Kangana Ranaut is fighting on two fronts at the moment. She is defending herself from having taken undue writing and story credits for her upcoming film Simran. Another movie starring the Queen and Tanu Weds Manu actress is the subject of a legal notice by Ketan Mehta. The filmmaker has claimed that Ranaut stole a project that he had planned to direct with her and started work on the idea with another producer.
The project in question was launched as Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi, through a 20-foot tall poster and a dip in the Ganga in Varanasi earlier this month.
Manikarnika is being produced by Zee Studios and Kamal Jain and directed by Krish, who has previously made Gamyam, Gabbar and Kanche. Mehta told The Indian Express in an interview that Ranaut had agreed to star as the nineteenth-century queen a year-and-a-half ago. The film, titled Rani of Jhansi – The Warrior Queen, was meant to have an English version too.
Mehta said that he was shocked to read that Ranaut had announced the film with Jain, who was allegedly a prospective co-producer on the original Rani of Jhansi film. “We had shared several drafts of the script, all the visual material and references of the film and designs over a period of time with her,” Mehta said. “We had already tied up with an international co-producer and we’re looking out for an Indian co-producer.”
The development comes on the heels of the Simran controversy. Hansal Mehta’s upcoming movie is about a Gujarati housewife in America who becomes a criminal. The September 15 release is loosely based on a BBC profile of an Indian-American nurse named Sandeep Kaur, who became a bank robber to support herself.
Apurva Asrani, who has collaborated on the writing and editing of five of Hansal Mehta’s films, has accused Ranaut of eating into his contributions to Simran. Asrani is credited with the film’s story, screenplay and dialogue, while Ranaut has “additional story and dialogue credit”.
In an interview to the Mumbai Mirror tabloid, Asrani claimed, “I didn’t know that Hansal had promised Kangana part of the writing credit till I had finished the edit. By the time I got to know, the announcement had been made.” Asrani was dropped as the editor of Simran after the interview.
A Facebook post in which Asrani asked Hansal Mehta, who had chosen to stay silent all along, to “show some spine” finally evoked reactions from Simran’s producer Shailesh Singh, Ranaut and Mehta. Shailesh Singh said in a press release, “Apurva has a legal document in his possession signed by all parties — Kangana, Hansal, the producers and himself wherein he agrees to the credits given by us.” Singh claimed that a “printing error” was the reason for the order in which the credits appeared on the film poster. “If this is about him versus Kangana, I want to clarify that to please an actress; I’d have paid her more… Once the film hits screens, we will release the script online for the world to judge,” he said.
Ranaut told the Huffington Post that she hadn’t stolen anybody’s work, and didn’t want to be short-changed for her alleged contributions to Simran. “Nobody can take away from the fact that if Simran today is a story of a divorced woman, it’s entirely introduced by me,” she said in the interview. “If the film has feminist undercurrents, I included that... Even Apurva cannot take away from that, why should I be giving my precious time when I already have other commitments.”
Hansal Mehta too finally broke his silence and put out a series of tweets, declaring that “My spine is whatever it is, weak or strong.” The last word on the subject hasn’t been said yet.