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Sued in US, Karan Johar's firm denies liability

May 15, 2009 16:39 IST

Actors and vendors in the United States, who say they have not been paid for their work in Karan Johar's under-production film Jihad, have sued the Bollywood director's company Dharma Productions for $150,000.

But Dharma says it did not get into any legal agreements with the people concerned, and had instead hired an intermediary company, Swish Group Limited -- who have been hired by Indian film companies while shooting in Australia and the US in the past -- to do the needful for Jihad, which stars Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor.

Apoorva Mehta, chief executive officer, Dharma Productions, said, "Swish Group Limited is an independent line producer whose responsibility was to hire, contract with, and pay those persons and entities working on the film. Dharma Productions has paid Swish, and Swish has received all payments due to them. They have confirmed this to us."

All contracts, he added, "were between Swish and the claimants. The claimants have no rights against Dharma Productions and we have been advised that we are not liable under the lawsuit."

In January, Cary P Stynes, managing director, Swish Group Ltd, had told that the payments were stuck because of accounting issues, and that they would be made in 15 days.

But the workers did not get the money, and they sued Swish and Dharma.

Mehta said, "Although we were never liable to make any payments -- and we continue not to be liable -- we went ahead and made settlement offers in good faith over the last two months. A large number of people have accepted our good faith settlement offers.

"This lawsuit," he continued, "has been filed by people who did not accept our good faith settlement offers. We may make one more attempt at a good faith settlement. However, if there is no settlement, we will fight tooth and nail to defend ourselves in the lawsuit as we are not -- and have never been -- liable to pay a single dollar to anyone.

"We feel bad because we are victims too," he added. "Moreover, we shelled out more from our pockets to resolve the issue. Swish is not a new company and has done many other films like Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic and Salaam Namaste."

The plaintiffs have alleged that Dharma Productions has changed its name to Karma Productions so that American authorities don't harass them.

Mehta explained, "Karma Films is the new line producer engaged by Dharma Productions in the US to conclude the second schedule of the film in New York."

He said his company "will also take legal action against Swish to recover the settlement amounts that were paid by us in good faith, and for the defamation of our name and reputation on this matter."

Syed Firdaus Ashraf