It therefore comes as no surprise to know that UTV has decided to change all the names of the characters barring Jessica Lal in No One Killed Jessica, the film based on the celebrated case of the Delhi model, who was murdered in full view of dozens of eyewitnesses on crowded bar on April 29, 1999.
The initial plan was to go the whole hog and recreate the entire case in all its details including the characters with their real names. In fact, say sources, director Raj Kumar Gupta wanted to offer Shayan Munshi, the prime witness in the murder, the chance to play himself. However, according to legal advice, the original spelt trouble. Now, all the names of the main dramatis personae including the prime accused Manu Sharma and the key witnesses have been changed, to avoid legal and financial troubles.
When questioned about it, director Raj Kumar Gupta is evasive. "You will have to see the film to see why we have done what we have with the characters. Beyond that I don't want to comment on the names of the characters."
Siddharth Roy Kapoor of UTV is more forthright about the hasty and hushed changes made to camouflage the real-life characters in No One Killed Jessica. Says Siddharth, "The film is Raj Kumar Gupta's creative interpretation of Sabrina's journey, her trials, tribulations and finally vindication after Jessica's demise. So we felt Jessica's was the only character that needed to be specifically identifiable."
A source sheds more light on the matter. "The film decided to backtrack on real names when eyewitnesses and other people associated with the Jessica Lal case began to make urgent and anxious inquiries about the film. The characters are still easily identifiable. Only their names have been disguised. In our country, any film based on real incidents immediately invites legal and financial trouble. The makers of No One Killed Jessica didn't want to be stuck in dozens of legal snags and moral debates. That's why all the names have been changed."
More than once bitten, production houses have now decided to permanently shy away from all references to authentic characters in films based on real life.