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Tampa company sues local Bollywood boosters

TAMPA — A Tampa-based video communications company is suing two leading local organizers behind the effort to bring the Bollywood film industry's annual awards show to Tampa.

The company, AVI-SPL, contends that Tampa cardiologist, businessman and philanthropist Dr. Kiran Patel and his brother-in-law, Lutz real estate agent Chetan "Jason" Shah, agreed to make it the exclusive executive producer for 32 "buzz events" associated with the extravaganza, scheduled for April 23-26, but that didn't happen.

AVI, which provides audio and video communications services to a range of corporate clients, has 1,800 employees and about three dozen offices in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates, according to its website.

Patel, who committed his own money to help persuade organizers to bring the event to Tampa, said Thursday he had just learned about the suit so it would be premature to comment.

Shah said discussions with AVI were handled properly and that nobody promised the company that it would win a contract.

"Nobody can guarantee that you'll get the business," Shah said. Such decisions were subject to the approval of the event's main organizers in India, and "I have no idea why they didn't get the business."

AVI contends in its lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Hillsborough Circuit Court, that "Go Bollywood Tampa Bay Florida Convention LLC," which corporate records show was formed by Shah, was represented to be the host committee for the International Indian Film Academy's Weekend & Awards.

AVI's complaint says it entered into several agreements for services with Go Bollywood, two of which listed Patel as a member of Go Bollywood, and that it was told that Patel would personally back any agreement related to money that AVI advanced to Go Bollywood. As a result of those agreements, the company said it wired a $75,000 deposit to Go Bollywood and spent another $145,000-plus on travel, labor, production and planning. AVI's suit further contends that Go Bollywood agreed in October to pay it nearly $11 million for its work.

But in November, according to the lawsuit, word arrived that the buzz events might be canceled. AVI sent the defendants an email saying it would invoice Go Bollywood pursuant to the October agreement's cancellation policy. The same day, it got an email from Patel saying he was "not part" of Go Bollywood and shouldn't be getting emails, according to the suit. The buzz events were soon cancelled. AVI says it is owed nearly $6.4 million under the cancellation policy.

Not named as defendants in the lawsuit are the International Indian Film Academy and its parent organization, Wizcraft International Entertainment, based in Mumbai. Wizcraft is the company that created and organizes the film awards, now in their 15th year. The Tampa awards will be the first time the event will be held in the United States. Wizcraft organizers said this week that plans are coming together well.