Claiming the filmmaker owes the production company Rs. 12 lakhs, Pritish Nandy Communications has sent Hyderabad-based director Mani Shankar a letter-of-objection regarding the release of the Mani-directed Mukhbiir which is all set for release on June 27.
The letter signed by PNC's chief operating officer Bobbie Ghosh warns Mani Shankar that if the money owed to PNC by Mani is not paid up, PNC will protest against the release of Mukhbiir to various film associations.
But Mukhbiir producer Sudish Rambhotla of the Hyderabad-based company 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."
Continues Rambhotla, "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? If tomorrow Mani owes me money should I stop Pritish Nandy from releasing his film?"
Mani Shankar tries hard to conceal his annoyance. "The facts speak for themselves. 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 hi-tech thriller called Chip Chor, an ideal vehicle for an actor like Sammir Dattani. Mr. Nandy was supposed to pay me another ten lakhs after receiving the script. I've already narrated the scripts to various actors like John Abraham, Priyanka Chopra and Zayed Khan. Mr Nandy or his daughter Rongita was present during some narrations. I've tried to get both projects started. If for whatever reasons 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. This, after I've narrated the subjects to so many actors in the industry. I'm not responsible for the projects not taking off. His actions are not worthy of a man of his stature."
Mani is in agreement with the Mukhbiir producer that the film 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. This kind of behaviour is common practice in Mumbai. Mr Nandy has no case in any court of law or before any film association. This is happening because I'm not from Mumbai and people in Bollywood think they can bully me. But I'm not losing a day's sleep over this irrelevant matter."
Pritish Nandy responds "Tell me, what option does a producer have when a director takes the money and disappears? We at PNC are not unethical. Mani, I suspect, is a capable director. He narrated his scripts so eloquently. He emailed us two scripts to read. We never bought them. The point is not the money but the attitude. Rs.12 Lakhs is chickenshit. He doesn't even respond to our calls! The Mukhbiir producer Sudhish Rambhotla has his own litany of complaints against Mani. When I spoke to him he was so unhappy. See, there's this alarming trend developing among a certain 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. This has become a constant problem with middle-rank directors. They take a sizeable sum of money and then live comfortably for a while. And then the producer realizes the script belongs to someone else. Such things happen in our industry because we work more on trust than paper-work. Today creativity is totally irrelevant. Money is all. PNC is here to make movies. I guess we're among the last of the Mohicans."