CHENNAI: With the countdown to Rajinikanth’s Lingaa having begun, it appears as if the ghosts of the Superstar’s last outing — the motion-capture film Kochadaiiyaan — may just come back to haunt him again. Embroiled in a messy legal battle over unpaid dues and a charge of fraud hanging overhead, the distributors Eros International (which handled Kochadaiiyaan and is now promoting Lingaa) may have trouble securing a smooth release across regions. And the man who stoked that fire, Abirchand Nahar, says that he is “still very much a big fan of my Superstar”.
The ongoing slug-out between Kochadaiiyaan’s producer Mediaone Global Entertainment and the firm that claims to have been cheated, Ad Bureau, doesn’t appear to be moving toward resolution.
After Ad Bureau’s chairman Abirchand Nahar registered a cheating complaint against Mediaone’s Murali Manohar and Rajinikanth’s wife a week ago, Manohar has reacted strongly. “This is nothing but an attempt to pressure us into paying, just before Lingaa’s release. I have filed a counter with the Commissioner of Police earlier this week and my legal team will be pursu ing this matter to the fullest,” he said, his voice contrite.
In a follow-up letter, Ad Bureau has asked the police to examine how much money Eros International made out of Kochadaiiyaan and also to look into charges of double-selling the film, on the part of Mediaone. “We had been told that the film made Rs 150 crore, having been made on a budget of Rs 125 crore. But our friends and experts in the industry had pointed out that the quality of the film does not appear to have warranted even half that amount. So where had the money gone?” queried Nahar.
Though Kochadaiiyaan’s producers have been mum on the movie’s performance in numbers, Manohar did say, “How much the movie made is not important here. There was a huge R&D cost involved and we are happy that amount had been met quite well.”
Manohar went on to allege that Nahar’s whole contention of being cheated out of profits was invalid, as they had never agreed to bring them on board as anything more than mere money-lenders.
“They were offering us a loan. At the last moment, the demand for 3D prints and the publicity costs mounted and we required that money to release the film. Ad Bureau told us that as they weren’t a registered financing corporation, the money would be routed to us through the guise of a distribution deal, for formality sake,” explained Manohar.
Calling it balderdash, Ad Bureau’s director Madhubala Nahar stated that they had only given the money in the capacity of post-producers. She quickly pointed to a simple fact in their favour, “The documents and proof aside, if you look at all the publicity and ads for the film, it had our logo on it prominently and my name is on the titles credits. Which debtor gets so much display?”
Manohar, in his sequence of events leading to Kochadaiiyaan’s eventual release on May 25, said that Ad Bureau reneging on its loan deal of Rs 30 crore was the sole reason for the release being delayed from May 9.
Responding to that, Nahar said, “To be frank, we had readied the Rs 20 crore balance and were about to give it when news was published that Manohar had some financial misdealings. We stopped the payment and informed him.”
Police sources have said that the matter is under investigation and that Eros is likely to be involved in the process.
Sources in Kerala said that distributors have been holding out from purchasing Lingaa because of the losses suffered with Kochadaiiyaan - and negotiations to solve this haven’t seen results yet.
Officials from Eros were unavailable for comment.