The Maula Jatt Madness: Will the real copyright holder please stand up?

Maula Jatt copyright controversy

Maula Jatt has been in the news ever since Bilal Lashari first announced his plans of remaking the cult classic and paying homage to the original film. Bilal’s version of the film is in production with a tentative 2018 release but the film is in some trouble as the original producers of Maula Jatt aren’t too excited about this new version. Legal notices have been served, much has been said and the film is in the news for all the wrong reasons. But when and how did this begin and who is the real copyright holder of the film? Let’s find out!

Maula Jatt-Poster

Released in 1979, Maula Jatt was a blockbuster which spawned multiple sequels both official and unofficial and somehow became the first unofficial Lollywood franchise centered around Sultan Rahi and Mustafa Qureshi who played the protagonist Maula and antagonist Noorie.

In December 2013, Bilal Lasari who was riding high on the success of his directorial debut ‘Waar’, announced his plans of rebooting the film. It was revealed that Bilal’s version of the film would be a visual epic, with less dialogue and many captivating moments. It would be his take on the gandasa culture but would stay true to the original and be in Punjabi.

Nasir Adeeb and Bilal Lashari

In 2014 it was made public that veteran writer Nasir Adeeb, writer of the original Maula Jatt film, its prequel Wehshi Jatt and sequel Maula Jatt in London, was on board with Bilal Lashari and would be writing the dialogues of the remake. It is worth mentioning that writer Nasir Adeeb had adapted the original films from a short story Gandasa written by Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi.

Sarwar Bhatti

Producer of  Maula Jatt, Sarwar Bhatti, wasn’t happy with this development and warned the makers that what they were doing was illegal and it was he who had the rights to the film! Another little fun fact: Sarwar Bhatti only produced Maula Jatt while the other two films had different producers.

Bilal was unaffected by the claims and believed he was legally covered as Nasir Adeeb, the writer of the Maula Jatt films, was a part of their team and that he had the right to the films. But Sarwar Bhatti retorted “Nasir Adeeb worked as a script-writer for me and he was paid for that; he cannot claim ownership of the Maula Jatt franchise.”

Okay, I know it just got a bit confusing so here is a pointer version of the Maula Jatt history:

  • Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi wrote a short story Gandasa.
  • Nasir Adeeb adapted it for the silver screen and wrote a film Wehshi Jatt, released in 1975, where he collaborated with producer Azeem Malik and director Hassan Askari.This is the first time that Maula and Noorie made an appearance on the silver screen.
  • Nasir Adeeb then wrote another film Maula Jatt, released in 1979, also adapted from the original short story, while this time he collaborated with producer Sarwar Bhatti and director Younus Malik. The film was a blockbuster and sort of began an unofficial franchise centered around Maula and Noorie played by Sultan Rahi and Mustafa Qureshi.
  • An official sequel Maula Jatt in London, released in 1981, written by Nasir Adeeb, produced by Shaan Mustafa and directed by Younis Malik was made. This is the only official sequel where the writer-director duo of Maula Jatt was present and the story continues from where it ended in Maula Jatt.
  • Following the success of Maula Jatt, dozens of films starring Sultan Rahi and Mustafa Qureshi were made. Now while these films were officially no sequels as such but the presence of the two main actors playing some variation of the original role along with the same formula of honor, violence, and bharak meant box office success. Goes without saying that these films had different producers, writers, and directors.
Maula Jatt- The Original Three

The crux of all this history is that Nasir Adeeb created the characters which were produced as films by three different producers!

Cut to  January 2017. The film is in production. Ammara Hikmat is on board as the producer and somewhere along the way it was revealed that Fawad Khan and Hamza Ali Abbasi are playing the iconic characters. But it was us at Galaxy Lollywood who exclusively revealed the complete cast for this mega film where Mahira Khan and Humaima Malick are the leading ladies (had to throw that in).

Maula Jatt 2.0- The Cast

Also, Bilal Lashari revealed via a facebook status that the film is neither a sequel nor a remake. It is not ‘Maula Jatt 2’ and the original title will soon be announced.

Cut to present and claim by the original Maula Jatt producer Sarwar Bhatti that the sequel producers can’t use the name of the movie, music, and characters without getting prior approval from him. They served legal notices to the cast of the film and want the cast to disassociate themselves from a project which they term is illegal!

Bahoo Sarwar

We called Bahoo Sarwar, son of producer Sarwar Bhatti, and questioned him on how they produced one film in the Maula Jatt series, but claim to have rights over the characters and title. To which he replied that it was his father Sarwar Bhatti who came up with the original idea of the film, created the character of Noorie Natt and that more than ninety percent of the film has been written by his father not writer Nasir Adeeb. He also told us that they have the certificate of Intellectual Property Organisation issued by IPO-Federal Government Pakistan.

Nasir Adeeb

With this additional information, we called up Nasir Adeeb, the writer of the film and wanted his take on the matter. He told us that the matter was in court but the producers need to realize that while they might have the rights to the film it is he who has the rights to the characters he created. He further elaborated and touched upon the same point which we discussed above that he has used his characters in various films produced by different producers.

Ammara Hikmat

We also talked to producer Ammara Hikmat who is the force behind the new mega-budget film in production. She reassured us that if she was investing so heavily in a project she obviously would have sorted out the basics first. She replied and said that the malicious claims made by Sarwar Bhatti are false and frivolous and that instead of commenting on this issue in media, she will take appropriate legal action against him.

To get a better insight into the matter we also talked to a few film people.

Omair Alavi

Journalist Omair Alavi who has co-written animated series Tick Tock believes that the rights of the film belong to the producer. “I have written Tock Tock but the final say is of the producer because the producer pays the writer and not the other way around. The rights of Maula Jatt are indeed with the producers. But Bilal has mentioned that Maula Jatt is just a working title so he might not even be touching the original film which renders the entire issue pointless”

Another industry insider on condition of anonymity said that the producer Sarwar Bhatti is just acting pricey. An official remake of Maula Jatt was released in 1981 and the producer had no issue with it being made because he knew he couldn’t make anything off it. Now he knows that a mega-budget film is being made and he can make some quick money! It’s all bullshit!

To sum it up we believe that this new film produced by Ammara Hikmat and directed by Bilal Lashari is a reboot which will be using the original characters written by Nasir Adeeb in a different context and in no way be a remake of the original film. The original producer needs to understand this and realize that they have the right to the film and not the characters. We hope that both the parties make peace and that the film moves ahead without any more controversies.

Cover image designed by Zeeshan Mahmood


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