MUMBAI, June 16: The Kamal Hassan vs Shantanu Sheorey battle over Stree 420 nee Chikni Chachi is now well and truly under way with the producer of the film, John Saab, calling Sheorey "incompetent'' among other things.
In a fax from Chennai, Saab--with a clear backing from Kamal Hassan -- has claimed that the entire film was virtually re-shot under Kamal's supervision after they found glaring `technical mistakes' in the portions directed by Sheorey.
"After watching the rushes of the first few days' work, Kamal Haasan, cinematographer Jahangir Choudhary and some of the crew members concluded that there were several technical errors in the film. These were things that are quite basic to filmmaking. So, the differences (with Shantanu) were not on aesthetics, as he claims, but on quality feature filmmaking.''
`Saab says Kamal had explained the situation to Sheorey in the presence of chief technicians of the unit almost a month back. "Instead of walking out of the project at that time, Sheorey allowed Kamal to re-shoot several scenes. This was the time Kamal took over from Shantanu. Then on, it was quite clear to Sheorey, and the rest of the crew also, as to who was directing the film.''
Sheorey, however rejects this claim. He says that he had shot almost 95 per cent of the movie and believes that it was technically far more superior than even Avvai Shanmughi on which Stree 420 is based. "Compare my film to Avvai Shanmughi and you will see the difference. He (Kamal) himself had accepted that it was much better than the original.''
After his high-profile walk-out from the film, Sheorey is now claiming that a Rs 5 lakh cheque issued by Kamal's company has bounced and that he may initiate legal proceedings against him for this lapse. Reacting to the charges against him, Sheorey claims that it's only the pressure of performance that's provoking Kamal to make wild allegations against him.
"The bottomline really is the pressure of performance. When you are talking comedy, you need the fluency of language which he obviously doesn't have. He's not a fool, he noticed it while watching the rushes. Paresh Rawal, who has just seven or eight scenes in the film, has absolutely chewed him up and so have Om and Amrish Puri.''
The ad-man has a comment or two about the superstar's professionalism also. He alleges there was excessive interference from Sarika, Kamal's wife. "Every night Sarika would re-write the dialogues and give it to my assistant, who had to work on it through the night. And I would get the revised script just half an hour before the shoot,'' he claims bitterly."Towards the end I did what I was asked to do. But all through I was more comfortable with the other actors and if you see the scenes where he's not in the frame, you'll see the difference.''
Saab, however begs to differ. In fact, he paints Shantanu as an isolated figure. "The fact that most of Sheorey's crew decided to stay back and assist Kamal in directing the film is self-explanatory,'' he says, adding that "in my capacity as an on-line producer of the film, I on the behalf of my unit can assure you that if there were any goof-ups they were from Sheorey's side.'' Shantanu, however says that he himself asked his crew to continue with the film.
When contacted, Kamal Haasan refused to be personally dragged into the controversy. He said he could not comment on whether Shantanu's name will remain in the credits. "I don't want to add anything to the fax already sent to you,'' he said.
However, when the production office was contacted in Chennai a unit member stated that Kamal has just completed 30 days of shooting in Chennai featuring Tabu and Ayesha Jhulka and that no footage shot by Sheorey had been retained in the film. Saab John is quite satisfied with what has been shot so far. "Now, we can proudly present this film to our distributors.''
They better rush. Aunty No.1, a Govinda starrer, based on the Hollywood hit Ms Doubtfire just like Stree 420, is also nearing completion. Which ever film hits the theatres first will have a definite edge over the other. Controversy or no controversy.