Hindi Film 101: KriArj versus John Abraham, Professionals Versus Artists

I’m so excited!  I love contract dispute news!  It’s almost as much fun as box office number analysis.  So, indulge me, while I dig in.

KriArj versus John Abraham

This is FASCINATING!!!!!!  It’s kind of a follow-up to the Kedarnath story, the same big themes are being struggled with, only this time I am on the other side of things.  Sorry KriArj!  I know I am just putting you on an emotional roller coaster, wildly changing sides like this, but I calls them as I sees them.

The big issue is the difference between the small artistic view of filmmaking and the major corporate view.  KriArj is caught in the middle, because they are the ones making the corporate deals and then turning around and giving the money to the artists.  They don’t want to deal with the nitty-gritty of filmmaking, they want to contract with someone else to make the product for them and then turn around and sell it for a big mark-up to a multinational group.  It’s the film version of clothing manufacturers, there are millions of tiny little factories in India turning out the shirts I am wearing in America, and between those factories and my wearing the shirt, there is a company that gives the contract to the factory on behalf of whatever American corporation doesn’t want to get its hands dirty, pays the factory a tiny sum, charges a big amount to the American corporation, and pockets the profit.

In this case, John Abraham is the little shirt factory.  He made his “shirt”, that is, the actual film.  No one is disputing that.  But post-production has been terribly delayed, and so has the release, no one is disputing that either.

John says that post-production has been delayed because they haven’t gotten paid.  Checks from KriArj are late or delayed.  Actually, let me give you his whole statement:

Termination of the agreement by us is valid and legal. Kriarj has committed material breaches which left us with no choice but to terminate in the interest of the film. We would like to state that this extreme step has been taken by us after days of trying to resolve the issues at hand in the best interest of the release of the film. We have fulfilled our commitment at every stage of this project and intimated Kriarj in writing from time to time. We have been waiting and asking for payments at every stage, our payments have either been delayed or we have received wrong UTR number. Cheque payments have been stopped time and again.

Delay in payments / non-payments, have caused delays in the post production work after the film’s principal shoot was completed by us in time and on schedule last year. Despite repeated follow up, the distribution plan for the film has not been shared and there has been no transparency in their dealings with third parties. We have till date not been privy to any signed contracts of third parties with Kriarj, if any.

JA Entertainment has time and again discussed the marketing campaign for the film with KriArj but the release dates have been pushed at least 3 times, due to delayed payments. Not only that, Kriarj without our approval has gone out and made statements giving false reasons for the delay. Our repeated follow-ups have only been met with false promises to settle the issue, thus wasting crucial time on the project. The industry knows of the track record of Kriarj. There has been a similar incident in the past with another film where they have done the same thing.

Given the above, and in the best interest of the film, we have terminated our contract with KriArj Entertainment Pvt. Ltd. and will soon announce the release schedule. Any future attempts by Kriarj to jeopardise the film or defame the production house and / or the film, like they have done in the past with other films, will compel us to initiate legal proceedings against them.

We request you for your continued support to us and the film and for you to use this statement in its entirety. May we also request you to kindly refrain from any conjecture based stories or putting out unverified facts on this matter.

KriArj’s response:

Trade notice issued by JA Entertainment claiming termination of their agreement with us for the Film Parmanu, please note that the said termination is illegal and invalid.

Our rights in the Film as a joint producer/presenter and owner of all rights are fully secured, we have always fulfilled all our commitments till date and have clear intent to continue doing so. JA Ent has also always been aware that Zee Studios are KriArj’s partners in the Film from very early stages as co-producers and also the acquirers of the Overseas theatrical, digital,satellite and music rights of the Film.

JA Ent has till date not fulfilled it’s commitment of completing and intimating us of the completion the film and is fraudulently trying to delay the release of the film thereby causing huge monetary losses and damage to our reputation. We had all our plans of promoting the film and a wide release in place and were to kick start the campaign shortly for which also there have been substantial expenses already done. JA Ent has repeatedly put a spoke in the wheel and derailed the marketing campaign which is hurting the prospects of the film and is the cause of losses being continuously caused to us.

After making substantial payments to them JA Ent has kept making unreasonable demands for money from us which are completely outside the scope of their initial understanding with us.This has made it abundantly clear that they are trying to defraud us by now attempting to wriggle out of a legally binding contract with us which is not only unlawful but also unethical. We hope better sense prevails on JA Ent as we have been only looking towards the interest of the Film and the best possible release.

It goes without saying that any one dealing with the Film or any of its rights through JA Ent will be doing so at their own risk and peril and will also have to face legal consequences.We have already instructed our attorneys who will be moving the necessary authorities soon for seeking justice against the breaches committed by JA Ent and its promoter Mr John Abraham.

So, here’s the big thing I am getting from these two statements.  John is talking about internal specifics, he is speaking from the film industry to the film industry.  He even says “The industry knows of the track record of KriArj”.  Beyond that one sentence, the whole statement is speaking of inner workings.  Getting the wrong UTR number, not knowing the distribution plan.  These are things that being an outsider I can’t fully follow, even though I spend large amounts of time studying the industry.  John is talking directly to his fellow filmmakers who understand this usual process and no one else.

On the other hand, the KriArj statement is directed to the galleries.  They are saying “fraud” they are saying “kick start” they are saying “wriggle out”.  And they are coating all of this in business speak.  “Legally binding contracts” and so on. KriArj is aiming their statement at the outsider business money people, not at the people actually working in the industry.

Both of these are valid tactics and don’t on their own necessarily mean one side is wrong and the other is right.  John is trying to get the industry on his side, thinking that it is important to win over the important powerful few who actually know him and ignore the rest.  KriArj is ignoring the industry (such a fierce statement is going to turn off any PR conscious partner), but focused on winning over the general public who are reading industry news and trying to decide where to invest.

But I am choosing John’s side because of who KriArj is attacking.  They leaked, unofficially, another statement slamming John as an inexperienced producer who jumped on this project last minute, and who was uninvolved in his previous two producers, Madras Cafe and Vicky Donor.  And that’s just plain ridiculous.

In the case of Kadarnath, Abhishek Kapoor had a track record of bad productions.  I could (and do) believe anything KriArj wanted to say about him.  But John Abraham does not.  He picked two difficult scripts, in the case of Vicky Donor he consciously chose not to star in the film but only to do a guest appearance.  In the case of Madras Cafe, he carefully promoted and released a film on an impossible topic.  In this case, John has not had a release in 2 years because he has been so dedicated to working on this one film.  If he is not (as KriArj implied) a hands on producer, then what the heck has he been doing?

(Back in 2012, John was able to be the matchmaker, put Shoojit Sircar together with Eros Entertainment)

Beyond all this, giving money to Abhishek Kapoor is a one time forgivable accident, even Disney did it.  Having the exact same story, troubled production and film killed, with another producer, smells of a pattern.  Might even smell of “fraud” on their part, taking money from Zee and then arranging for the project to die so they can keep the advance.

The story KriArj is selling is one that the industry has been peddling for a while, as India becomes more and more an industrial nation, it is a con that the industrialized nations have perfected: the idea of the “professional” and the “amateur”.  Which usually boils down to “fake it until you make it” and the professionals are very good at faking.  Using certificates and degrees and fancy language to pretend to actually understand an industry without ever actually getting their hands dirty and working in it.

KriArj is a faker, and they’ve been good at it.  They find small promising projects, convince the filmmaker that KriArj can get them funding, then go and find a multinational corporation and convince them that they need to go through KriArj to fund the film.  In this case, it’s Zee.  Why couldn’t Zee have just handed money to John?  What’s KriArj even doing here?

Well, KriArj is the “professional”.  John is out there getting dirty and being a movie star and talking about bounced checks (no one wants to talk about bounced checks in business).  But KriArj, they can talk the business lingo and pull out credentials of having worked with big companies before, they can give the stamp of authority to these little companies.


This is exactly what 3 Idiots was about.  Remember how Aamir went to IIT in the place of his boss’ son because he had the intelligence to do it, but his boss’ son needed the credential?  John has the intelligence and the experience.  But in the new multi-national corporate world he is “just” an actor, he needs that credential.  The people who have the credential (thanks to their privileged background which allowed for business school degrees and so on) will swoop in and sell their connections and swanky offices and all the rest of it, at the cost of giving up rights to the film you yourself made.

Image result for twinkle khanna padman

(Remember Twinkle and Padman?  It’s her story, she created the script, she got her husband to star, she has literally a lifetime of being in the film industry.  But KriArj had to come in and give the stamp of approval before she could get any money.  And then they ended up delaying the release and blowing the distribution plan and ruining the film)

In the best case, this all works out for everyone.  The film gets made with the money scammed out of the multinationals blinded by credentials, the filmmaker gives up his rights but gains security.  It’s like 3 Idiots, the meaningless credentials are there to fool those who only care about that, but the actual quality is there too, the person who put in the real work gets to see their work come to fruition and is appreciated by the people who really matter, the ones who understand who should have the real credit.

But KriArj is playing a dangerous game.  They are jumping over the line to the business side and leaving the artist behind.  I said in the Kadarnath article that originally the filmmaker was businessman and artist combined, director/producer.  KriArj is setting up a new structure that breaks that bond, that sets them up as the businessman while the artist is just an artist.  However, it only works if the two sides work together.  In the case of Kadarnath, it sounds like the artist was scamming the business side.  But in this case, it sounds like the business is scamming the artist, looking to pocket the money instead of giving it to the film.  And then blame the artist when it all goes wrong, knowing that the business world will line up behind them thanks to their fancy suits and shiny language.

Image result for prerna arora

(Look at them.  John’s in a t-shirt and a beard, looking 40 years old and sincere and tired.  Prerna Arora from KriArj is in a jacket and make-up and minimal jewelry, looking like the young fresh modern India)


But, here’s the bright side to all of this.  The last story, Kadarnath, looked like the start of a new era where the corporations rule everything and the little baby films can be ripped from their parents and killed if they don’t follow the rules.  Which is better than an era in which the films grow up to be giant rampaging monsters destroying the industry that gave birth to them (Fitoor).  But still not as good as an era where baby films are tenderly cared for by their parents until they grow up to be their best selves (Sholay).

But this story makes me think it is possible we will be returning to that previous era.  Because John has the trust of the industry in a way that Abhishek Kapoor just didn’t, and if he wants to make a stink and warn people that this is what happens if they sign the rights out of control of the artist, they will listen to him.  Of course, the challenge is to get the multi-national corporations to listen as well, to go back to trusting artists directly with their money, but if the industry stands together, it is possible.


32 thoughts on “Hindi Film 101: KriArj versus John Abraham, Professionals Versus Artists

  1. I’m so glad you chose John’s side I feel like hes an underrrated actor and also has an good eye for great scripts such as vickey donor, madras cafe I feel like now instead of acting he should focus on producing films as unfortunate as it sounds hes an outsider with no star father and I feel like alot of the times people will mistreat him and he does not get the promotion that he deserves compared to someone like tiger shroff who has no acting skills still shocked how bhaagi 2 became a hit and can you also explain what hapened to Hera Pheri 3 and why it never got released I even saw John and Abhishek promoting the film few years back but I heard there were some controversy with Akshay Kumar disputing with the directers/producers as he was asking for more money.


    • It sounds like Hera Pheri is just kind of a cursed production. The big problem is that the director/producer had a stroke, was in a coma, seemed to be getting better, and then died. Since he was director and producer, nothing could move forward without him (partly as a courtesy I am sure, it would seem wrong to replace him while he is fighting for his life). In addition, Abhishek dropped out last minute, sounds similar to how he left the Dutta film, no warning leaving the production in a shambles. And John left around the same time, not clear why (maybe he just felt it was a cursed film).

      Kind of an interesting comparison with this story, this is the kind of thing that makes multi-nationals want a KriArj involved, so they feel like there is a back-up if the producer/director falls sick. But personally, I think it leads to worse movies. And to abuses like this, where the perfectly sincere filmmaker is being blamed for problems outside their control.


      • I was really looking forward to hera pheri 3 but with the original cast as much as I love john he just does not have the comidic timing of Akshay, pareshrawal and same with welcome back 2 I wanted Askay to star in it. I also heard that Muna bhai 3 also got shelved due sanjays dutt being in jail and no entry and dostana 2 all would have been great movies if it were released


        • If I am untangling news stories correctly, it has now circled back around to the original cast. If it ever gets made, now that the director/producer is dead.

          Another news story today, good news, Welcome 3 might be happening thanks to Anil Kapoor stepping in and untangling some personal issues between Bazmee and Nadiawala (the producer).


    • I don’t know what to think about that story! Because Gautham does tend to have very delayed projects, but then on the other hand he was nice enough to post a long thoughtful comment on my blog, so I like him. And also, I love his movies.

      But yes, it does sound like the same problem. These middleman groups jumping on projects that are already being shepherded along by the filmmaker directly, and then the creatives being caught in the middle. Interesting that it is happening in other industries besides Hindi, I never like to assume that these big industrial things are the same language by language.

      On Tue, Apr 3, 2018 at 4:07 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



      • Karthik Naren has such an interesting story. He couldn’t find anyone to produce his first film, so his dad (who is a PhD I think) produced it! Can’t imagine what it must’ve been for the dad to pour in all his life savings into the movie. And apparently they’ve now poured all the profits from that movie into this one. I hope this works out for them at the end.
        GVM is a great, perceptive filmmaker but very disorganized. I love what Aravind Swamy posted about this whole issue.


        • that funding technique is exactly what I was thinking of with the ideal of the “baby” film being carefully controlled and brought up by those who love it. It’s risky to fund your own project, but ultimately (I think) gives a better product, the creative freedom to do exactly what you want and release it and promote it just right, and without overreaching since yourself and your own family will be the ones to suffer if it doesn’t work out. Versus Abhishek Kapoor going wild and destroying Fitoor by making it too big, or John and Karthik ending up trapped by their contracts with the additional producers. Even the Arjun Reddy director it sounds like ran into the same problem, a partner getting him to sign a contract that gave up full rights to his film.

          On Tue, Apr 3, 2018 at 6:26 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



          • I guess the artist & business man being in sync was one of the primary reasons why the Baahubali series were made so well. According to Ramya Krishnan,the producer Shobu Yarlaggada had complete faith in Raajamouli’s vision despite the huge time & monetary investments.He is apparently a marketing genius who could tap into the hitherto untouched markets by collaborating with the right names, making the right sounds & keeping the buzz alive for two years. Also not often can we see the producer & director delivering joint sessions on what went on behind the film after such a humongous success. It’s the man to man connect that worked rather than legal contracts, obligations & arm twists. So unless you have all the money yourself or is lucky enough to find someone with money who’s equally passionate about the film, the middle men are likely to barge their way in & create all kinds of hassles.

            Liked by 1 person

          • That’s where I find Dharma films and Yash Raj so promising, because they have the money and are willing to invest, but are very choosey about projects, only taking ones that there is a real creative collaboration possible between the studio and the director.

            It seems like in the “olden days” when film was a lot more of a risky business, only producers who truly believed in the project would offer the money and get involved. But now there are all these people just looking for a quick profit any way they can get it.

            On Tue, Apr 3, 2018 at 11:38 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



          • I could be wrong on this-but the directors at Dharma & YashRaj are all mostly their in-house directors rt? Guys who has been working as ADs & then being promoted to directors? So these directors will naturally be in-sync with the studio where they grew up learning their film making sensibilities ?


          • Yes, except Dharma at least is starting to branch out a bit. They produced Ittefaq and Dear Zindagi and Baar Baar Dekho. Which had varying quality and success, but were definitely the director’s vision.

            On Tue, Apr 3, 2018 at 11:46 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



          • I have hopes for Dharma(not so much for Yash Raj)because for all of Karan Johar’s nepotistic, snooty ways, he’s a people’s person & ready to give credit where it’s due. Ultimately it all boils down to the culture imparted by the top bosses. Which is also why I think the less-women, more-hero centric world of Hindi films is merely a business need than a deeply ingrained patriarchal culture like in Malayalam.


          • Yes, Karan seems to really care about the people who work for/with him and to have a sense for who has hidden talent that just needs a little encouragement to flower.

            On Wed, Apr 4, 2018 at 12:02 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:


            Liked by 1 person

  2. You keep comparing this saga to 3 Idiots (one of the many reasons why I hate that film is that what the film portrays is a complete travesty of what the book was about), but to me it reads like *exactly* what the Miramax company under the Weinsteins did. The number of articles I read over the years about how Miramax picked up small foreign films, shepherded them through various film festivals, to finally negotiate a lucrative distribution deal in the U.S. and later, the rest of the world (lucrative for whom, is the question), all the while bullying/threatening the original film maker to re-edit the film to their specifications, frequently completely ruining the original vision. It was even called “the Miramax cut”, and it was a brutal process, which many directors still had the bleeding wounds to prove. Here, at least, KriArj doesn’t seem to be interested in redefining their products, they merely want to make a quick buck by being the middle man, as you said.

    BTW, Twinkle “wrote” the script for Padman? Yeah, sure. That’s another whole can of worms you might want to open some time, how writing credits are given, and how writers are treated in Hindi films — if you recall the stink around the time of the release of 3 Idiots, that was a prime example of highhandedness, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yep, definitely shades of Miramax. And the Hollywood system in general in the 80s-90s, the studios no longer actually making anything in house, just picking up and funding projects from other small companies. What feels like a uniquely Indian twist to it is that the “middleman” is necessary mostly because they have the right business sort of look and credentials. Which, come to think of it, was kind of what Padman was about! Akshay had the talent and the product, but he needed Sonam as a partner because she could be the right “face” for it.

      The “writer” question does kind of feel related to this. Because if the world is being divided into “business” and “artist”, there is another hidden division of “artist 1” versus “artist 2” versus “artist 3” and so on. Chetan Bhagat wrote 3 Idiots, but he was shoved aside by whoever wrote the film who was then shoved aside again by Aamir and Raju Hirani who were shoved aside by Vidhu Vinod Chopra who made a deal with Reliance. Ideally in a collaborative endeavor like this, Reliance would give the money, and then Vidhu would evenly distribute it to everybody along with equal credit. But instead it seems like it always turns into a “first in line gets most of the money and credit” situation.

      On Tue, Apr 3, 2018 at 4:43 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



      • Chetan Bhagat wrote 5 Point Someone, which was a runaway best seller. Please don’t associate his name with the travesty that is 3 Idiots. There were not so many layers as you state above. The screenplay was credited to Abhijat Joshi (the inhouse screenwriter for all the Raju HIrani -Vidhu Vinod Chopra films) and Raju Hirani. Raju was also a producing partner on this, I believe, with Vidhu Vinod Chopra, but I could be wrong on this, and he became a producing partner with a later film. So it was a one step process of shoving the actual writer — on whose name the film was sold — aside, except a tiny end of the film credit that the film was “based on” the book. This is the film with which I completely lost respect for all three of the principals (HIrani, Chopra, Aamir) who tried to hog the credit for themselves for such a well known work. Aamir, “The Perfectionist”, claimed to have never read the book in preparing the role. At that time he had a blog, on which many of his fans commented regularly. He took a real beating from his own fans on that blog about this issue, with many of them voicing their utter disappointment and shock at him behaving this way, since they were also fans of Bhagat. I think the film guys never knew or expected, that someone outside of films could have such a huge and passionate fan following. I think Aamir was completely taken aback by this, judging from his reaction to the comments on his blog then.

        Aside from this episode, though, there are many, many more where the writer doesn’t get credit, or doesn’t get paid, and the Screenwriters’ Association has basically no power to enforce any agreements (unlike the Writers Guild in the U.S.), because they all depend on the producer for their basic paychecks. It’s a mess.


        • Case in point being kangana in simran.

          She ghost directed/fought for writing credit with a small writer thus ultimately ruining the movie.


          • You contradicted yourself here. Kangana Rananut made substantial changes to the script Apurva Asrani wrote (both scripts are publicly available), and Asrani still got credit, along with her. Then why did Asrani not want to share credit with Kangana. May be Asrani thought he could get away with this like he did with Sameer Gautam. Also, if Kangana ghost directed the movie, why was she not given credit for directing Simran along with Hansal Mehta? Sounds like she was being short changed for credits either way.

            Sanjay Leela Bhansali is a more textbook example of stealing story credits. 1. HDDCS was based on a very well known Bengali novel and parts of La Nuit Bengali. He thought he get away with plagiarizing but got sued and got his a$$ handed to him by the courts. 2. He stole the script of Guzaarish too.


          • Thank you for solving a puzzle for me! I could not figure out how Bhansali managed to make an original story in HDDCS when I knew he hadn’t for any of his other films. So, phew! It’s a clean run, every single film “inspired” by someone else.

            On Tue, Apr 3, 2018 at 11:14 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



          • So u think kangana is right? Actors improvise all the time but dey never ask for a writing credit, do they?

            And we have hansa mehta ‘s account where he states that bcoz of kangana’ s high handedness the movie came out way different than initial stage.

            So it’s a problem if director who couldn’t control a star.


          • If an actor rewrites the script, it is a very distinct contribution towards film making relative to acting improvisation. Kangana contributed to the script of Simran, along with Apurva Asrani. That is why Kangana and Apurva were jointly attributed credit for writing the script of Simran. Again, both Kangana’s and Asrani’s scripts are available in the public domain and the differences in the scripts are public knowledge.

            It’s really odd that in a blog post where the topic itself is how credits are stolen or not assigned to the rightful contributors in the Hindi film industry, you are missing the point entirely and arguing that Kangana Ranaut should not have been given script writing credit when she actually wrote substantial parts of the script. Well, stranger things have happened. ~/ thread closed /~


        • I didn’t know about this credit issue for 3 Idiots writing. But I have read 5 Point Someone & it is significantly different from the movie. There’s the basic story of 3 students in IIT, the dean’s daughter-yes. But there was no Rancho(or an equivalent character), no Farhaan & no active plot as such. It was about the 3 students going on being the losers in IIT. So while the basic premise may be inspired(or whatever word they chose to use), the movie screenplay is all original. So why should Chetan Bhagat get credit for something he didn’t do? Maybe they could have settled it more amicably/differently. I kinda believe Aamir that he didn’t read the book because if the screenplay was already in place, there’s nothing else he would have got by reading the book.


          • Except that for a year and a half to two years previously, they had hyped the movie as being made out of Chetan Bhagat’s book, used him in the promotions, etc. And the fact that you didn’t know about this credit issue just shows how short public memory is, which is another aspect that many people count on.

            Books adapted to screen are changed all the time, but the credit is still given to the original author. And all the changes you mentioned are what ruined the film, because they didn’t fit in with the parts of the book that they did retain. It’s quite like Bhansali’s adaptation of Devdas in that respect.


          • Well, ‘the changes ruined the movie’ is just one opinion rt? I thought it was an enjoyable movie.And they did mention in the credits that it was based on his book. Aamir Khan & Raju Hirani needed Chetan Bhagat’s stamp as author to promote a movie. Okay then!


          • I know for a fact that Chetan was short changed on that film. They led him to believe it was based on the book and he would be credited. Then the film turned out different and he was


          • It’s not correct to say that Chetan Bhagat “jumped ship to Salman Khan” after 3 Idiots. The first of his books to be adapted to films was actually his second published book, One Night at the Call Center. That was adapted as Hello, and produced and directed by Atul Agnihotri, Salman’s brother-in-law. Salman hadn’t yet started either of his production companies at that time. Though the film didn’t do well, Bhagat felt satisfied (I can’t remember if he also wrote the screenplay), and had a good working relationship with the Khan family (most of whom were associated with the film in one way or another). After 3 Idiots, his later books were adapted by different production companies and writers and directors.


  3. This is ultimately a industry where connections are rewarded. So I feel that kriAarj is eating more than they can chew. Alienating kedarnath, they have angered amrita, saif, Kareena in extension kjo srk and all of their friemds/family.
    Through abhishek kapoor, they have crossed sword with balaji as she is abhishek’s cousin.

    And ruining padman bcoz of delayed release etc. That have angered akshay/twinkle all their family.

    And John is likeable everywhere, so I don’t know where KriAarj can go from here.

    Liked by 2 people

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