BOLLYWOOD IN TURMOIL: Screening Space Tussle Heats Up As Aamir-Akshay Join Ajay Devgn-YRF Battle

Aamir Khan, Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgn
Aamir Khan, Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgn
Aamir Khan, Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgn

MUMBAI: While cine-goers get ready to see their favorite stars lined up for one big Bollywood release after the other – this year end, a gargantuan behind-the-scenes storm is brewing up, as more and more producers join the “screening space” tussle.

Even as the ongoing stand-off between Ajay Devgn Ffilms and Yash Raj Films, over the number of single screens ‘grabbed’ for ‘Son Of Sardaar’ and Shah Rukh Khan starrer ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’ continues; Bollywood actors and producers Aamir Khan and Akshay Kumar are now exchanging fireworks over their releases ‘Talaash’ and ‘Khiladi 786’ respectively.

At a time when all these top superstars: Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Ajay Devgn, and Akshay Kumar are doing extremely well at the box office – giving one blockbuster hit after the other, for this sudden war to have broken out seems very curious.

On this topic, the lead for JTHJ, Shah Rukh Khan questioned recently – isn’t it all really a demand and supply game? “I feel that the exhibitors represent the consumers. As a business person, I cannot assume that anything has been put on anyone by force. They chose the film,” quoted SRK simply.

But is that true? Or is the reality that the big banners with their overpowering clout are leaving no space for the smaller, newer producers to survive?

In an interview with Times of India, analyst Amod Mehra clearly felt the latter. He says, “YRF started this trend. Hereafter no big film will be assured of a decent release. This sparks off a very unhealthy trend in the industry.”

Director of ‘Talaash’, Reema Kagti disagrees: “I feel they are right in their own ways. As Shah Rukh is talking about single theatres, it is definitely a demand and supply issue.”

But Shah Rukh Khan and Reema Kagti, who have a lot vested into their respective releases, may not be the most objective people as of now, to comment on the burning issue. For due to ‘Taalash’, producer Akshay Kumar is standing at the same side of the spectrum as producer Ajay Devgn.

As reported by Mumbai Mirror today morning, “Producers of Aamir Khan starrer Talaash, Ritesh Sidhwani and Farhan Akhtar have asked single screen exhibitors to allow a two-week run for their venture that releases on November 30. This will affect Akshay Kumar’s ‘Khiladi 786’ that hits the theatres a week later.”

Of course the production houses who seemingly have a ‘better end of the deal’ still stand by their statement. YRF has staunchly announced that there has been no monopolistic practice indulged into, at all.

In an official statement, Yash Raj Films’  Vice President (Marketing & Communications) Rafiq Gangjee said, “In a free competition Ajay Devgn admits that the cine-goers will decide the film that they wish to see. YRF had announced the release of its film on 27th June 2011 with its announcement of the release of its film for Diwali 2012 and commenced booking of single screen theatres in June, July & Aug 2012. On the contra, ADF announced the release of its film only on 29th May 2012 and approached the single screen owners only in October 2012 by which time YRF had taken a lead.”

Interestingly, both the producers are claiming that the Appellate Tribunal is in their favour. “The Competition Appellate Tribunal has seen merit in our case and has issued notice for enquiring into the anti competitive activities of YRF about the tie in arrangement to block our movie ‘Son of Sardaar’ on the day of Diwali,” announced Ajay Devgan Ffilms.

YRF though, sees it in a VERY different light. They say “After the CCI dismissed the complaint filed by ADF, the Appellate Tribunal also refused to pass any interim order against YRF on the ground that the complainant had not put forward sufficient facts to establish that YRF had violated the Competition Act.”

So what’s the real truth behind all these comments and statements volley-balling around? Are the big banners really thumbing down other production houses in what can be called unhealthy and monopolistic? Or is this just a part of free, albeit extremely fierce competition?

Film-maker Ramesh Sippy rubbishes all the attempts of one-up-man-ship being shown by all the parties concerned. Suggesting its a dog-eat-dog world, Sippy says, “Business is never healthy! Also, it is not necessary that a two-week run is implied to essentially kill the next big movie-in-line. The idea could be to let the distributor have the upper hand. Else, sometimes the exhibitors are rather merciless!”

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Simran Chopra

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