The Bombay High Court has directed filmmaker Subhash Ghai of Mukta Arts to vacate immediately the 14.5 acres of land lent to him by the Maharashtra government in Goregaon Film City. The remaining 4.5 acres will be taken over by the government by July 2014.
This is to enable students at his filmmaking institute, Whistling Woods, to complete their ongoing courses. The 67-year-old filmmaker, with over 100 films on his CV as a producer and director, will soon appeal against the Bombay High Court’s orders in the Supreme Court. The director’s hopeful that the ruling, this time, will be in his favour.
“We’re a clean company and have never been involved with illegal activities. I’m sure the apex court will consider our intent, which is providing education. We’re not dukandaars (shopkeepers) trying to use the land the government lent us for any other purpose, as is being perceived,” says Ghai, adding, “I’m sure we’ll get justice this time. But in case the Supreme Court retains the Bombay High Court’s judgement, we will vacate the premises.”
The filmmaker then plans to shift his film institute to another state that lends him support. “It could be Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab, UP, West Bengal or even Kerala. I have go-aheads for film institutes from several states. My plans to open learning centres are on. My motto has always been to provide high-quality education, and produce filmmakers who could one day become Oscar winners,” says Ghai, recalling that he dreamt of Whistling Woods in 1993, and it took over a decade for it to become a reality.
“How can I let it die? I’m not blaming any minister for this sad and shocking episode because others goofed up. I am embarrassed, but it hasn’t killed my spirit. Every leader, including the current CM Prithviraj Chavan, is supporting me. I have nothing to lose,” he says.
‘Promised, But never delivered’In 1993, Subhash Ghai proposed to open a filmmaking school and a film library in the city to the Government of Maharashtra, and then Chief Minister Sudhakar Naik. The consequent governments pursued the application. Finally, in 2000, he presented the master plan to the Government of Maharashtra to set up a film and multimedia institute and research centre.
During negotiations, Mukta Arts offered to purchase the land, which MFSCDCL refused, thereby offering them only the use of land, retaining its ownership. The autonomous body and Mukta Arts Ltd then entered into a joint venture, forming a company Whistling Woods International Ltd, for which Ghai’s company invested Rs 20 crore initially. The investment has now risen to approximately Rs 75 crore and running the school has resulted in losses ranging from Rs 5 to 7 crore annually.
“We were given about four acres of land to develop the institute. The remaining was promised, but never delivered. We applied for space to build a bigger hostel for students, but it never saw light of day,” says Ghai, adding, “Just when a standing committee was created to rework the structure of our association, a PIL was filed in Latur. I just hope everything falls back into place now.”