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.
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.
(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.
(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.