Aussie speedster, who performed with Mumbai band at an event in Malad in May, has not yet been paid his dues
The ace bowler from Oz may have an ardour for music surpassed only by his deftness on the field, but he has struck a discordant note with a city-based fusion band that allegedly haven't paid him for a gig he performed for them in Malad during the IPL matches earlier in the year.
Video: Brett Lee's live performance in Mumbai
Lee at the event in Inorbit Mall, for which he was promised $20K
In May, Lee strummed his guitar for The M-Majors at Inorbit mall and made them a big hit. However, it appears that the ensemble, with its line-up of seven 20-somethings, have revised the merit they attach to Lee's favour.
They have been making his representatives sweat in order to recover around $20,000, the amount they allegedly pledged for his cameo at the event.
Lee, who was in India to play for the Kolkata Knight Riders during the IPL, performed at a live concert at the mall for a crowd of over 10,000 on May 15, along with the band. In his half hour recital, Lee belted out Bryan Adams' Summer of '69 and other popular songs.
"The show went off very well. The entire crowd, especially the girls, went mad as Lee sang Summer of '69. Its Youtube video went viral. And it helped the band get more visibility," said Samir Phadnis, chief operating officer, Next Level Media Communications Private Ltd (NLMC), which handles Lee's PR in the city.
Taken in by riches
According to Phadnis, a day prior to the event, the group's female vocalist, Arundhati Deshmukh, sent an email to Insite, a Sydney-based company Lee is associated with, saying that Rs 10 lakh would be wired to them through her bank account. The mail specified that the transaction might take 8-10 days after the event.
(Since all communications between The M-Majors and NLMC was routed through Insite, the PR firm in Mumbai has acquired the power of attorney to pursue Lee's claim.)
"There was no room for doubt since everything was in writing on their band's letterhead. They had also been in constant touch with us regarding the event for over a month through their personal e-mail ids. The mails mentioned their address. There was no room for suspicion," Phadnis said.
Having been introduced to Deshmukh through a common friend in March, Phadnis little doubted the band members' credentials owing to their affluent background.
Brett Lee, with Ameya Naik (extreme left) and Arundhati Deshmukh
(extreme right) of The M-Majors, during the live performance at Malad
While Deshmukh, known to sing for certain regional channels, is the daughter of a well-known businessman from Thane, her peers, Ameya Naik, a resident of Walkeshwar, and Vignesh Vishwanathan, who stays in Hiranandani in Powai, are no paupers either.
NLMC even helped them fix the venue for the event at the trendy mall.
When no amount was forthcoming, the firm decided to bring it up with the members. "Initially, they asked us to get in touch with their chartered accountant, who assured us that he would do the needful. But after the initial correspondence, the CA refused to even identify us," Phadnis said.
Throughout June, they elicited no positive reply from the group. Another executive of NLMC, Mithu Nayak, said, "The band members have been ignoring us.
Communication regarding the dues has been futile. Visiting their residence has not helped either. With all doors closed, we do not have an alternative but to file an official complaint against The M-Majors."
Footwork in order
When it came to filing a complaint, predictably, the men in khaki did not match the Australian speedster's pace on the pitch. Neither did his celebrity status faze into speeding up.
On July 26, Phadnis approached the MRA Marg police. But Lee's complaint suffered the same fate as any other Mumbaikar's.
Said Phadnis, "Though the MRA Marg police attested my letter of complaint, they did not register an FIR. For that, I was first diverted to the officer in charge at the Handloom House police chowkie.
However, just when the officer was about to register the case, he realised that the lane in which my office is located comes under the jurisdiction of some other police station, and I was asked to approach them."
Though Phadnis finally knows whom to go to Flora Fountain police chowkie he said the officer concerned has been postponing the procedure, his oft-cited excuse being the heavy bandobast duties during the festive season.
Sub-inspector Ismail Korbo, looking into the case, said, "It is a civil matter and it takes time to register certain cases. However, I will talk to the senior inspector and do whatever I can."
Senior lawyer Ashok Shahani said, "This is clearly an open-and-shut case of cheating by misrepresentation and by wrongfully depriving Lee of the payment for his effort.
The accused gave false promises of remitting the money abroad and have cheated Lee." Shahani and his associate Dharmendra Rohra have been representing NLMC in this matter.
The Other Side
The M-Majors turned the tables on Lee and company.
Said Ameya Naik, "We are just a band, not an event management company. Ideally, we should get paid for the event. There was an event management company that organised this. We were just roped in by them.
Since NLMCPL could not put the pressure on the said company, they have put the blame on us."
"It was we who performed for Brett Lee, not the other way around. I have nothing more to say on this," said Vignesh Vishwanathan. MiD DAY's repeated calls and messages to Arundhati Deshmukh elicited no response.