Half the Bollywood film industry is chasing a Khan because he owes nearly Rs 20 crore to different people, reports Mumbai Mirror.
He's no star, he's not made any blockbuster, his name is Azam Khan.
Khan, a former executive director of K Sera Sera and the brain behind One More Thought Entertainment, which helmed such ambitious projects as Vinay Pathak-starrer Dasvidaniya, Khalbali Fun Unlimited and Phoonk, allegedly owes over Rs 20 crore to people across the industry.
Mirror has learnt that he owes money to so many people and organisations that now there is list of his creditors that almost everybody in Bollywood readily recognises. At the last count, this list had 123 entries.
Azam Khan in blue with Pervez Damania, Vinay Pathak and Shashant Shah; (below right) the Q7 Audi Khan drives despite his debts
There are more than 20 cases of bounced cheques, misappropriation of funds and cheating filed against Khan in various courts of Mumbai.
He owes money to film trade magazines, dubbing studios, poster and vinyl printers, camera hire outfits, even laundrywallahs and caterers. Several well known Bollywood outfits like K Sera Sera, YT Entertainment, Celebrities Management, and Nine Winds Media, too have payments stuck with Khan.
And that's just Bollywood. Khan has a big casualty to his credit in construction business too. Nilufar Damania, businessman Parvez Damania's sister-in-law and late Vispy Damania's wife, who was on the board of Sonata Realty Private Limited with Khan, has filed a complaint at the Oshiwara police station accusing Khan of cheating and forgery of valuable securities.
The funniest story going around Bollywood is how Khan hops around the town in some of the most expensive cars - an Audi Q7 and a Merc S Class - while his cheques bounce all over the place "for lack of funds in his accounts."
He also maintains a large office on Veera Desai Road and owns a plush 17th-floor apartment in Windermere, Oshiwara. The nameplate of the house carries his wife's name. But before we get into Khan's extravagant lifetsyle and the misery of his victims, a little bit about the man's past.
Barely two years ago, Azam Khan was one of the most sought after men, in the usual positive sense of the term, in the film industry. He had just started his own production house, One More Thought Entertainment, and his spanking new office in Andheri was a beehive of activity.
At a glittering launch party, Khan paraded nine well known directors who had signed up for the fledgling production house.
These included Jagmohan Mundra, Kundan Shah, Sangeeth Sivan, Ajay Chandok, Ravi Rai and Ashwini Chaudhary. "We are determined to provide a canvas to these directors who are brimming with unique ideas, stories and new concepts. We intend to produce twelve movies in two years," Khan told the gathering.
Everybody believed him and not without reason - at K Sera Sera, Khan had overseen a number of major films like Sarkar, D Company, Risk, Darna Mana Hai, Ek Haseena Thi and Ab Tak Chappan. But Khan's time at K Sera Sera now seems like another era.One More Thought Entertainment's first film to be released was the Marathi language Tingya. This was followed by a joint production called Dasvidaniya starring Vinay Pathak and then Phoonk, directed by Khan's old friend Ram Gopal Varma, released.
However, things went quickly downhill for him thereon.Except for Tingya, which was a ready-made Ravi Rai film that One More Thought merely presented, almost all other films got embroiled in bitter disputes because of non payment of dues. Ajay Chandok-directed comedy Khalbali Fun Unlimited; and My Name is 340, another One More Thought production, could not be released depite being almost ready.
When we contacted, Vinay Pathak, who co-produced and acted in Dasvidaniya, he said: "What can I say about a man who has duped us of our money and deprived us of our first film as producers? We don't have even a print to show for it. He is completely unreachable for any kind of negotiation."
Windermere (r) at Oshiwara where Azam Khan (l) lives on the 17 floor; poster of Dasvidaniya, one of the films Khan's One More Thought Entertainment produced
Shashant Shah, the director of Dasvidaniya, sounded equally frustrated. "Forget about the profit, he still has to pay us 50 per cent of the cost. He owes us around Rs 1.3 crore. He hasn't paid the professional fees to my writer, music director, editor, cameraman, including me and Vinay Pathak. Even spot boys haven't got paid."
While at one point Khan offered to pay Shah Rs 30 lakh, the cheques that were issued bounced. Shah said he does not mind the losses. "But I want my film back. The rights for Dasvidaniya are still with him."
Kailash Kher, who scored the music for Dasvidaniya is waiting for a payment of around Rs 15 lakh. "I sent a legal notice to him. He verbally promised to pay my dues, but never did. He is a smart guy. He didn't let my cheque bounce but stopped the payment saying there wasn't enough money in his bank account. I wonder how he can afford to move around in expensive cars if he doesn't have any money to pay us."
Khalbali Fun Unlimited was abandoned with just three more days of shooting to go. Payments to everyone associated with the film, right from the artistes to technicians to the direction crew, are pending.
With cases now escalated to the High Court, a substantial number of litigants have all but given up hope.
Raju Shah of YT Entertainment, who presented several of One More Thought productions, is a distraught man. "In order to recover my Rs 7 crore, I have already spent around Rs 50 lakh in lawyers' fees, stamps duties and court fee. I am very depressed and my family is also very disturbed. We are suffering a lot," he said.
On at least one occasion, Khan came close to landing in jail. On the night of May 24, he was traced to a suburban five-star hotel by the Rajasthan police who wanted to arrest him.
They were acting on a complaint filed by K Sera Sera against Khan in Ganganagar. "We helped Rajasthan police track him. But when we went to arrest him at the hotel, he produced a transit bail," said API Desai of Santacruz Airport police station.
Sanjay Lai, the MD of K Sera Sera, refused to reveal the money Khan owes to the company. "We have filed a case against him in the High Court. We are in the process of recovering the money."
After days of efforts, Mumbai Mirror caught up with Azam Khan at his spacious office which once housed One More Thought Entertainment.
It is now the office of Ionic Realty, another construction firm in which Khan has an interest. Not a sign of One More Thought Entertainment remains - the company has officially submitted a winding up petition.
“Yes, there are cases against me, but a cheque being dishonoured does not necessarily mean I don't intend to pay. I don't dispute that I owe people money, but in several instances, they have failed to deliver the service required of them so I stopped payment on the post-dated cheques I had issued them,” said Khan.
Only some of the bigger companies One More Thought owes money to can take the matter to its logical conclusion. The others have been left with, well, a thought to ponder.