Whistling Woods case: We feel cheated by Maha govt, says Ghai

Mumbai: Filmmaker Subhash Ghai today said that he felt "cheated" by the Maharashtra government after Supreme Court upheld the Bombay High Court order quashing the 20 acre land allotted to his film school Whistling Woods International.

"We feel cheated by Government of Maharashtra when we are told after ten years of setting up Whistling Woods at a cost of Rs 75 crore that our joint venture agreement (signed between his Mukta Arts and the Maharashtra Film, Stage and Cultural Development Corporation (MFSCDC) is not valid because of a government error that a board resolution was not passed and the land was undervalued.

"What is our fault? They gave the agreement to us signed by the then MD, Cultural Secretary and Minister of Culture to have a partnership in Whistling Woods Ltd with share equity and we invested Rs 20 crore to begin with," Ghai said in a statement here.

Prominent film personalities like Shekhar Kapoor and Shyam Benegal came out in Ghai`s support, saying that his cinema school should not be called a scam.

"Ghai gave 15 years of his time and energy to create a centre of learning for cinema. Whistling Woods is not a scam, he should be applauded. It is not possible to build educational institutions at current land prices in any city... government has to allocate land for this. Tisch film school in Singapore is built on land given free by the Government."

Veteran filmmaker Shyam Benegal said he was saddened by the verdict in the case.

"Ghai had taken upon himself as a mission to create a world class film school. He worked tirelessly for 13 years to fulfill this dream and finally succeeded in making it happen. Mumbai could now pride itself on having a film school as good as any in the world. And suddenly this... Strange!"

On April 4, the apex court had pulled up former Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh for giving 20 acres of land to Ghai in 2004 for his film institute, saying he cannot treat anyone as a "blue-eyed boy" and bend or bypass the rules.