The Open Letter – The other side of the story
[dropcap]A[/dropcap]nurag Kashyap conceptualized an innovative movie making technique, one never tried in India. Touted as the father of independent cinema in India, Anurag has been at the fore of India’s first collaborative project. The concept involved 12 directors from 12 different parts of the country, working on individual parts that would then come together as one feature film. The project has been successful and also received a theatrical release. However it has not been a smooth ride putting together ‘The Last Act’
Mysore based filmmaker, Shilpa Munikempanna was chosen as one of the 12 directors to be part of ‘The Last Act’ via the short film making contest. However things went awry due to differences between the production house and the filmmaker. In a bid to voice her dilemma and seek her dues, Shilpa resorted to ‘The Open Letter’ addressed to Anurag Kashyap, who was at the helm of the project.
Within hours of the letter being published, Anurag wrote back to Shilpa and assured her that he would look into the matter. He took it up with the production house and responded with ample proof. Here is his response to Shilpa’s allegations on the blog.
Anurag Kashyap replies, “Looks like I have become the system I have fought against. But let’s get to facts. My job was to choose filmmakers which I did. My job was to provide a seed for the story which I did. My idea of collab feature was not my own but borrowed from other such projects that have happened across the world. And a collab feature means a single feature made by different people who have not met each other.
The idea was an experiment to see what comes out of it and not to curb any kind of dissent. And just this morning I was told about you not being part of it anymore in the same breath as how good your film was but very individualistic and strong but not coming together with the rest of it and you not wanting to change it. And I believe everyone was given the same conditions as you. So definitely it wasn’t a gender bias. I think you are more conscious being a woman than others are of you being one. And no I have never written a mail to you. I just saw your film.
Looks like I have become the system I have fought against
One more filmmaker had issues with his film and he wrote to me personally where I pulled up people in charge and worked out a solution with them. Apologies if you think the whole exercise hurt you but I really think you react too much too soon. Rest let me now confront the team that was doing this with this letter of yours as your side of the story.
Also why are you reacting now? Why did you not do this before? That for me is more upsetting. And I have been out of country for last 20 days. This morning I asked them to show your short in its form for when all shorts in unedited form go on TV. And apparently you banged the phone on Abhijeet and asked him not to call again. You did not reply to me, why you wrote the letter now, why not a month back when you opted out. And why post this open letter just after you received the money and pretend the blog got you the money.
I read the contract you signed. They were not obliged to do anything you expected them to do. It was a collab feature and not your individual short film. I really think what someone said is right. You are a sore loser. You got all idealistic and all and now you are reacting only for the sole reason, that it’s turned out good and is getting a theatrical release. And your whole gender bias accusation is actually “reverse gender bias”.
Well the experiment actually worked and do see “the last act” if you get a chance to see it. And sad that you could not be part of it because you are good and it’s just your attitude and not your gender that’s keeping you away from what you want to achieve.
Rest I would just like to say you have been had and thanks for the free publicity for the film.
You got all idealistic and all and now you are reacting only for the sole reason, that it’s turned out good and is getting a theatrical release.
Another thing that I was not aware of, that Shilpa wrote this open letter and was threatening the production house that she will publish it if she wasn’t paid and just to avoid any negativity they paid her before this blog came out. Proof of which is attached as she forwarded her mail that she wrote to all newspapers.
Now knowing everything and having seen ample proof, I think I have made my stand clear. If need be we can also send you the copy of the contract she signed. Hope you also publish the reply from the production house that handled the project and I do not wish to engage on this issue anymore.”
Abhijit Das also said:
As stated in her blog, Shilpa has said that she posted the blog at 10.40am and she got paid at 12.30 (noon). Attached is the letter from her lawyers who categorically state that no action will be taken if the payment is made by 12 noon. But much before that she decided to send out the letter and malign Anurag Kashyap.
[toggle_box title=”Letter from the lawyer:” width=”Width of toggle box”]
By tomorrow 12. P.m. (after noon) upon receipt of the same we agree that we will not press any legal action you or the Company. In the event you fail to respond to the e-mail / letter and pay the agreed amount within the stipulated time we will be compelled to pursue our legal remedies.
[toggle_box title=”A detailed mail entailing the entire process of the contest and the chronology of events sent to Shilpa:” width=”Width of toggle box”]
In the light of all the accusations that Shilpa has chosen to make in the “Open Letter”, we would like to state the process we went through in this journey to The Last Act.
We had opened a “Contest” for Project 121212. It was not a commission made to anybody. Everybody was working for the brand Royal Stag Mega Movies. We created this platform for Large Short Films. We have showcased and promoted more than 80 short filmmakers in the past 3 months. We have premiered their films, produced independent films and promoted them on our site, with the brand’s promotional budget without any revenue stream from these films whatsoever. Anurag Kashyap, Sudhir Mishra and Showhouse had been commissioned a job to create and promote independent short films.
When we announced Project 121212, we got more than 600 show reels from across India. Anurag, Sudhir and Chakri chose 52 film makers from that list. Finally the 12 were chosen from there. Shilpa was the only one woman to be chosen in the final 12. So what is her grudge? Should we have a quota in such contests? Or should we apologize for choosing her? Or she is upset that she was chosen in the first place amongst all the men? We don’t understand the point.
Then the 12 filmmakers were sent a plot written by Anurag Kashyap. This seed plot was sent to all the 12 filmmakers with the contract. Yes… the contract stated that the filmmakers could not coordinate with each other. Shilpa has a grudge with that too. But if she did have a problem with that, why didn’t she voice that, when she signed the contract?
We promised Rs 75,000 to all the filmmakers for making a 10 minute film. Isn’t it fair that an advance is paid and the balance is paid on delivery? Isn’t that how the whole industry works? Or any industry for that matter? So we paid Rs 30000 to each filmmaker as an advance. The balance was to be paid after the film was delivered to our satisfaction… because this is a contest. And we haven’t commissioned an independent individual short film. It has to fit into the larger story.
Each filmmaker, including Shilpa had signed a contract, which categorically mentioned all these terms and conditions. A filmmaker from Bengaluru was shortlisted as the top 12 but opted out on day 1 as he felt he could not participate under such conditions. We accepted his resignation and appointed the next in the shortlist. If she had a problem with the terms and conditions of payment, why didn’t she choose to opt out? Why did she sign the contract? What was the carrot? We were transparent from the beginning.
Once the scripts came to us, we had to make changes in all the scripts to match it to the climax, which Asmit was directing. These changes were sent to all the filmmakers with the entire script. So Shilpa knew the changes she had to make to fit into the larger picture, because this wasn’t a stand-alone short film.
When we received the films after the shoot and edit, we matched it to the shooting script. 3 scripts had deviated from the original script. Shilpa’s was one of them.
On 21st November:
We wrote to all the 3 filmmakers about the changes that need to be made to be part of the collaborative project. Apart from Shilpa, both the other filmmakers agreed to the changes, we discussed and finally added some portions to the film. They got the same time to make the changes that the others got. But she got back and said that she didn’t have time to shoot the additional portions.
On 22nd November:
We offered to shoot her portions that were required to complete the film.
On 23rd November 2012:
Shilpa got back to us through an SMS where she sent her actor’s number and the contact for the location in Bangalore where she shot, and gave us the permission to shoot. Interestingly, all the filmmakers were supposed to base their stories in the city they were chosen from. Varun Chowdhury shot in Hisar. Kabir shot in Chandigarh. Anurag Goswami shot in Lucknow. Tathagata shot in Kolkata. But guess what? Shilpa is from Mysore but shot her film in Bengaluru. But then there was no legal binding so we couldn’t say anything.
On 22nd November:
As per our discussion with Shilpa, we spoke to her actor and her location to organize a shoot in Bengaluru.
On 23rd November:
A day later we got a mail from Shilpa telling us that she didn’t want to be part of this project as we were making changes in her script. But even in her mail, she asked if she would get paid even if we didn’t use her film. Obviously, the contract didn’t allow us to pay her if she didn’t complete the film. So is it wrong a reject a film based on quality in a competition? Or even after signing the agreement are we supposed to accept the film even if it doesn’t fit into the larger picture? No one is acting God in this. We are just playing by the rules. Everybody was doing that, including the other 11 film makers.
Here is an excerpt from her mail:
“If you want to reject my work please let me know. If you want to shoot and add a prelude to my work please let me know. If you want to not pay me or pay me, please let me know.”
While we went ahead and changed our plan to get in the 12th director, everything went on peacefully till Shilpa sent us a legal letter to invoke the arbitration clause.
The legal letter reached us on: December 1st, 2012
She waited for almost a week before she sent us the letter. Surprisingly, it was the same time when we announced the theatrical release of “The Last Act”.
We took a couple of days to consult our lawyers and got back to her yesterday with an offer to pay her the balance Rs 45000 and end the matter as we had already gone ahead with the film without using her segment.
We spoke to her lawyers on 10th December afternoon and decided that we would pay Rs 45000 and waive off any rights on our copyrights to her film. It was silly on our part… why would we pay her the full amount and still not acquire the rights? Then what are we paying her for? Secondly, she wrote in her legal notice that she spent more than 1 lac for the production of her film. She knew from day 1 that she had only Rs 75000 to work with. If she over shoots her own budget, who should be penalized for it? The producers or the director? Or is that also our fault?
We spoke to her lawyer and they said we should increase our payment to her by Rs 5000 to cover her legal expenses. So she “threatens” to sue us a day before the release (haven’t we heard that before?) and then wants us to pay for her expenses. And again, we complied. This morning, we paid her Rs 45000 (after TDS) and Rs 5000 (For her lawyers… who does that?) Her lawyers sent us a letter last night, stating that if we pay them before 12 noon, they won’t sue us!! We paid her this morning. Then she posted the “Open Letter to Anurag Kashyap”. After getting paid. Is that legal?
[toggle_box title=”Excerpt from Shilpa’s lawyer’s last mail” width=”Width of toggle box”]
The lawyer’s last mail to us after we have paid Shilpa in full despite not using her film in “The Last Act”. So we have paid. We hand over the copyright. What else now?
Thank you and Showhouse for your cooperation and reimbursing the expenses.
However in furtherance of the legal communication sent to you yesterday, kindly acknowledge that Showhouse has no copyright on the film “Sleep” directed by Shilpa. Please also dispatch a hard copy of this letter to Ms.Shilpa’s postal address.
Only once you do the same we will be in a position to withdraw our application before the courts in Karnataka.
After withdrawing the same, we will send you a scanned copy of the order sheet.
Anurag Kashyap was generous enough to offer her something more. He told her (through Abhijit) that though her film can’t be part of the collaborative feature film, LSF will release her film individually.
Quoting here, ” We offered to fly her down for the premiere and make that announcement to the media. We wanted to appreciate her film even before she posted the “Open Letter”… No Shilpa, we were trying to be fair. Unlike what you said in your last mail… we didn’t malign you one bit. You did that. We didn’t even announce that your film wasn’t accepted. We graciously moved on.”
[pullquote_left]He told her (through Abhijit) that though her film can’t be part of the collaborative feature film, LSF will release her film individually. We offered to fly her down tomorrow for the premiere and make that announcement to the media. We wanted to appreciate her film even before she posted the “Open Letter”[/pullquote_left]
“Shilpa asked Abhijit not to call her directly. We should speak to her lawyers. And that she doesn’t want anything to do with LSF or Anurag Kashyap. So we spoke to her lawyers and informed them about the ‘Open Letter’.
So here we are:
– We paid Shilpa her entire amount and some more for her legal expenses. For a product she didn’t deliver.
– She has also retained the copyright for her film after graciously accepting the payment (she has stated this in her blog herself. Guess that’s legal.)
– She has breached a contract by announcing in public before the release.
She then mailed us, after she had already published her “Open Letter” on the internet. And hoped that nobody would read it? So what was the point? She just wanted money for work she hadn’t delivered? So she withdrew the case on the payment? So she doesn’t feel so strongly about the female inequality anymore? Or that got solved the moment we paid up? What about the integrity of not being part of an unfair project? It becomes ethical on a payment of Rs 75000? That’s a pretty flimsy stand to take after writing an “Open Letter to Anurag Kashyap”. One could have just asked for the money.”
[toggle_box title=”Shilpa’s last mail” width=”Width of toggle box”]
“From: Shilpa Munikempanna <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Tue, Dec 11, 2012 at 7:27 PM
Subject: Re: Open letter to Anurag Kashyap
To:email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Sir/ Madam,
Today morning the Large Short films and Showhouse have approached me and agreed to reimburse the expenses. They have paid the reimbursement today and also have agreed to assign all the copyrights to me.
Thus I do not want you to publish the attachment “open letter to Anurag Kashyap” as the Mr.Anurag Kashyap and LSF along with Showhouse has already reimbursed me today and has agreed to assign the copyrights. Though I am yet to receive a confirmation email, I do not want this letter to be published any more. Thanks.”