Profits from “Neerja” were repeatedly offered to the family of late flight purser Neerja Bhanot as per the existing contract but they declined to accept it, the co-producers of the National Award winning film said on Tuesday.
The clarification comes amid allegations that the film’s makers did not honour their commitment to share the earnings with the family and the Neerja Bhanot Trust.
Co-produced by Atul Kasbekar’s company Bling Unplugged, alongside Vijay Singh’s Fox Star Studios, “Neerja” is based on air hostess Neerja Bhanot, who displayed the utmost courage to deal with armed terrorists and sacrificed her life to save others on a hijacked flight.
The film grossed an estimated Rs 125 crore in worldwide earnings and bagged the National Award for the Best Hindi Feature Film, among several other film awards. The family has claimed the makers had promised them 10 per cent of the film’s box office collections, and they now plan to take legal action for their stake.
A statement read: “Bling Unplugged had acquired the rights to make ‘Neerja‘ from the Bhanot family. The agreement between Bhanots and Bling clearly spelt out that Bhanots would be paid a fixed upfront amount (which was paid as per the timelines) and a variable amount, which was to be computed as a share of net profits that Bling would receive.
“It was always abundantly clear that we would partner with a studio, in this case Fox Star India. The Bhanot family was always aware of the same and have in fact met the studio reps on many occasions. To imply otherwise is simply untrue. All financial transactions post release have been shared with the Bhanot family immediately and in a transparent manner. Their share of the profits, which is a share of ours, has been immediately offered.”
The statement further said the Bhanot family has “declined to accept the same and now wish to get a share of the studio profits”.
“This is effectively a retrospective negotiation and not as per what is signed by them years ago. It is unfortunate that despite having a clear contractual arrangement the Bhanots have decided to dispute the financial understanding at this belated stage. To reiterate, the amounts due to the Bhanots, as per the existing contract have been repeatedly offered by us to them,” the statement read.
An inspirational tale, “Neerja” was appreciated for its performances by Sonam Kapoor and Shabana Azmi, who played her mother on screen.
When IANS had contacted Aneesh Bhanot, brother of Neerja Bhanot, he had said: “I will not comment on this issue at this stage. All I can tell you is that we will not tolerate injustice.”