Sobhraj slaps notice on Bollywood biopic maker

May 24th, 2008 - 8:26 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Sonia Gandhi
By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, May 24 (IANS) Indian filmmaker Prawaal Raman, who is making “Charles and I” on the life of yesteryears’ crime maestro Charles Sobhraj, has been slapped with a notice by the jailed criminal, warning him of action for slander and defamation. On Wednesday, under instructions from Sobhraj, who is serving a life term in Kathmandu’s central jail for the murder of an American tourist more than three decades ago, his French lawyer Isabelle Coutant-Peyre sent a legal notice to Aditya Shastri, chief executive officer of the Mumbai-based People Pictures company that is making “Charles and I”.

“This film cannot be made without Sobhraj’s personal authorisation,” the legal notice sent from Paris said. “It is the (same) case (as), for example, the film project on Sonia Gandhi’s life, considered by Jagmohan Mundhra who is expecting her decision.”

Coutant-Peyre says that her client is willing to draw up a contract with the company under mutually satisfactory terms.

“Until a formal authorization contract is eventually established between Charles Sobhraj, whom I represent, and People Pictures, we hereby notify you that you are absolutely forbidden to make a film about or alluding to Charles Sobhraj’s life, and/or including a character resembling him or supposedly portraying him,” the French lawyer said in the notice.

Sobhraj is also objecting to a press releases issued by People Pictures, describing “Charles and I”, as being based Sobhraj’s life.

“These press releases include lies and false statements likely to harm my client, since he is constantly being portrayed as a dangerous man and a murderer, while he has never been sentenced for that type of crime either in India or anywhere else,” the notice adds.

Reports in the Indian media said that Raman was making a film about “Charles”, “a charming man with a dangerous mind and dangerous intentions” who is hunted by the police of several countries and that Bollywood star Sunjay Dutt has been roped in to play the character.

These reports have reportedly caused consternation to the 64-year-old Sobhraj, who is fighting his last appeal against the guilty verdict in Nepal’s Supreme Court.

With the earlier battles in Nepal’s district and appellate courts having been heavily influenced by media reports, books written on Sobhraj and documentaries made on his criminal career that spanned more than half a dozen countries in the 70s, Sobhraj fears further publicity about his past would adversely impact the ongoing hearing.

“Failing to obtain Charles Sobhraj’s personal authorization, your company will incur legal proceedings, and action will be brought against you for libel, unauthorized use of his name and of any resemblance to his person, malicious falsehood and violation of Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” the notice warns.

However, it remains to be seen if Raman and People Pictures will take heed of the warning.

Legal tussles often have the effect of boosting a film’s chances at the box office.

Sobhraj, however, has faith in the Indian judicial system and is confident that he can block the film.

“I got justice in India,” Sobhraj had told IANS from his prison in Kathmandu.

Having avoided conviction for murder in India and the other countries where he was wanted for other lesser offences, Sobhraj ran out of luck in Nepal in 2003 when he visited the Himalayan kingdom apparently to explore new business prospects.

Arrested and charged with the murder of American backpacker Connie Jo Bronzich in 1975, he was found guilty by two courts and sent behind bars for 20 years.

He is fighting the verdict, claiming he was framed by Nepal Police and not given a fair trial.

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