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Parmanu row: John Abraham was trying to blackmail me, says Prernaa Arora

The KriArj Entertainment co-founder says Rs30 crore has already been given to John’s production house, but the actor has been haggling for a few crores which he had earlier agreed to forgo.

Mayur Lookhar

The war between John Abraham's JA Entertainment and KriArj Entertainment has taken an ugly twist and put a question mark on the fate of their joint venture, Parmanu: The Story Of Pokhran.

Until last year, everything seemed peaceful between the two parties and Parmanu was set to be released on 8 December. Then came the announcement that Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat will hit the screens on 1 December, forcing the makers of Parmanu to shift their film to 2018. The film was delayed a few more times later.

Earlier, carefully worded statements were issued by the two camps, blaming the other for the impasse. But there is no clarity on what went wrong between them.

"Nothing has really gone wrong," KriArj co-founder Prernaa Arora told "This is the first time John [Abraham] has done line production. That [they had done it before] was a lie. He claimed he did Vicky Donor (2012), Madras Cafe (2013), but later it came to our knowledge that he has never done line production. He has never done an acquisition deal.

“I was the person who introduced director Abhishek Sharma to John, and also gave him the story. This director had come to me for another actor. Sharma had narrated the story during Rustom (2016), wanting us to produce Parmanu. He had a different actor in mind. At that point, I had befriended John. We decided to have a long-term deal. I gave the film to John. He evinced interest in line-producing it. He hired writers of his choice and said I’ll make the budget for you.”

Arora pointed out that John had no films in hand then and was keen to get on with the shooting for Parmanu. But Arora became uneasy when KriArj learnt that Shoojit Sircar, Ashutosh Gowariker and a few other producers were planning a film on the story of Pokhran.

According to her, while Gowariker backed out, John, fearing that the others may not, decided to go ahead and announce Parmanu. The trouble began when John quoted the budget for the film.

“John didn’t give us a correct budget," she said. "Then one fine day, he gives a budget of Rs35 crore plus Rs10 crore for P&A (prints and advertisement). I met up with two studios talking about the satellite, digital, what they thought of the viability of the film. Everybody resented the idea of agreeing to come on board for Rs35 crore. They felt that as per John’s marketability, this was an expensive film. I was advised to make the film in about Rs29 crore. They told us this in front of John.

“I then got Zee Studios on board as co-producers by pre-selling my rights — satellite, digital, music and overseas theatrical — to them before the shoot. John had promised to let go of Rs3 crore. The paper [contract] said Rs35 crore, but he promised to give us a discount. He had promised to keep the budget as tight as possible. We started shooting.”

John Abraham with Prernaa Arora

But what actually happened, according to Arora, is that the budget went up by Rs2 crore. John also cheated her on the intellectual property rights, she said.

The first sign of trouble between JA Entertainment and KriArj Entertainment came in February when John announced on Twitter that Parmanu would be released with another KriArj film, Pari (2018).

“Nobody advises you to clash with your own film, but John did," said Arora. "He was always trying to blackmail me. Parmanu was set to come on 27 April, but he decided to shift it to 2 March. Further, Zee Studios lost out heavily on the music, because John did not deliver any song. We had sold the music for Rs4 crore to Zee. There was no justice for the songs as they were not delivered to satisfaction. So, too, the trailer. We rejected it four times ourselves. Plus, we kept fighting over release dates.”

One of the key allegations made by JA Entertainment against KriArj Entertainment is delay in payments. But Arora denied this.

“Rs30 crore was given to John Abraham," she said. "Rs5 crore is left. Of this, Rs3 crore will be given to JA Entertainment before the release of the film, ie on the delivery of overseas distribution. That is a norm in the industry, you deliver the film 15 days before release.

"John kept asking us to give his money. The remaining Rs2 crore is his fee. He had already taken Rs10 crore. He had earlier promised to let go of it, but now he wants it. We had already released Rs30 crore, but for Rs2-3 crore you don’t do this to your own film. I think money is more important for John than the film.”

The KriArj co-founder also said her company would release Rs10 crore for P&A once the release date was decided.

John's company had sent out an initial statement claiming to have legally terminated its deal with KriArj on account of 'breach of contract'. But Prernaa Arora rubbished this. “There is no legality to what they claim," she said. "We have already moved court. Zee Studios, too, has sent him a notice. After taking Rs30 crore, you can't terminate somebody. It would have been fine if we had defaulted in any payment, but you have shot the entire film.

"We had requested him to reduce a couple of crores, but that is where the problem lies. I have sold my rights to Zee Studios, who are my partners. Nobody can terminate anybody here. The only way he can terminate us is by paying back all my money."

Unless the parties can resolve their differences, the matter is likely to decided in court.