The Bane of Traditional Copyright Law – Dikkatra, “Dikkatra Parvathi” – Part II

In my previous post, Neither did I speak much about ‘Dikkatra Parvathi’, the damsel in distress, nor did I speak about ‘Copyright Law’. Infact, I spoke nothing about Copyright Law, at all.

What is the function of Copyright? Why do we have an Intellectual Property Regime in place accepted by Law and followed by all Law abiding nations ? The function of Copyright  Law provides the creator a series of rights, by which the Copyright Holder can choose to exercise his rights over the created piece of art, by deriving both monetary benefits for commercial exploitation, either directly or via derived works, continue to be attributed as the Creator of the Work, earn a royalty on the commercial exploitation  but most importantly to serve as an encouragement and act as a renewed purpose for continuously creating newer forms of Art.

In the Old Analog Days, this Copyright System made a lot of sense. The reason was that, a creator’s definition, differed from what one should have actually been? So, who was a poet? A poet was not one who wrote poems, but one who managed to get his works published. The publisher too was selective enough, because he too was making an investment. So, only the cream got an opportunity to showcase their talent, and in the case of an existing dominant monopoly in any form of Art, Publishers and Producers staked their bet on an already winning horse, rather than experiment with a new one, thereby potentially denying an opportunity to millions of unknown horses. Millions of people may have perished with dreams that never became reality, because the system was such, that many never had an outlet to even express themselves, unlike Today, where any user can have cheap and easy access to Blogging Tools, YouTube, etc.

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Coming back to Copyright Law, a creator is granted a Copyright for a very reasonable number of 60+ years, and even if he dies in this period, the Copyright passes automatically to his legal heirs. The perspective of a publisher however, is very different. He is just like a businessman. He obtains the necessary rights from the Rights Holder, and has to invest a certain X amount of Money, commercially sell the commodity, make a profit and then also pay a certain Royalty back to the rights holder. This may not make a lot of business sense, infinitely, and in most cases, tends to see a declining curve.

For instance, We all know that Chetan Bhagat’s books sell like Hot Cakes, irrespective of whether you like him or not. But, would Chetan Bhagat’s books For e.g ‘Five Point Someone’ sell as many units 60 years from their first publication, For Rupa Publications to make business sense? Would it? It remains to be seen. But one cannot deny that over a period, atleast for a book, its sales units will decline. This decline in Sales, is typically replaced, in the interim period, when the creator releases his next work. Not only does Chetan Bhagat make money off his books, but also from movies, which have adapted his books, for creating the screenplay of their movies.

I am not sure, If Chetan Bhagat’s books would still be selling 60 years, from now, but if they would, then he would join a distinguished group of authors like Ruskin Bond, R.K.Narayanan, Khushwanth Singh etc, whose books written half a century ago, continue to stand the test of time.

Dikkatra Parvathi was a short story, written by C.Rajagopalachari, Former Chief Minister of TamilNadu. Rajaji is well known today as a statesman, Freedom Fighter, Politician, Nationalist, Writer and fervent supporter of Hinduism. Unlike say R.K.Narayanan, This is his core identification. So, even today, Books that he has written based on these subjects continue to be available. His ‘Mahabharata’ & “Ramayana” continue to be in print even today, almost 60-70 years, since their first publication and are continued to be printed By Bhavans, an organization started by Rajaji himself (?) and which promotes ancient Indian and Hindu culture. Some of his older books which are in the PUBLIC DOMAIN can be found in archive.org.

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Rajaji also has written a series of short stories, of which ‘Dikkatra Parvathi’ was one. This story along with others, was subsqeuently translated into English and was titled ‘THE FATAL CART AND OTHER STORIES’ by C.RAJAGOPALACHARI. The Translation was done by (? Forgot) and published in the Year 1946, by the Hindustan Times. The year is 1946, which means, that we have still not obtained independence yet. So, how many books were printed in the first edition, remains unknown to me.

Over a period of time, the book likely went out of Print, and is unavailable today. However, in the early 1970s, Director Singeetham Srinivasa Rao, got Rajaji’s permission ( It is said that it was his last signature in an official capacity) to adapt the story into a movie, with a short term loan from the FFC ( The Fore Runner of Today’s NFDC), which is what eventually became ‘Dikkatra Parvathi’. By the time of the Movie’s release, the FFC demanded back its money, which the producers could not pay, so, the movie was bailed out by the then Government of TamilNadu, and the movie got a very limited release.

The movie is yet to be launched in DVD format, and to the best of my knowledge, not available to watch even on the Internet. I confirmed with the National Archives of Pune, and they say that a copy is available, but has to be watched in the single seater roomer, at a cost of Rs.100/Film Reel + Some service charges + Rental for the Theatre. The Film Supervisor told me over phone, that depending upon the number of reels, a movie could cost upto Rs.2500 to watch. Absurd, when you can get a permanent ownership of a movie for Rs.50.

What is even more disheartening is that as much as i searched, I was unable to find the original Source Book. It is definitely, and multiple Google Searches associated with the word ‘Rajaji’ point to having referred this book. So, surely, a few copies must be around. Well, atleast in the huge traditional libraries, in our cities. Books published, even prior to this one, authored by Rajaji are available, since they are more identifiable with his public personality – Spiritualism, Biographical works, Hinduism etc.. But this one misses the boat..

I am not even sure, if this work is already there in the PUBLIC DOMAIN. It is extremely unlikely that a physical copy of the book, will continue to be published, henceforth. But, I do hope that someone atleast attempts an E-book version.. It will help us understand a lesser known face of the Great Man, Better.

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The Bane of Copyright Law – Dikkatra “Dikkatra Parvathi”? – Part I

While a few movie makers like ManiRathnam have chosen to use the base story line of a section of mythological stories like Ramayana and Mahabharata, which have been in the Public Domain since Centuries, others have chosen to adapt The screenplay of several hundreds ( possibly thousands) of movies have been adapted from contemporary forms of literature.

Uthiripookal is a classic example. It was adapted from PudumaiPithan’s Sirranai. Infact, several of Mahendran’s movies have been adaptations, including Metti, which was adapted from one of Mahendran’s own Short story. While the creator of traditional book based literature has infinite scope in terms of space and extensive characterisation and story telling, a film maker is bound in terms of a finite time duration and has certain limits, on certain elements that may not have been possible to express impressively on the big screen at the time, of a film’s making.

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JayaKanthan’s ‘Unnai Pol Oruvan‘ and ‘Yaarukaga Azhuthan‘ are adaptations of his own stories, directed by himself, while others like BheemSingh and Lenin have chosen to take his stories to the celluloid through ‘Sila Nerangalil Sila Manithargal’ / ‘Oru Nadigai Nadagam Parkiral‘ & ‘Oorukku Nooru Per‘.

Sadly, many of these movies are still not accessible to the public via afford Digital Media, although some of them sit in Cans of the NATIONAL FILM ARCHIVES OF INDIA, costing a bomb for private individuals/researchers who wish to view them, at the centre itself, which makes little sense when a low cost Original DVD of the same movie, can be sold for Rs.50.

( I have found this from the Archives themselves, and I am planning a trip to PUNE. The only problem at the moment for me is the funds 😦 , and some left over ground Research, as i gorge up on some more interesting readable material. While I will not be able to see all that i wish to see, My intention is to atleast come back having seen – JayaBharathi’s Kudisai, Singeetham Srinivasa Rao’s Dikkatra Parvathi and JayaKanthan’s Yaarukaga Azhuthan. Atleast, 2, if not 3.  #I have been informed that a digital copy of Dikkatra Parvathi is available to a certain previliged few, in Chennai, alas not me 😦)

So, looking back at a movie’s true source, will give us an indication of how much an adaption could have varied from the original. It also immensely helps us understand movies, which in case have been permanently lost, but the original literature is available. Let us consider the classic case of ‘Miss Malini’. A Movie produced by Gemini Studios and Directed by KothaMangalam Subbu, over seen by the legendary S.S.Vasan.

Paimpozhil Meeran in his book – ‘Secrets of Tamil cinema’ claims that a Nitrate based copy of the film which existed in the archives was destroyed in the Fire of 2002, which engulfed several copies of older films, including Miss Malini, leading to its permanent destruction. However, this is debatable. Not only does the archives claim that all the Nitrate films were backed up, The Founder Director of the Archives Mr.P.K. Nair said that by 1963, the year the NFAI was setup, Several movies, including the original Talkie, Alam Ara, were already lost. 

Let us take another scenario. Amrit Gangar is a researcher who has worked on the Archives and assessed the extent of damage to old Preserved Films, produces a list of movies which were damaged by the Fire. Miss.Malini is missing from the list. So, does that mean, Miss.Malini was never there in the original collection to begin with? Wait.. a moment..

The list mentioned by Amrit Gangar speaks about a Tamil movie ‘Sakubhai’ which was lost. However, the current Database available at the NFAI ( Accessible via the website) and which has details of movies upto the year 2004, and which was probably re-assesses after the 2002 Fire accident, shows that Sakubhai is available. So, which of these stories is true? While, the status of the other movies, especially the Nitrate based ones made before 1950 have indeed been destroyed by the fire, One thing almost seems to be sure. Even, the famous Historian Randor Guy has commented that ‘Miss.Malini’ is indeed lost forever.

So, going back to the source of this film, may indeed give us an idea about how, the movie may have shaped up, atleast in part, incase, the original screenplay of the movie is missing. In this case, there are several sources that claim that Miss.Malini was adapted from R.K.Narayan’s story, Mr.Sampath. ( We shall verify this claim specifically, and do some more analysis about Mr.Sampath in the next post, as I have observed some misgivings in this claim.)

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While the case of Miss.Malini does have other additional backup sources to analyse ( Next post), in most cases, what is only left is Printed Material, typically available in the form of Old Song books, and Magazine articles/Reviews, if they have indeed survived the day. The original source, typically is the only thing that indeed does help. So, in the case of Miss.Malini, the Source is said to be Mr.Sampath, the book written by R.K.Narayan. The book is still in print today, and i managed to get myself, the latest print edition of the book, although the font and typeset still represents a 1950s font and is hardly comfortable for the eye, unlike Modern books which have better fonts and spacing between lines ( Publishers, please note.)

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But, what about Dikkatra Parvathi? She seems to be in more distress, than ever, in an almost totally abandoned state now.. Continued in Part II