Bollywood movie Neerja was one of the biggest blockbusters of last year, fetching lead actor Sonam Kapoor numerous awards, including the National Award (Special Mention), for her portrayal of Neerja Bhanot, the brave young girl from Chandigarh who was mercilessly gunned down at the hands of terrorists in Pakistan in 1986.
Neerja, just 23 when she was killed while trying to save the lives of passengers onboard the PanAm flight that had been hijacked at Karachi airport. She was the youngest recipient of Ashok Chakra.
Over a year after Neerja was released to much commercial and critical acclaim, the producers of the movie – Bling Entertainment Solutions Ltd -- are being accused of a breach of contract by the family of the braveheart. At the heart of the dispute is the alleged failure of the producers to share profits from the film. The Ram Madhvani-directed movie made it to the exclusive Rs 100-crore club on the back of a strong storyline.
Lawyers from both sides told DNA that matters have reached such a stage that there is a strong possibility of Neerja's family moving an appropriate court – most likely the Punjab and Haryana High Court – for seeking action against producers.
Sources said a notice of arbitration, the first step in a dispute of this nature, has already been sent to fashion photographer Atul Kasbekar, who is chief managing director of Bling Entertainment Solutions Ltd which co-produced the movie, by Akhil Bhanot and Aneesh Bhanot, the two brothers of Neerja.
Bling had entered into an agreement with Neerja's mother (now deceased) Rama Bhanot – played on-screen by Shabana Aazmi – to produce a movie on the life and death of Neerja.
It is learnt that in its legal correspondence through advocate, Anusha Nagarajan, the Bhanot family has cited contractual obligations to inform Bling that while it was bound to pay 10 per cent of the net profits, Bling reneged on its obligation and offered to pay only a small fraction. The legal notice also says that the rights agreement between the family and Bling was clear in its intention that "production, distribution and exploitation" of the film would be undertaken primarily by Bling and entities affiliated to Bling. No part of the rights, the family claims, could have been assigned by Bling to any third party.
Bling on its part has claimed that its share of profits came down due to another contract that it entered into with Fox Star, which co-produced the movie.
Incidentally, the National Award for best film of the year was collected by Vijay Singh, CEO, FoxStar India, being the producer of the film.
It is learnt that legal representatives for both sides met at the office of former Union law minister and senior lawyer Kapil Sibal in October last year to try and resolve the issue amicably. But, that attempt yielded no result.
Incidentally, the Bhanot family has earlier put such money into a social cause. Earlier, when the insurance money was given to them after Neerja's sacrifice, they started the Neerja Bhanot Pan Am Trust, which rewards women who have faced social injustice. The family, it is learnt, had made similar plans with the money it would have got from the film producers.
Despite repeated attempts, nobody involved in the dispute could be reached for comments.
Stay tuned to BollywoodLife for the latest scoops and updates from Bollywood, Hollywood, South, TV and Web-Series.
Click to join us on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram. Also follow us on Facebook Messenger for latest updates.