One of the best films and biggest blockbusters in 2016 was Neerja. The movie is based on the final moments of life of Neerja Bhanot, head purser on a hijacked PanAm flight in 1986. She was gunned down by terrorists while trying to save the life of the passengers. She remains the youngest recipient of Ashok Chakra. Neerja was made by Atul Kasbekar's Bling Unplugged, after taking permissions from Neerja's family and after signing a legal contract to share the profits. The Bhanot family intended to set up a fund for women in need with the received profits, but have now moved court after, allegedly, being deceived by the makers. Not that Bling Unplugged did not share the profits with the Bhanot family, but the amount offered was much less than the profits movie made. Atul had argued that the Bling has shared the profits, but co-producer Fox Star Studios, who made the most profits, were not a part of this contract. On Friday, the family moved Chandigarh High Court, accusing Atul’s Bling Unplugged and Fox Star Studios of criminal conspiracy.
Bhanots’ legal counsel, Hemant Saini, told Mid Day, “The parties entered into an agreement which promised the family 10 per cent profits, over and above the initial stipulated amount. Now, the producers are indicating that the contract referred to the percentage made by Bling alone, and not by both the producers. They claim that the amount the family is demanding belongs to Fox, which, they say, is not party to the agreement. They say most of the profits have gone to the studio and they can only give what they have. However, it was made clear that if the producers assign the rights to anybody else (in this case, to Fox), they too will be bound by this agreement. It’s a clear case of cheating.”
"The entire episode has trappings of a criminal conspiracy between respondent (Bling Unplugged) and Fox Star Studios India Pvt Ltd, who right from the inception of the agreement (between the family and the producers), in a planned manner had dishonestly induced the petitioners and family members of late Rama Bhanot with the intention of wrongful gains to themselves," the petition moved by the family before the Punjab and Haryana High Court has stated. The matter will be heard in July.
Co-produced by Atul Kasbekar’s company Bling Unplugged, alongside Vijay Singh’s Fox Star Studios, Neerja is based on air hostess Neerja Bhanot, who displayed the utmost courage to deal with armed terrorists and sacrificed her life to save others on a hijacked flight. The film grossed an estimated Rs 125 crore in worldwide earnings and bagged the National Award for the Best Hindi Feature Film, among several other film awards. The Bhanot family had claimed the makers had promised them 10 per cent of the film’s box office collections.
A few weeks back when the Bhanot family warned "Bling Unplugged had acquired the rights to make ‘Neerja’ from the Bhanot family. The agreement between Bhanots and Bling clearly spelt out that Bhanots would be paid a fixed upfront amount (which was paid as per the timelines) and a variable amount, which was to be computed as a share of net profits that Bling would receive. It was always abundantly clear that we would partner with a studio, in this case Fox Star India. The Bhanot family was always aware of the same and have in fact met the studio reps on many occasions. To imply otherwise is simply untrue. All financial transactions post release have been shared with the Bhanot family immediately and in a transparent manner. Their share of the profits, which is a share of ours, has been immediately offered.”
The statement further said the Bhanot family has “declined to accept the same and now wish to get a share of the studio profits”.
(with inputs from IANS)
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