Hetal Vyas and Piali Banerjee/Mumbai Mirror
Mumbai, Feb 11: Actor Pulkit Samrat who plays Lakshya in Balaji Telefilms’ Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi...has taken his mentor Ekta Kapoor to court for non-payment of dues, and got a ruling that will resonate with hundreds of television actors.
On Wednesday Justice DY Chandrachud of the Bombay High Court appointed an arbitrator and instructed Ekta Kapoor not to “arm-twist” the actor and stop him from working for other producers outside Balaji.
Samrat who came from Delhi to become an actor has been working for Balaji since June 2006. After the initial few months his meaty role was whittled down to a few lines, leaving him with little work. When he complained, and wished to work outside Balaji, he was shown the contract, the fine-print of which read that he was beholden to the serial and to the production house for “three years.”
The actor was also not paid for several months and his dues accrued to Rs 3.24 lakh. When the actor insisted on seeking work outside, Balaji, he says, floated false stories in the media that he had been sacked and which prompted him to sue Ekta and the production house. “He was not given any work between November and January, nor was he allowed to work with other companies. Nobody is giving him work because of the said contract,” argued Pulkit’s advocate SU Kamdar on Wednesday.
Why I took on Ekta
“As an actor, I have the right to grow and move on from one role to another. I enjoyed playing Lakshya, but I can’t play Lakshya for the rest of my life. And I have the right to choose my roles. What has been happening in the TV industry is very wrong and someone had to speak up. But everyone is scared, so they keep quiet and take it. Even the judge said in court that it’s wrong to stop an actor from working in different projects. In fact, he even said that such contracts shouldn’t exist in the industry and should be abolished,” Pulkit told Mumbai Mirror after the ruling.
Didn't he read the contract carefully before signing away his career for life? "That was my fault," he said. "I read the brief of my role carefully. Besides that, there was some desperation and no legal advice, so I signed."
Pulkit has worked for Balaji for one-and-a-half years, but insists that he "actually played Lakshya" for only about five months. "After that there was nothing left in my character," he says. "Junior artistes had more lines than mine. Very often all I had to do was answer the door if anyone rang the bell or say, 'Ma, kitna accha khana banaya hai'. I didn't come all the way from Delhi to do this! So I wanted to move ahead."
He tried to sort things out amicably with Ekta. He says, "I have nothing against Ekta, she has given me my major break. But the work atmosphere in Balaji is not very healthy. There are a few people who feed Ekta with information and she reacts to that information. So the rest of our viewpoints don't get across to her. She prefers to trust those people. I did talk to Ekta and apologised too. But she said, it was nothing personal, the company has to take certain steps in professional matters."
Wasn't he afraid of taking on Ekta Kapoor? After all, these are powers that make or break careers in the TV industry. "I'll never be able to go ahead if I think that way," he replies. "No one can snatch my destiny. Earlier people told me that it was Balaji's marketing capabilities and not my talent that made me. But why would Balaji sell something if they knew the product was bad? Obviously, the product was good. If I do well, I'm sure I'll get work."
Right now, Pulkit has offers from both the film and TV industries. But he insists that he's not taking any hasty decision. "And yes, I'll read every contract at least ten times before signing. You will never have to do an interview on these lines with me again," he promises.
The Case so Far:
Pulkit Samrat moved the HC on January 19 after he terminated the contract with Balaji Telefilms Limited (BTL) on January 12th. His petition says BTL violated the June 1, 2006 agreement by not paying Rs 5,000 per day as promised to him.
The actor said his role was snipped to a minor one despite the fact that he was promised a major role. "I did not make any commitments to any other channel or television serial," says the petition.
BTL had signed the actor in June 2006 for a period of three years and the contract said he would work for the company exclusively for 30 days in a month at a payment of Rs 5,000 per day.
Samrat has challenged a clause in the agreement that says "BTL shall have the sole option of terminating this agreement."
However, Raju Subramaniam, counsel for BTL argued that Samrat had "sought permission to work outside in August last year and at that time we granted him no objection."
Justice Chandrachud while hearing the arguments orally directed the respondents not to use 'arm twisting' activities pending the arbitration hearing. "Pending arbitrator's order you will not take any coercive steps to preclude him to apply for some other commercial endorsements," Justice Chandrachud observed in the order.