'Mukhbiir' release caught in director-production firm row

Jun 15, 2008 Subhash K Jha

Mumbai, June 14 (IANS) Director Mani Shankar has received a letter of objection from production firm Pritish Nandy Communications (PNC) over the release of his film "Mukhbiir" because he allegedly owes the company Rs.1.2 million.

The letter, signed by PNC's chief operating officer Bobbie Ghosh, warns that if the amount is not duly paid, it would take up the issue with various film associations and protest the release of "Mukhbiir". The film starring Sammir Dattani and Suniel Shetty is set to hit theatres June 27.

But "Mukhbiir" producer Sudish Rambhotla of Hyderabad-based firm Color Chips is unfazed.

"'Mukhbiir' is not Mani Shankar's property. He isn't the producer ... I am. How can Mr. Nandy stop it from release just because Mani owes him money. If the architect owes money to someone you can't stop the owner of a building from entering it."

He added: "I told Mr. Nandy this. If the company wants to put pressure on Mani, my film can't be a casualty. This letter has larger ramifications. How can the producer be held responsible for the director's liabilities?"

Mani Shankar tells his side of the story.

"Mr. Nandy entered into an agreement with me. And I gave him two bound scripts with dialogues. One was a period film 'Chanakya' and the other was a a hi-tech thriller called 'Chip Chor', an ideal vehicle for an actor like Sammir Dattani. Mr. Nandy was supposed to pay me another 10 lakhs (Rs.1 million) after receiving the script.

He added: "I've already narrated the scripts to various actors like John Abraham, Priyanka Chopra and Zayed Khan. I've tried to get both projects started. If he couldn't get the projects started, there's no provision in our contract for me to refund the money. As a gentleman he should've requested me to refund the money and take back the scripts.

"Instead, he sends me a letter saying I never fulfilled my agreement, meaning I never gave him the scripts in the first place ... His actions are not worthy of a man of his stature."

Mani agrees with Rambhotla that "Mukhbiir" has nothing to do with his differences with PNC.

"I'm only a technician for 'Mukhbiir'. I've no equity in it. These are bullying tactics. I'm not bothered at all. Mr. Nandy has no case in any court of law or before any film association."

Nandy, however, stressed that his company had not bought Mani's scripts.

"Tell me, what option does a producer have when a director takes the money and disappears? We at PNC are not unethical. Mani is a capable director and he narrated his scripts so eloquently. He e-mailed us two scripts to read, but we never bought them. The point is not the money but the attitude. He doesn't even respond to our calls!"

Nandy added: "See, there's this alarming trend developing among a group of filmmakers who have a name but aren't doing too much work. They come with these ideas, sign a contract and are never to be traced again ... They take a sizeable sum of money and then live comfortably for a while. And then the producer realises the script belongs to someone else. Such things happen in our industry because we work more on trust than paper work."

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