Novelist says Indian TV series 'stole' her stories

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The Independent Online

When Barbara Taylor Bradford, Britain's "first lady of fiction", received an e-mail request a month ago for an interview to promote her latest television spin-off, she was at first baffled.

But within minutes, the country's bestselling female writer of fiction for adults had discovered from the internet that an Indian company, Sahara Television, was about to screen a £40m series bearing a strong resemblance to A Woman of Substance, her debut novel and an international hit.

Yesterday the Yorkshire-born author claimed she was on the cusp of an important legal victory after employing a battery of lawyers to argue her piracy case in courts in Calcutta and Delhi in the past month against the makers of the series titled Karishma – Miracles of Destiny.

Having just returned from a court appearance in Calcutta with her husband, the American film producer Robert Bradford, whom she married in 1963, the multimillionairess told a press conference in central London that she had brought the case for compensation and, more importantly, to protect the rest of her work. Her 18 novels have sold 70 million copies worldwide and proved a perfect – and lucrative – fit for the mini-series television format in the United States.

Ms Bradford, who was born near Leeds and relocated via a career on Fleet Street to New York, said: "I'm aware that it is called infringement of copyright and piracy but where I come from in the North of England it's simply called stealing. They are stealing my ideas, my imagination, my hard work and my ability as a writer." Asked how she felt when she discovered the alleged plagiarism, Ms Bradford, her quivering platinum hairstyle reflecting her indignation, replied: "How would you feel? I started as a journalist like you and it goes against the grain."

She added: "It was not anger in the sense of being furious – it was a kind of horrible dismay that somebody had been arrogant enough to take something that belonged to me."

Ms Bradford claimed she had in essence "already won" after injunctions issued in Calcutta and Delhi prohibited Sahara from showing the series and ordered it to surrender all tapes and scripts. She claimed the company was in contempt of court by showing the first episode on Monday night.

The series of 260 half-hour episodes is vital to Sahara TV's plan to make inroads into the Indian television market dominated by Star TV. The producers landed one of India's most bankable female stars, Karishma Kapoor, to play the central character, Devyani, allegedly based on Emma Harte in Ms Bradford's rags-to-riches tale.

As part of an extensive marketing budget, the company has paid for 800 billboards, 600 cinema advertisements and the rebranding of trains.

The transcript of an interview distributed by Ms Bradford yesterday showed the producer, Akash Deep, admitting that his series was an "Indianised" version of A Woman of Substance and the two later books that form the trilogy.

Mr Bradford, who makes mini-series of his wife's books for the American television networks, said a four-hour to six-hour mini-series from an author such as his wife would never fetch less than a million dollars (£625,000) for the rights, and there would also be a percentage payment.

Ms Bradford's 19th novel, Emma's Secret, will be published in July, the fourth in the series that began with A Woman of Substance.