By Subhash K Jha
MUMBAI: Producer Feroz Nadiadwala is aghast at the charges of death threats leveled at him by director Raj Kumar Santoshi who has filed a police case against Feroz and got himself round-the-clock police security claiming danger to his family’s well being.
Feroz says during all these years in the film industry he has never threatened anybody.
“I did speak to Raj Santoshi on July 11. He filed a complaint against me on July 22. If a man is threatened, why would he wait 11 days to do something about it?”
Feroz says he has all the relevant paper-work to prove that Santoshi owes him a huge amount of money approximately Rs 16 crore. According to Feroz, the police complaint is an attempt to cover-up the financial irregularities.
Says Feroz, “He took Rs 5 crore from me to direct a film called Power with Bachchan Saab, Ajay Devgn and Sanjay Dutt in the cast. Then he took Rs 2 crore and 40 lakh from me for another film titled Baba Jaan with Abhishek Bachchan in the lead. Then he also took Rs 65 lakh from me for a film that he promised to make for me with Ranbir Kapoor in the lead.”
Feroz further claims that when he went to sign the Big B for Power the normally-reticent superstar refused to work with Santoshi claiming that Santoshi had refused to pay up Rs 1 crore of the Big B’s pending fees from an earlier project.
Feroz claims he offered to pay the Big B the money owed to him by Santoshi.
“As a producer, I wanted a good film to be made with Bachchan Saab in it. I paid up the money that Kumar—that’s what I call Santoshi—owed the Big B. It was only after I cleared up Santoshi’s pending dues with the Big B that Santoshi was allowed access into the Bachchans’ household again. He then offered to make Baba Jaan with Abhishek for me. I met Abhishek,and he agreed. I gave Kumar Rs 2.45 crore to make Baba Jaan. We agreed to hold the mahurat of Power in September 2010 and then start Baba Jaan in early 2011.”
Feroz claims before the proposed mahurat for Power Santoshi showed up at Feroz’s office with a starlet from the South named Lekha Washington as the leading lady opposite Ajay Devgn.
“I don’t want to say anything derogatory about any lady. But this actress was not fit to be cast even as a supporting actress. I kept quiet in front of the lady. But the next day Santoshi flared up asking why I was cold to the actress. What was I supposed to do? I had to be courteous to the lady. But Santoshi was upset about this. When I asked him whether he had taken Ajay’s consent about casting Lekha, Santoshi started screaming at me claiming Ajay’s consent was his look-out. This happened in front of eyewitnesses.”
Feroz claims that at the mahurat of Power Ajay saw his intended leading lady and recoiled.
“Anil, Ajay and Sanju were on stage when the lady arrived. Ajay was very upset. After the mahurat, Sanju whom I am very close to warned me that Ajay was unhappy. When I asked Santoshi about Ajay’s approval of the girl, he laughed off my misgivings. A week later Ajay said he was no more interested in doing Power. The project fell through. Logically and ethically, Santoshi should have returned my money for Power and proceeded to make Baba Jaan with Abhishek. Instead Santoshi went to Abhishek with another project for another producer. Abhishek being from a cultured family refused to work on another project with Santoshi. Some days later Santoshi landed up at my home and created a ruckus , screaming and ranting at me. I requested him to calm down. Two days later he went to Filmistan to meet Ajay and Sanju while they were shooting for Rascals. Over there, Santoshi created this entire drama about me threatening him. That drama has not ended for four years. According to Santoshi I’ve no work except to threaten him.”
According to Feroz, Santoshi has been dodging the monetary issue. “Whenever I call him, he says he’s holidaying, or busy. He gives me a time for us to meet and then doesn’t turn up.”
Feroz says Santoshi is using the good offices of a senior government officer (name and designation withheld) to intimidate Feroz.
“I’d say this officer is Santoshi friend, philosopher and misguide. The two of them have worked out a modus operandi to make money. First Santoshi makes a fool of people like me and then uses the good offices of this officer to threaten film people into silence when they demand their money back. This is exactly what has happened with me. This officer came to me and suggested that that I write off the Rs 5 crore that Santoshi owes me. As for the rest of money owed, this officer said, ‘We will see what’s to be done.’ He also bragged about his contacts and demanded Rs 50 lakh from me. Can you believe this? A senior government officer indulges in extortion!”
Despite the alleged threats, Feroz refuses to write off the money.
“Okay, Santoshi can claim some monetary compensation for some spadework he did for Power.He shot for 9 days for a 120-day shooting schedule. How can he claim Rs 5 crore for that? I declined to accept this officer’s settlement plan.”
On July 11, Feroz rang up Santoshi asking for a meeting. “Again Santoshi evaded a meeting. I told him I am not a corporate house that can write off crores as production deficit. Santoshi even told me that the money I had given to Mr Bachchan was not to be part of Santoshi’s liabilities. I told him to return my money or I’ll ask my legal team to get into action. He suggested we meet after 4-5 days. I insisted we meet and offered to drive down to his home which is not even 5 minutes’ distance from my home. I got into my car and drove to Santoshi’s home. Before I could reach he called to say he wasn’t home. I asked him what his intention were and why he was cheating me. I insisted on waiting below his home. However he persuaded me to return and I did. The next thing that happened is, on July 22 – 11 days after my attempts to meet him – he complained to the police that I had threatened him. He’s telling everyone that I threatened to kill him and his family. Yeh sab kya hai? Could he please show any phone call or letter that I had threatened him?”
On Thursday, July 25, Santoshi registered a case against Feroz.
Feroz has applied for anticipatory bail.
An angry Feroz says, “I treated him like an elder brother. He cheated me. He claims I was going to trespass into his home and harm his family. Do I do such things? He thinks he can avoid paying me my Rs 16 crore by claiming I am threatening him. My old parents think their son is going to be arrested. My family is being put under so much stress just because I asked for my money? Is this fair?”