A still from Neerja
Mohar Basu (MID-DAY; June 24, 2017)

Ram Madhavi's 2016 biographical-drama put the spotlight on Pan-American World Airways' late purser, Neerja Bhanot's valour, and brought her sacrifice to the attention of the country after over 30 years. But, Bhanot's family has been left to struggle with the deception of the film's producers, after apparently being denied their share of the film's profits.

On Friday, the family moved Chandigarh High Court, accusing Atul Kasbekar's Bling Unplugged and Fox Star Studios of criminal conspiracy. Speaking to mid-day from Chandigarh, Bhanots' legal counsel, Hemant Saini says, "The parties entered into an agreement which promised the family 10 per cent profits, over and above the initial stipulated amount. Now, the producers are indicating that the contract referred to the percentage made by Bling alone, and not by both the producers. They claim that the amount the family is demanding belongs to Fox, which, they say, is not party to the agreement. They say most of the profits have gone to the studio and they can only give what they have. However, it was made clear that if the producers assign the rights to anybody else (in this case, to Fox), they too will be bound by this agreement. It's a clear case of cheating."

The petition claims 'the producers have conducted a planned conspiracy and dishonestly induced the family members of late Rama Bhanot (Neerja's mother) with the intention of wrongful gains to themselves.' Saini adds, "The movie made over Rs 135 crore, but Kasbekar's company said the studio would keep 80 per cent of the profits. The family was given a small amount (nearly Rs 25 lakh), which they refused to accept. They wanted to use the profits to set up a charitable trust to help women in need."

Though, Atul remained unavailable for comment, in an earlier statement, he had said the family's demands were "a retrospective negotiation and not as per what is signed by them years ago".

Neerja's brother Aneesh believes in the fairness of the judiciary and preferred to stay mum. "The matter is up before the Court next Friday," Saini added.