RELIANCE MEDIA DRAGS OCHER STUDIOS TO COURT

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RELIANCE Media Works (RMW) has slapped a suit against Ocher Studios, the film production venture of daughter of filmstar Rajinikanth Soundarya Rajinikanth. RMW had entered into a contract with Ocher in January 2008 to jointly produce 'Sultan - The Warrior,' - the animated film featuring Rajinikanth - that was originally scheduled for release in April 2009.

   After failing to recover outstanding dues (Rs 11.59 crore) despite terminating its agreement with Ocher Studios last June, RMW has filed a case against the studio.

   Soundarya was also embroiled in legal tussle over the release of the movie Goa in January. The movie was allowed to be released when Soundarya gave an undertaking before the court to settle the dues.

   The film is now expected to hit the screens this June. RMW moved the Madras High Court on February 16, 2010, to restrain Ocher Studio from releasing, exhibiting, marketing or distributing or in any other manner dealing with the film, without settling its dues together with an interest component of 12% per annum payable from September 22, 2009 till the date of repayment. The case is now scheduled to come up for hearing on March 29.

   A special purpose vehicle, Sultan Productions (SPPL), was created last year to develop, produce, finance and distribute the film, budgeted at Rs 30 crore. Under the contract, RMW had agreed to finance up to 75% of the budgeted cost of producing the film while the balance was to come from Ocher Studios.

   The two parties entered into an agreement in March 2008, wherein RMW was allotted 49% equity in SPPL, the balance being allotted jointly to Ocher Studios, Latha Rajinikanth (Rajinikanth's wife) and Soundarya Rajinikanth. A production service agreement too was signed, under which SSPL would avail services of Ocher Studios for visual effects, animation, production and post-production activities of the film in return for a consideration of Rs 10 crore, RMW has submitted in its petition.

   It further contends that the production activities relating to Sultan "have come to a grinding halt," and that the cost incurred so far for producing it has overshot the original budgeted estimates.

   The first cracks in this arrangement appeared last May. In its petition, RMW pointed out to the breach of contract by Ocher, which had applied for further loan from IDBI Bank in May 2009 without its knowledge. Subsequently, RMW terminated its contract with Ocher in June, on the ground that Sultan was not commercially viable.

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