Speaking out regarding the ugly legal battle with John Abraham over the fate of the film Parmanu – The Story of Pokhran, producer Prernaa Arora amidst bouts of uncontrollable emotions, speaks to Subhash K Jha about the agony and stress that the past months have brought her, the lessons that life’s betrayals have served up for her and how she has emerged triumphant over the avalanche of adversity that was rolled out into her life.
KriArj has lately been in a shadow, what exactly happened?
Shadows are cast in lives that have meaning and relevance. I welcomed the pain that I experienced in the past few months with as much respect as I welcomed the pleasures that destiny had in store for me last year. My parents have taught me to take the good with the bad in my stride. There is an old Bhajan by Lataji ‘Tere Phoolon Se Bhi Pyar Tere Kaaton Se Bhi Pyar Jo Bhi Dena Ho De De Sarkaar’. Yes, the there was a storm around me. Some people whom I trusted chose to stab me in the back.
Are you talking about Abhishek Kapoor your director of Kedarnath and John Abraham?
I am not naming anyone. It isn’t dignified or decent to discuss one’s disappointments with individuals. Suffice it to say that people who tried to bring disrepute to my professional conduct and who tried to influence my associates, friends and colleagues against me failed miserably. You mentioned a storm around me…Yes, there was a storm. But it has blown over. I just stayed tight in my space and waited for it to pass because I knew I had done no wrong. No matter how hard you try, you can’t turn a wrong into a right or a truth into a lie. You know the truth about what happened.
Yes, but why don’t you let the truth come out? Why are you allowing the naysayers a free rein?
Because washing dirty linen in public is for those who do not have a washing machine at home. I don’t believe in crying and trying to get sympathy in public. Today I am in a much better far more secure space. I am wiser, yes. I am ready to announce three big projects in June. For me just dreaming conceiving and executing new projects is not enough. I want to go back to that state of mind that I was in when I started off as producer with that professional and sincere superstar Akshay Kumar. I want to work with people like him who know how to respect a professional and a woman.
You may not find too many Akshay Kumars in this industry?
Then I’d rather not work with those whom I am not happy or comfortable with. I’ve realized I am in this industry for the long haul. Storms will come and go. Only the strong survive these storms.
Why have you not spoken out against the people who have maligned you?
Because my DNA is not equipped to be abusive. My best wishes to these so-called heroes of the entertainment industry who have abused my trust in them .I wonder how they look their wives, sister and mothers in their eyes.
Some would say you’re playing the feminine card by bringing up your gender?
My gender is not a card. It is my identity. I am very proud to be a woman and a successful entrepreneur. I just wish I can push back the clock to my fairy-tale existence of truth honesty fairness when I worked with Akshay Sir in Rustom, Toilet – Ek Prem Katha and Pad Man and with Anushka Sharma in Pari. I wish there was a way to wipe away the ugliness that followed. But then you know what?
Adversity is a much greater teacher than good fortune. I am wiser today than I was before the backstabbing. My life begins afresh now. I fell into a pit and I climbed out of it. I don’t blame others only. I am to blame too. I made mistakes. I banged my head against a wall. It had to bleed. Kha–ma-kha kehte hain na aa bayal mujhe maar. I have a thousand complaints against myself. I‘ve no shame in saying I’ve been an idiot. So many things that I did wrong.
Like not doing my paperwork properly before signing deals. Signing MOUs instead of proper contracts. I worked with some people on emotion and trust when they didn’t deserve my trust. I should have listened to me lawyers. This business doesn’t operate on emotions. At the end of the day contracts are flashed to prove you wrong. A very big superstar had warned me against signing without reading contracts.
How did you cope with the crisis?
For the past month I stayed quietly in my room waiting for the storm to pass wondering how one individual can make so many mistakes. I should have listened to my team before getting into half-baked deals. I’d bully my team into keeping quiet because I didn’t want to annoy the people who wanted to work with me. These same people have tried to destroy me. I am very clear in my head now. No more emotional responses. I am talking about my deals after Pari when I’d be reminded that I was a new producer and how dare my legal team take so long to draw up contracts and that the other party would move on if I didn’t hurry up. I gave in to my fear of offending people who have been in the industry much longer than me.
Do you feel betrayed?
I feel stupid. I never read the fine prints. Never paid attention to Rs. 1-2 crores in the deal. Yeh sab bahot bhari pada mere liye (she breaks down). I want people who come to work in this entertainment industry to not make the mistakes I did. Yahan emotion nahin paisa chalta hai. Everything including contracts were fine until Pad Man and Pari. The people who worked with me in these films guided and supported me. Akshay sir has compassion and kindness for the people who work with him. He is a true hero. But sadly everyone is not like him.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learnt from your recent experiences?
To treat the contract as the Holy Scripture. To read the fine print. To leave nothing to chance and emotions. A very big superstar whom I won’t name had warned me of this. I want to apologize to all those whom I wouldn’t listen to them.
Now that Parmanu is out what do you have to say to John Abraham?
I always thought he would understand the situation as a co-producer if ever there was problem. Instead he turned around to accuse me of defaulting on my agreement. What was the point of turning the whole partnership into a joke? I want to ask John, did he put any money in Parmanu? Does he have that kind money needed to produce film? As a producer what value did he bring to the table as a producer-director?
People who have badmouthed you are today facing career and credibility crisis what do you have to say to them?
I wish them well. And I hope they never do to others what they did to me. I have learnt my lesson well. I must listen to my well-wishers. I would rather produce one film at a time. I’ve so far acquired films. Now I want to produce my own films. Of course the real superstars will always have the upper hand. And they deserve it.
Tell us about your future plans? I believe you have a slew of projects coming up
I want to work with people whom I respect and who treat me with respect. At the same time there should be a certain element of trust between two people when they work together. When I see producers who work with actors and directors who treat them like family I feel jealous. Being a woman I am a soft target. But now I am going to play the game like a man.
As a woman producer did you have to face more hurdles than normal?
I wish the media would highlight both the versions of controversy. Did anyone ask me the truth about what happened? In spite of my terrible experiences in the past few month I would rather not be anywhere than in this industry. In my experience the bigger the superstar the more humble kind and generous he is. I’ve cleared my mind of all toxins. I want to start on a clean slate from where I was when I began my career as a producer with Rustom. I want to work with the right people. I want to thank all the actors and directors who supported. Directors Sanjay Puran Singh, Anees Bazmee and Raj-DK have been so supporting in my trying times. So many people were there to hold my hand. I never felt lost.