Fair? Not fair? Bollywood weighs in on Sara Ali Khan’s date dispute with Kedarnath team
Offered the chance to be cast opposite Ranveer Singh in the Karan Johar-Rohit Shetty venture Simmba, the young actor has given away her dates committed to Abhishek Kapoor’s Kedarnath. Kapoor, in response, has taken her to court.
That actors often ‘commit’ dates for one film and then give them away to another producer is not new in Bollywood. But rarely are objections raised, and it’s rarer still, for a filmmaker to take legal action over this. Which is why the case of Sara Ali Khan is so striking. While being committed to debut with Abhishek Kapoor’s film Kedarnath, Sara, the daughter of actors Saif Ali Khan and Amrita Singh, has signed the Karan Johar-Rohit Shetty film Simmba — and she has just been sued for this.
Kedarnath, for which Sara’s dates were locked till July, went through a bad patch and its shooting got stalled — first there was a cash crunch, and then Abhishek, who is both director and co-producer of the film, fell out with his then co-producer Prernaa Arora. In the meantime, Sara was offered the lead role opposite Ranveer Singh in Simmba, and her agency gave her June dates to that film. This has left Abhishek high and dry, though he has a new backer, Ronnie Screwvala, and wants to shoot from May till July 5.
‘It’s only fair on an actor’s part to not waste time’
Commenting on this dispute, trade analyst Atul Mohan says, “When the makers of Kedarnath were not able to fulfil their commitment and complete the film on time, it’s only fair on an actor’s part to not waste time and give those dates to another film. The new producer (for Kedarnath) came on board only recently, but if that didn’t happen, the film would’ve been delayed for another few months.” He also says that earlier, whenever such a dispute arose, business managers and producers would settle the matter among themselves, unless there was a particular clause in an actor’s contract.
Along with Sara, her agent and talent management agency are also named in the first-of-its-kind case filed by Abhishek. The lawsuit urges the court to direct Sara to complete her shoot for Kedarnath and demands Rs 5 crore as damages.
Sara’s agency refused to comment and directed us to Kedarnath’s publicists, who are waiting for the makers to send out a statement. When we reached out to Saif and Amrita, we didn’t get a response.
‘Earlier, things were discussed; now, everything is on paper’
The question is: can actors give away committed dates like this? Trade expert Amod Mehra says, “This practice has always been there, but earlier, things were discussed; now, everything is on paper. Earlier, we had a film association, but now they are no longer the governing bodies, so only the court can take any action.”
Mehra differs with Mohan’s view, and feels that it’s “unfair and irresponsible” on the actor’s part to not value a filmmaker’s time and money. “An actor needs to understand that the new producer is putting in a lot of money and they want to release the film. Just because a film with a bigger banner and star has come your way, it’s not done to put your prior commitments on the backburner,” he says.
‘A legal notice doesn’t really help anyone’s case’
Critic Omar Qureshi is of the opinion that an amicable settlement would have been best. “The industry is a small place and everything is [and can be] settled verbally and calmly. Everyone knows everyone else, so such a legal notice doesn’t really help anyone’s case. There are definitely better ways of arbitration.”
Producer Amul Vikas Mohan sees merit in Sara’s move, but also feels that the date business could have been handled better. He says, “All aspects of movie-making work on schedule. With Kedarnath, there was a big ambiguity among everyone, including the ones who are now suing Sara, about the fate of their own film. There were financial troubles, producer issues, and the shooting had stalled. The film is being resumed now, but you can’t expect a young new actress to hold on to it forever. Her career is at stake and she needs the right push.” However, “she’s being handled by a premier agency that could have amicably resolved these date conflicts”, he adds.
Is Saif Ali Khan mediating?
A recent news article said that Saif was finally happy that daughter Sara Ali Khan’s career was on the right track after all the Kedarnath controversy. In an earlier interview to HT, he even said, “I was quite involved with [Sara] getting on board with Karan, but after that, I can afford again to take a back seat. I’m here if she needs me.” Now, there are reports that Kedarnath director Abhishek Kapoor has requested Saif to intervene and resolve this matter.