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Farhan Akhtar's acting debut The Fakir Of Venice runs into a roadblock again

A Pune court has ordered a stay on the film's release on a petition filed by one of its financiers.

Our Correspondent

Farhan Akhtar's acting debut, The Fakir Of Venice, may have been cleared yesterday for public exhibition by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) with a 'U/A' certificate, but it appears that the film's release may still be held up.

The Pune district court has stayed the release of the film, which co-stars Annu Kapoor and the shooting for which was completed back in 2009. The court's order was issued on 27 November on a petition filed by Tejas Deshpande, partner of Thirsty Crow LLP, which funded the film's post-production.

Deshpande told the court in his petition that Thirsty Crow owns the rights to The Fakir Of Venice and director Anand Surapur was trying to release it without his knowledge and consent.

Deshpande filed the suit after learning that Surapur's company, Phat Phish India Pvt Ltd, and October Films wish to release the movie in India.

Judge JT Utpat restrained Surapur and his firm from releasing the film in any format in any market and has given both sides 90 days to invoke arbitration in the case.

As per the civil application filed by Deshpande, having produced Marathi films, he wished to enter Hindi film production. Surapur approached him through a common friend and said he needed Rs3 crore to complete post-production of The Fakir Of Venice, including the music and soundtrack from AR Rahman. He also claimed that the film would do business of at least Rs60 crore.

Deshpande agreed to purchase the rights to the film and release it by initially infusing Rs3 crore for post-production and Rs6 crore later for printing, advertising and other expenses.

Accordingly, a memorandum of understanding was executed between Deshpande's CrimsonCobalt Media Pvt Ltd and Surapur on 15 March 2014 at Pune and they incorporated Thirsty Crow Films LLP, wherein Surapur brought the film and all its present and future rights, title, interest and intellectual property rights as capital contribution, which was valued at about Rs6.3 crore or the actual expenditure incurred on it, whichever was lower. CrimsonCobalt Media Pvt Ltd was to bring in the capital contribution of Rs3 crore in a phased manner, to be used for completing the film.

“We paid a total of Rs1.46 crore to Surapur as and when he demanded," Deshpande's application said. "However, he did not take sufficient efforts to complete production of the film to make it ready for release. He diverted the funds and completion of the film got stuck. We even paid Rs50 lakh to Mr
AR Rahman, upon the insistence of Mr Surapur. As we were cheated, we filed an FIR [first information report] with the Koregaon Park police station and the Pune police crime branch arrested Surapur and his employee, Nitin Bhujanga Shetty, in 2015. The economic offences wing filed a charge sheet in the case which is pending trial."

The application said that after this, Surapur issued an 'llegal' notice through his lawyer stating that the firm [Thirst Crow LLP] was dissolved. Deshpande said Surapur could not take such action unilaterally as per law.

"When we contacted Surapur, he asked for some more time and claimed that he was busy with some projects in South Indiam," the application said. "We waited, but in May this year we came to know that he is releasing the film which is being advertised on portal along with the trailer.

"Surapur has no legal rights over the film. As per the LLP [agreement], any dispute must be resolved mutually and we have no option but to go for arbitration."

Madhuri Bogawat, director of CrimsonCobalt Media, said, “We are thankful to the court for granting a restraining order. The Fakir Of Venice is a great film and we hope to resolve the matter through arbitration and release it soon."