The issue in this case pertains to the use of the name and persona of celebrity/film actor Shivaji Rao Gaikwad known by his screen name Rajnikant in a film titled 'Main Hoon Rajinikant' (I am RajniKant) produced by Varsha Productions. Rajnikant brought this action seeking an injunction to restrain use of the title.
Rajnikant in support of his case contended as follows -
- He is a famous and well acclaimed actor in the Indian film industry for the past several decades and is regarded as a cultural icon across the world and has been acknowledged as one of the leading actors in the country.
- He has been repeatedly referred to as the most popular Indian actor by media across the world, and his wide-spread fan base has been universally acknowledged to be one of the largest in the world.
- Despite Rajnikant being exceptionally well known and enjoying the adoration and recognition of his fans across the globe, he has deliberately chosen not to authorise any biopic featuring him or create any work based upon his personal self/personality.
- Recently he came across various press releases, video releases, web articles and posters about Varsha productions' forthcoming feature film titled 'Main Hoon Rajinikanth'.
- The press releases, video releases, web articles, posters and information suggest that the feature film 'Main Hoon Rajinikanth' has exploited the superhero image portrayed by RAJNIKANT in various movies. Such use is without consent or permission either written or oral from RAJNIKANT to use his name/caricature/image/style of delivering dialogue.
Varsha Productions has countered the suit on the following counts -
- The film produced by them namely 'Main Hoon Rajinikanth' is not a biopic of Rajnikant or a film based on the life or any event of Rajnikant.
- They have not put Rajnikant's image/caricature/style of delivering dialogues/film sequence/song/tune from any of his films in the forthcoming project titled 'Main Hoon Rajinikanth' (I am Rajnikanth).
- The title 'Main Hoon Rajinikanth', is a common/non-copyrightable name, which also happens to be the first name of the protagonist in the movie.
The court opined that although there is no definition for personality right in a name under any statue in India but still the courts in India have recognized the personality rights in a name through various judgments. The court was of the opinion that even assuming that the film being released by Varsha Productions was not a biopic of Rajnikant, still the name of the film is only identifiable with Rajnikant who happens to be a well known celebrity. While holding that Rajnikant is a well acclaimed actor with reputation spreading all across globe which in fact had not been denied by Varsha Productions, the court upheld the stand of Rajnikant and issued an order of restraint against Varsha Productions from exploiting the name of Rajnikant.