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There seems to be no end the murk that surrounds the proprietary rights over the newly released Hindi film, Kedarnath.
In the latest development, the Bombay High Court this week issued notice in a petition alleging that the police are sitting on a criminal complaint made against the proprietors of the film by Pooja Film Company and the Pooja Entertainment and Films Ltd (PEFL) company, through proprietor Vashu Bhagnani.
Among the accused named in the case are movie director Abhishek Kapoor and Rohinton (Ronny) Screwvala, film producer and managing director of Unilazer Ventures Pvt Ltd.
As per the petition, a criminal complaint made in June with the Economic Offences Wing has been left unattended, despite personal visits and repeated reminders. The complaint alleges fraud and breach of trust on the part of the accused, which the petitioners claim resulted in a loss of over Rs 15 crore.
This complaint followed news that Screwvala’s companies had signed a deal to become the sole producers and distributors for the Kedarnath film project last April. This, the petition contends, was done behind the petitioner’s back, with the knowledge that the Pooja Film Company and Bhagnani already had stakes in the film project.
The petition states that initially, the rights of the film were vested with Kriarj Entertainment Pvt Ltd (KEPL) and Guys in the Sky Pictures Pvt Ltd (GSP). KEPL entered into an MoU with Screwvala to co-produce the movie in August 2017. Thereafter, KEPL entered into an agreement with Pooja Film Company, following certain financial difficulties obstructing the completion of its shooting and theatrical release.
Consequently, it is submitted that Pooja films executed a Finance Agreement with KEPL to provide money towards the film’s expenses, eventually paying Rs 15.6 crores towards the film. As per the petition, the agreement also conferred on Pooja Films the right of pre-emption i.e. the first right of refusal when it comes to production and distribution rights of the film.
However, last April the petitioner was informed that KEPL had forfeited all its rights to the film and signed over the same to GSP absolutely.
This, it is argued, meant that not only did the petitioners lose the investment amount paid for the film, their right of preemption was also negated, leading to a wrongful loss for the petitioners while KEPL reaped the wrongful gain.
“This event not only diluted the right of the Petitioners by also led to a quandary with regard to the amount so invested by the Petitioners in the said film”, states the petition.
The petition goes on to hint that there may have been a conspiracy afoot between Screwvala and the others accused, which prompted KEPL to sign over the rights.
In view of the failure of the authorities to act on the complaint registered to this effect, the Bombay High Court was moved to direct the authorities to act. The matter has been posted to be taken up next in March next year.
Advocates Ravi Prakash Mehrotra and Ankit Agarwal advised Vashu Bhagnani (Pooja Film Company and Pooja Entertainment and Films Limited). Advocate Vivek Kantawala appeared for Pooja Film Company and PEFL.
Earlier this year, Screwvala and Kapoor had refuted Bhagnani’s claims to the film’s proprietary rights. It was reported that a legal notice to this effect was also sent to Bhagnani.
A day before its release, the Gujarat High Court also dismissed a PIL filed against the film, alleging that it hurts Hindu sentiments.
Read the Bombay High Court order:
Read the petition before the Bombay High Court:
Feature image taken from here.