ‘song video’. The video description will have the actor’s name, the composer’s and then the singer’s. There is no lyrics writer’s name! Sometimes dhundna padta hai neeche.”

Jyoti Kapoor was hired by Junglee Pictures, who produced Badhaai Ho, in 2015. Problems started when Aman Gill, the Development Head of Junglee at that time, left to join another company a year later. When the production company approached Sharma to make the film, he informed them that he had already been developing a similar story with his own team of writers.

One chaotic situation lead to another, and Kapoor’s contract was terminated by Junglee. Even after initially refusing to feature her name crediting her for the story, Junglee had to eventually give in. According to the production house, they did so out of “good faith”, but according to Kapoor’s interview with Firstpost, Junglee did so only because there was a legally binding contract that forced their hand. Even though, Kapoor’s contract ended in 2016, it stated that if any part of her story or character is used, she would be given credit. 

When Kapoor found out that Filmfare had removed her name from the list of nominees, she was shocked. In one of her public Facebook posts she wrote, “While awards are a huge validation for a lot of us, it’s okay to not find oneself in the August company. My problem is with the personal vendetta. The whole pettiness of it. The brazen injustice. Because you assume that a writer is powerless. And you can humiliate them and make them feel so small. That you can practically f*ck around with their career. Yes, I was told that in as many words. And to them I have only one thing to say, I’m here to stay as long as I have stories to tell.”

Now, she simply wants Filmfare to reinstate her nomination. She is in no mood to give up on the good fight.