Abid Hussain Barlaskar

Director of Citibank ad defends Matheno Films' 'idea theft' accusation

Last month, Matheno Films accused Citibank of copying an idea from one of their short films for the brand's Diwali special campaign. Matheno is backed by Schbang, a digital agency. Priyanka Setia, director of the Citibank Diwali ad has come out in defense of her film.

Amid accusations of idea theft, Priyanka Setia, director of the Citibank Diwali commercial has come out in defense of her film. Citibank has been accused by Matheno Films of copying an idea from 'Cup of Tea' (2017), a short film directed by Jitendra Rai (director - Matheno Films). Rai had accused Citi of 'merely lifting' the film's script for its Diwali campaign. The Citibank film was co co-written by Setia and produced by MacGuffin Pictures, a Mumbai based production house.

Priyanka Setia
Priyanka Setia

Setia, a director registered with the Film Television and Director Association, also an actor and theatre artist, says, “I firmly stand by the authenticity and originality in the way of expression of my film titled ‘Spread More Cheer’ for Diwali. The two works of art are based on a completely different premise with different characters motivated by different intentions. As a professional director, I respect the genuineness and the message of different filmmakers. However, a foot chase is a sequence/concept/idea that exists in the public domain and does not belong to any single film. Such a sequence has been used in a number of films as a tool to achieve unique motives and intentions. Well, the two films are driven by different motives and factors.”

Setia goes on to mention a chase sequence from the award winning Australian movie, The Water Diviner (2014) featuring Russell Crowe.

She further explains that in the film by Matheno films, the boy who steals the bag wants the owner (a girl) to follow him to his village. On the other hand, in Setia's film, the boy wants to evade the girl whose box of cake he stole. The girl eventually finds him.

Work on the Citibank ad was initiated almost a month before the release (around Diwali) and there were a volley of ideas passed between Setia and the Citi team. “I pitched a few ideas around Diwali. While the others were rejected this one was approved after much discussion,” she adds.

The MacGuffin Pictures’ legal team in a statement says, “Several directors may have similar ideas for a movie or a commercial. However the way a director puts down the given idea in a tangible form is what makes a difference. It is the form in which a particular idea, which is translated that is protected. No one person can claim any rights over portrayal of a scene where a child stole something and was chased. We firmly stand behind the originality and authenticity of the film produced by us for Citibank and propose to take action against those who malign our reputation intentionally.”

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