Theft is a term that does not exclusively apply to property – physical assets or objects – which can be illegally taken away from their rightful owner into the hands of others. It can apply with the same degree of importance and relevance to intellectual property as well: ideas, stories or written expositions. Due to the intangible nature of the latter category, it’s a much more difficult endeavor to accurately pinpoint when such a theft has taken place. The short film ‘Sensibly Won’, written, directed and produced by Pawan Sawlani, showcases such a scenario, and more or less acts as a guideline to situations like the one depicted.
The main character in ‘Sensibly Won’, a young and aspiring screenwriter, submits a promising screenplay to a bigshot producer and eagerly waits for a response. As time flows with no reply, she inquires further and finds out that the film had actually been made, but without crediting her, and thus without offering her the royalties that she would rightfully be entitled to. Angered and disappointed by this injustice, the screenwriter seeks the help and advice of her best friends and devises a game plan which would see her be recognized as the script’s true author, and would see the devious producer punished.
The film offers no real surprises in terms of content along the way and is also not a technical marvel: while shot well, the editing of the project, both on an audio and on a visual side, leaves much to be desired. The acting is at times a bit unconvincing, and the dialogues are far too explanatory and thus seem slightly unnatural. There are also some awkward moments when characters seemingly forget what messages they sent a short while ago or to whom they spoke an hour before. Even so, despite the coherence and flow of the film being affected, as a result, these moments can also be regarded as cute and appropriate for the light-hearted and non-condescending overall tone of the film.
This is, in fact, exactly what ‘Sensibly Won’ does offer: clarity and simplicity in getting its message across, and providing a valuable lesson for people who have either found themselves in similar situations or might be put in such a position sometime in the future. While, as one character philosophically puts it, everything is inspired by something else, there are limits to this and there is a clear distinction between broad following of an idea and theft of a concept.
Pawan Sawlani’s project brings all these associated issues out in the open, talking about film and script piracy, about the theft of intellectual rights, copywriting and blackmail, among others. It may do so too explicitly at times, but this only manages to boost the clarity of the message which is sent to the film’s audience. It’s a lesson in ethics and legal issues, and everyone who finds himself or herself in the screenwriting industry, or wishes to enter it in the future, should be familiarised with these topics – and ‘Sensibly Won’ provides some good such insight.