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Yash Chopra on Mangal Pandey
Prominent Bollywood persnality Yash Chopra today claimed that Mangal Pandey was not a freedom fighter and questioned the authenticity of descendants of the 1857 hero who have filed a suit for showing him in poor light in a new film featuring Aamir Khan.
During a hearing of the case in Delhi High Court, Mukul Rohtagi, the counsel for Chopra, who is distributor of Mangal Pandey: The Rising, questioned the authenticity of plaintiff duo's claim that they were descendents of Pandey and said he was not a freedom fighter.
Chopra's contention was refuted by the plaintiffs' counsel Hari who showed a postal stamp issued in the name of Mangal Pandey by the Government of India in which he has been described as a freedom fighter.
Hearing the case, Justice O P Dwivedi adjourned the matter for November eight as none of the defendants except Chopra had filed his reply to the suit.
The court asked all other defendants to file their replies within two weeks and gave two more weeks to the plaintiffs to file their rejoinder.
He, however, refused to pass any interim orders to stop the screening of the film despite repeated requests from the plaintiffs' lawyer saying "I will decide the issue finally."
Justice Dwivedi had earlier issued notices to the film's joint producers Bobby Bedi and Deepa Sahi, director Ketan Mehta, story writer Farooq Dhondy, distributor Yash Chopra, Aamir Khan and actress Rani Mukherjee asking them to file their replies by today.
Senior counsel M Krishnamani submitted on behalf of the plaintiffs that nobody can be allowed to defame a freedom fighter.
"Tomorrow, somebody will say Mahatma Gandhi was involved with a prostitute. This should stop," Krishnamani said.
Rohtagi, however, said he has only submitted that Pandey was neither like Mahatma Gandhi nor like Bhagat Singh or Chandrasekhar Azad. He was in fact an insignificant historical character who has been glorified in the film."
He said if the court wanted, he could arrange a screening of the film here and claimed that there were "tonnes of material" to prove that Mangal Pandey was not a freedom fighter.
Raghunath Pandey, Vice Principal of a Kendriya Vidyalaya here and his son Omkar Nath Pandey - descendants of the martyr's brother Lalit Pandey - had filed a suit seeking an unconditional apology from all those involed in the making of the film for allegedly showing Mangal Pandey as an alcoholic involved in a relationship with a prostitute.
The suit, filed through advocate M T Siddiqui had sought notional damages of Re 1 from the defendants for allegedly "defaming and disreputing Mangal Pandey and the entire Pandey family and their succeeding generations by falsely claiming that the film's story was based on actual events".
Originally hailing from village Nagwa in Ballia district of Uttar Pradesh, they accused the defendants of deliberately depicting sexuality and drama to make it a masala movie.
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