Vashu Bhagnani accused of owing Rs 65 lakh to film crew members

FWICE president BN Tiwari stated that Bhagnani's company, Pooja Entertainment, has repeatedly delayed payments despite multiple reminders.
Filmmaker Vashu Bhagnani.
Filmmaker Vashu Bhagnani.File Photo

MUMBAI: Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE) president BN Tiwari has revealed that veteran film producer Vashu Bhagnani owes over Rs 65 lakh to crew members who worked on three of his films: "Mission Raniganj," "Ganapath," and "Bade Miyan Chote Miyan."

Bhagnani's company, Pooja Entertainment, owes Rs 33.13 lakh to director Tinu Desai, who helmed the 2023 film "Mission Raniganj," which was headlined by Akshay Kumar. Additionally, the production house owes Rs 31.78 lakh to over 250 set workers who worked on "Mission Raniganj," Tiger Shroff's "Ganapath" (2023), and Akshay Kumar and Shroff's "Bade Miyan Chote Miyan" (2024).

Desai filed a complaint on March 19 to the Indian Film & Television Director's Association (IFTDA), stating that he worked on "Mission Raniganj" from February 2022 to its release on October 6, 2023. According to the contract, he was to receive Rs 4,03,50,000 but has only been paid Rs 3,70,36,092 so far.

"A written complaint was filed by the director of 'Mission Raniganj' regarding non-payment of his dues of Rs 33.13 lakh from Vashu Bhagnani last year in March. We've been following up with Pooja Entertainment, but they still haven't made the payment. They have said they will clear the dues by the end of July," Tiwari told PTI. Desai declined to comment when contacted by PTI.

Tiwari also mentioned that IFTDA has written multiple letters to Pooja Entertainment, but they have delayed the payment repeatedly. "In February, they sought time to pay, citing Jackky Bhagnani's wedding via an email dated February 20, 2024, to IFTDA. After FWICE wrote them a letter in March 2024, they again sought time, saying they would pay after the release of their film, 'Bade Miyan Chote Miyan.' However, the payment has still not been made," Tiwari said.

"This is unfair. They are leading a luxurious life, and when it comes to paying dues, they make excuses. In their latest email, they said they will clear the dues by the end of July. If they don't, our workers will not work on any of their films," he added.

Rakesh Maurya, a union leader from the Film Studios Setting & Allied Mazdoor Union, claimed that about 200 to 250 workers are yet to receive payment of Rs 31,78,327 from Pooja Entertainment. "There are three to four categories of workers who construct a set, usually receiving between Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,400 per day. The pending dues of a single worker could range between Rs 10,000 to 20,000 or more," Maurya told PTI.

FWICE general secretary Ashok Dubey expressed concern over the delayed payments. "The workers are helpless. The artist receives money first, but not our workers. It is heartbreaking to see the condition of the workers in the industry; they don't have job security. Even when they get work, they don't receive payment on time and have to wait for months," Dubey said.

Last week, several crew members accused Pooja Entertainment of non-payment of dues and laying off the majority of its staff. In response, Bhagnani stated that those claiming Pooja Entertainment owes them money should engage in a conversation with the banner. "If there are people who claim that we owe them money, they should come forward and talk to us. Do they have a proper contract with Pooja Entertainment? Have they filed a case regarding this? There are so many ways to sort this rather than ranting on social media," he said, dismissing reports that his production banner was shutting down.

Dubey suggested implementing a rule similar to that in Marathi films, where the censor certificate is withheld if daily wages are not paid to workers. "Workers should get their payment at the earliest," he added.

Pooja Entertainment has produced hits such as "Coolie No. 1," "Hero No. 1," "Bade Miyan Chote Miyan," "Kucch Kehna Hai," "Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein," "Om Jai Jagadish," and "Shaadi No. 1." However, their recent releases have not performed well at the box office.

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