Art & Entertainment

Fine Line Between Inspiration And Plagiarism: Radhika Apte’s ‘Made In Heaven 2’ Episode Stirs Up A Debate

The latest season of Amazon Prime Video’s ‘Made In Heaven’ has been embroiled in a few controversies. Here’s one that’s making the maximum noise.

Radhika Apte In A Still From ‘Made In Heaven 2’

Made In Heaven 2’ has been garnering some glorious reviews. The show has been lauded by all and sundry. However, with so much praise, also comes a bit of the brickbats. There is a controversy that’s come to the forefront where an author has claimed that a certain episode of the show has tried to take bits from her personal life and her memoirs, and she hasn’t been duly credited for the same. The makers have outright slammed the allegations.

Yashica Dutt, an author, took to social media a few days back claiming that the makers of ‘Made In Heaven 2’ have taken bits and pieces from her life and her works for one of the episodes of the Amazon Prime Video show. The 5th episode in question stars Radhika Apte, and Dutt feels that there is a striking resemblance in quite a lot of scenes in the aforementioned episode from her life, which has been documented in her book, ‘Coming Out As Dalit’.

This is what Yashica Dutt wrote:

Well, plagiarism controversies aren’t something that’s new for Bollywood. Since time immemorial, with every Friday release, there have been claims of stories or thoughts or ideas or even music and scenes being lifted from other sources. People have been accusing filmmakers of having lifted their work without giving proper credit, and filmmakers have been stashing those controversies to the corner of the room in the name of ‘inspiration’.

The episode in question features Radhika Apte, a Dalit woman, whose family had changed their surname so that they didn’t get recognised by their caste. Now, the woman is a successful woman in the United States who’s working in a reputed university and she is no longer ashamed to get back to her original surname. She is someone who insists on getting wed in a Buddhist way, and that gesture itself has been winning hearts all over. It’s a great coming-of-age story where a lot of poignant issues of current-day society are spoken of if not in the open, but at least in the subtext of the entire wedding sequence.

While there are a few similarities which point towards what Dutt is claiming. Radhika Apte’s character talks about how her grandmother used to clean toilets manually. In an old interview, Dutt too had spoken about her grandmother in a similar context while referring to the issues of the caste system in the country. Then, Radhika Apte’s character has studied law at Columbia University and is also teaching there currently. Dutt completed her Master’s Degree at Columbia University. Then again, Radhika Apte’s character has written a book called ‘Denied’, which talks wholly about coming out as Dalit and going back to her original surname. The book that Dutt wrote was called ‘Coming Out As Dalit’.

Strange coincidences, eh?

Well, not to forget there are some striking differences as well between the two parties in question. Radhika Apte’s character is a winner of the Amnesty Award whereas, in real life, Dutt has been awarded with the Sahitya Academy Yuva Puraskar. And for the unversed, the two are very different from one another. Also, the most important factor – Radhika Apte’s character gets married in the show, and that’s pretty much the entire focus of the episode. However, in real life, Dutt is not yet hitched.

The episode has been lauded for the way Radhika Apte’s character was written and the entire wedding was sketched out. It’s indeed one of the most beautiful wedding sequences shot in today’s times. You’re bound to feel emotional and teary-eyed by the end of the episode. Radhika Apte’s performance as a Dalit woman even got BR Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash Ambedkar to come forward and praise the ‘assertion, defiance and resistance’ of the character.

However, with this plagiarism controversy erupting out of nowhere, the entire focus of the audience has been taken away from the main theme of the show, which is about wedding planners. In order to do some damage control, the makers of the show Zoya Akhtar, Reema Kagti, Alankrita Srivastava and Neeraj Ghaywan took to social media to hit back. They’ve unequivocally denied all claims by Dutt. Here’s what they wrote:

An excerpt from their post read, “The central conflict of the episode is whether Pallavi should fight to have the wedding rituals that are a signifier of her identity, or not. None of the above is drawn from Yashica Dutt’s life or her book – ‘Coming Out As Dalit’. We categorically deny any claim that Ms. Dutt’s life or work was appropriated by us. ‘Coming out’ is a 1950's academic LGBTQIA term that was first used by Mr. Sumit Baudh in the Indian caste identity context in 2007. He used this in an article he wrote for Tarshi. A decade later it was used by Ms. Dutt in her book. This term has since become common parlance for reclaiming caste-identity (sic).”

They went on to further deny the plagiarism claims by stating, “Pallavi Menke’s (Radhika Apte’s character) fictional book, ‘Denied’ is a hat-tip to several books like Ants Among Elephants by Sujatha Gidla, Caste Matters by Suraj Yengde, Coming Out As Dalit by Yashica Dutt and the Tarshi article by Sumit Baudh (sic).”

Whether or not Yashika Dutt’s work was taken for the screen without giving proper credit or even her consent is a debatable topic. But one thing is for sure – what Yashica Dutt is facing isn’t anything new. Numerous writers have faced it in the past, and are still facing it every day of the week. It’s not something new in the film and television industry. Things get lifted and taken up without permission by many filmmakers, and all you can do is knock on the doors of the courts, provided you have the bandwidth and the moolah to fight a long-drawn legal battle. For the others who don’t have the means to take out a bigwig filmmaker, they end up trying to at least pour their hearts out on their own social media. That way, at least they get a bit of solace in people’s comments and in the media frenzy that happens in the next 4-5 days around the person’s name.

It will be interesting to see whether or not Yashica Dutt decides to take the legal route and try to win what she claims is rightfully hers. In an interview with Quint post the entire episode, Dutt said, “I need to take time to process this and then figure out the next steps,” hinting that there could be something in the works.

What’s also good to see is that at least the makers have come out and spoken about the controversy and tried to clear their names off it. Thereby helping to take the focus off the controversy and back to the show. But sadly so, this isn’t the only controversy that the show has gotten embroiled in. In another episode of the show, Tarun Tahiliani, a noted Indian fashion designer, has claimed that his outfits, which were primarily used in the Mrunal Thakur episode, were used without giving him credit and were actually credited to a fictional fashion designer on the show. Will the makers open up about that as well? Well, only time will tell.