Prithviraj has come in the line of fire after director Roshni Dinaker accused the actor of delaying her film My Story and causing a massive loss to her Rs 13-crore project.
Dinaker's contention, according to the Times of India, is that after shooting the first schedule of My Story in 2016 in Portugal, she had been waiting for dates from Prithviraj, who was on "a signing spree, giving dates left, right and centre".
The costume designer-turned-filmmaker approached the Kerala Film Chamber of Commerce (KFCC) in September to seek a resolution.
After the KFCC intervened, the director was assured that Prithviraj would allot 14 days later this month to complete parts of My Story.
Prithviraj, currently in the US, has not commented on the controversy so far.
Sify.com reached out to some of the cast and crew of My Story who stand by the actor.
"These allegations are completely false and we can prove that. This is brutal," says the film's female lead, Parvathy.
Parvathy clarifies that she is speaking up as an individual and not on behalf of any organisation she is part of. "Prithvi has maintained a dignified silence. But I believe bullying in any form is wrong. If I speak up against injustices to women, why shouldn't I speak up for a man who has been wronged?"
Writer Shankar Ramakrishnan, who wrote the screenplay for My Story, says: "A film is the culmination of many dreams. The unsaid understanding when you do a film is that you don't speak ill of the film or the cast or crew. It's an ethic we all follow."
He says the film could not be completed on schedule due to a host of factors - from demonetisation to financial issues to lack of dates to actors' prior commitments. "It is absolutely wrong to pin the blame on one person."
Maniyanpilla Raju, who plays Parvathy's father in My Story, says things were not all hunky-dory during the shoot of the film in Lisbon last year. “I have seen Prithviraj right from his childhood and he is a ‘pakka’ gentleman when it comes to money. I had a feeling that there was a shortage of money during the first schedule of the shoot. Prithviraj has always been clear about his dates and kept everyone in the loop in advance."
Parvathy, too, asserts that at no point did any of the stars say they couldn't shoot further.
"We were constantly in touch with the My Story team. There were messages from them like ‘We will get back to you.’ But there was never a solid confirmation of dates. All of us have to be given a minimum notice before shooting starts."
"It is impossible to believe Prithvi refused dates. These are unfair allegations, and it is unfair of the Press to put out stories with attributes to "unnamed sources" - Who takes responsibility for these stories then," she asks.
Actor Nandalal Krishnamurthy (Nandu), who is part of the film, says he is extremely disappointed by the false news being peddled. "Reports say Prithivraj refused to join the second schedule of the shoot even though he was paid close to a crore and more. But did the media bother to find out if Prithvi was paid even a penny for his work in the first schedule?”
What about the next shooting schedule? Parvathy says she has received a formal letter from the film chamber, but "there has been no communication about dates from the My Story team so far".
Maniyanpilla Raju says he hasn’t been intimated about the next schedule so far. “They have not yet told me about resuming the shoot. I will not be able to join the crew without an advance notice.”
Both Parvathy and Ramakrishnan agree that Prithviraj was always at hand to set things right when production issues cropped up during the shoot in Lisbon.
Says Ramakrishnan, “Prithviraj is the most positive factor about this film. He is the one who came to me with Roshni Dinaker's vision and it was then that I started writing the film. I have known him for more than ten years. He has always been the one who takes the extra initiative to meet any shortfall in any department. Even though he's had all kinds of abuses hurled at him, he goes the extra mile. I have seen him contribute financially to projects when there is trouble."
Parvathy, who first acted with Prithviraj in Ennu Ninte Moideen describes him as a "generous" actor and co-worker. "During the shoot of the first schedule, there were challenges as there would be in any shoot. But we all worked together and stood up to the issues at hand. That is why I am painfully shocked now."
Actress Padmapriya, who has starred with Prithviraj in Tamil film Satham Podathey and Malayalam film Veeralipattu says the allegations against Prithviraj are “weird and out of place”. "No actor wants to hold his own film to ransom. I have worked with Prithvi. We have shot over many schedules and I know how committed he is. He's the kind of actor who would be willing to put his own money into a film if required. To accuse him of gender bias and unprofessionalism is ridiculous.”
The crisis here, says Ramakrishnan, was finding the right dates when the crew could come together for the second schedule. “Prithvi is integral to the totality of this film.”
Says Nandu: “Before even 50 per cent of the shoot is over, the lead actor has been slandered. The chemistry on the sets has been destroyed. We all want the movie to get over and we will give it our best shot, but the atmosphere will not be the same any more. Everything will be robotic now."
Sify.com reached out to director Roshni Dinaker who said: “There is no controversy. There was a date clash and that has been resolved.”