The family of Neerja Bhanot has moved the Punjab and Haryana high court, accusing the producers of National Award-winning movie Neerja of “criminal conspiracy” and going back on their word of sharing 10 per cent of the net profit with the family.
“The entire episode has trappings of a criminal conspiracy between respondent (Bling Unplugged) and Fox Star Studios India Pvt Ltd, who right from the inception of the agreement (between the family and the producers), in a planned manner had dishonestly induced the petitioners and family members of late Rama Bhanot with the intention of wrongful gains to themselves,” the petition moved by the family before the Punjab and Haryana High Court has stated.
In the petition, the family has contended that the producers agreed to pay them a fixed compensation of Rs 7.5 lakh as well as to share 10 per cent of the net profit of the film with them, according to an agreement made on September 2013.
The court was moved after both sides failed to resolve the money sharing issue and even failed to agree on the appointment of an arbitrator. The matter will be heard in July. The family has moved the petition for appointment of an arbitrator to resolve the dispute.
Neerja Bhanot was killed, two days before she would have turned 23, to save passengers during a terrorist-hijack of a Pan-Am flight at the Karachi airport in Pakistan on September 5, 1986.
Neerja, who was the senior flight purser of Pan-Am 73 flight, died in a shootout following the hijack by Palestinian terrorists who had entered the aircraft posing as Pakistani Police personnel with arms and hand grenades.
The hijack left 20 people dead and 150 injured after a bloodbath at the Karachi airport. There were around 200 Indian passengers on the flight, of which 13 died while over 100 were injured.
The film agreement was signed by leading fashion photographer Atul Kasbekar on behalf of his film production company ‘Bling Entertainment Solutions Ltd’ and the family of Neerja Bhanot.
The petition said the producer produced the film with Fox Star Studios India Pvt Ltd. The movie, made at a cost of Rs 21 crore, generated a revenue of over Rs 135 crore as per market reports. “However, when it came to paying 10 per cent of the profits, the producer contended that Fox Star Studios were to keep 80 per cent of the profits while Bling was to get the rest. We were offered a pittance which we refused to accept. We were to put the money in a Trust in the name of Neerja and help other people,” said Aneesh Bhannot, who along with his brother Akhil Bhanot and mother Rama Bhanot (now deceased), signed the agreement.
As per the petition, Bling offered just over Rs 24.57 lakh to the Bhanot family in July 2016 as their 10 per cent share which the family refused to accept. The petition states that the producers went on to “exploit the (Bhanot) family and their resources to the hilt”.
The film, directed by Ram Madhvani, did well in the Indian and overseas markets and bagged the National Award for Best Hindi Feature Film category at the 64th National Film Awards in April this year, among several other film awards.
Sonam Kapoor, who played the role of Neerja Bhanot, got a special mention by the jury of the National Film awards for her acting.
Kasbekar’s Bling Unplugged said last month that profits from Neerja were repeatedly offered to the Bhanot family as per the existing contract but they turned it down.