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KriArj Entertainment pulls out of Abhishek Kapoor's Kedarnath

Rumours of non-payment, discord between producer Prernaa Arora and the director, and Kapoor’s alleged unprofessional conduct leave the fate of Sara Ali Khan's debut film in doubt.

Mayur Lookhar

Abhishek Kapoor’s Kedarnath has hit a roadblock after key producer KriArj Entertainment pulled out of the project.

We contacted Prernaa Arora of KriArj Entertainment but she refused to comment on the matter.

According to a report in the DNA newspaper, director Abhishek Kapoor has fallen out with KriArj over alleged default in payments. He is also believed to be having creative differences with Arora.

Kapoor had stunned the industry last year when he had tweeted about Kedarnath being released along with Shah Rukh Khan’s Aanand L Rai film, now titled Zero, on 21 December 2018.

On 24 December 2017, the director told the IANS news agency, “I see no problem in releasing Kedarnath on the same Friday as the Aanand L Rai film with Shah Rukh.”

Rumours of discord between Kapoor and Arora had begun to surface by then, but the director had quashed them.

A source in the film's unit said nobody was ready to touch Kedarnath until KriArj stepped in. "The project was hanging fire for two years," the source said. "The producers still showed faith in Kapoor, ignoring what had happened with his last film Fitoor (2016), which went way over budget."

The source said producer Ekta Kapoor had signed up Abhishek Kapoor two years ago with Rs8 crore. Balaji Motion Pictures is credited as associate producer of the film. As per the contract, the film's budget, including prints and advertisement, was kept at Rs52 crore.

Abhishek Kapoor

According to the source, the trouble began when the unit reached Kedarnath, only to have Kapoor tell the producers he was not prepared.

“Abhishek told KriArj he is unprepared. He fired his entire technical crew. There was a huge fight between [lead actor] Sushant Singh Rajput and Abhishek. It was Abhishek who cooked up the story that the weather was not conducive to shoot. The film got delayed," the source said.

The contract, which was signed early last year, required the director to deliver the film by June 2018. The team returned to Mumbai after the first schedule in June 2017, following which the film ran into date problems with Rajput, who had signed up for Chambal in the meantime.

The producers requested Rajput for fresh dates. Kapoor even threatened to shelve the project if he did not get the dates.

Rajput will now be available only in April. So Kapoor is asking for six months more to shoot, which is going to push up the costs.

The buzz is that the KriArj team was not keen to release Kedarnath alongside Zero, but Kapoor refused to budge. Then, on 26 December, KriArj went ahead and issued a statement that Kedarnath will not compete with Shah Rukh Khan's film.

“Kapoor himself decided that he would release the film on 21 December 2018," the source said. "How can a director put out a release date tweet? How can you take on a mega star like Shah Rukh Khan?"

The source said KriArj decided to look at the film's viability before the next shooting schedule, including the music, satellite and digital rights. "T-Series offered to buy the music rights for Rs6 crore, but he [Kapoor] wanted Rs10 crore," the source complained. "The main reason for the falling out is the viability of the film. For digital and satellite, KriArj were offered Rs18 crore, but Kapoor wanted a huge amount." If the cost of production is Rs50 crore, how can the production house demand Rs40 crore for digital and satellite, the source wondered.

The last shooting of the film took place in November 2017. Kapoor shot for 10 days, completing some scenes and a song. Since then there has been no word on the shoot resuming.

According to the newspaper report, the shooting has been halted over an alleged default in payments. Responding to this, the source said no producer would release funds if he and the director are not in agreement.

But KriArj Entertainment’s break with Abhishek Kapoor has put a question mark over the film's fate. ‘The producers are going to drag Kapoor to court," the source said. "They have already sent him a legal notice. The rights of the film are with KriArj and T-Series. The fate of the film now lies in the hands of the court.” 

Attempts to get in touch with the director until shortly before this report was published were futile.

Sara Ali Khan

Kedarnath was to have marked the debut of Saif Ali Khan and Amrita Singh’s daughter Sara Ali Khan. The love story is believed to be set in 2013 in North India.