Yash Raj Films and Ajay Devgn Films lock horns over the former’s alleged monopoly of single screens

It claims to be one big happy family, but as in all family dramas replete with dirty politics, open challenges and verbal volleys, Bollywood witnessed its nastiest this week.

Yash Raj Films (YRF) and Ajay Devgn Films (ADF)’s movies — Jab Tak Hai Jaan (SRK-Katrina-Anushka) and Son Of Sardaar (Ajay Devgn-Sanjay Dutt-Sonakshi) — are clashing at the box-office coming Tuesday (i.e. Diwali, November 13).

Ajay Devgn, who filed a plea with the Competition Commission of India (CCI), against Yash Raj Films’ alleged monopoly of single-screen theatres, is an angry man.

The actor’s production house ADF’s plea is that YRF entered into a tie-in arrangement with the exhibitors during the Eid release of its film Ek Tha Tiger (Salman Khan’s pre-guaranteed super-hit) that made it compulsory for the exhibitors to screen Jab Tak Hai Jaan (JTHJ) on Deepavali day and two weeks thereafter with all four shows. ADF’s claim is that this violates the provisions of the Competition Act, 2002, more particularly, Section 3.

“Why wasn’t it raised earlier? Why wait till now when both films are nearing release,” asked YRF in a press statement, adding that that JTHJ would be a 2012 Deepavali release was announced in June 2011 itself. When asked why he delayed the petition, Ajay says, “We had been fighting it out with the distributors and exhibitors for the last three months. I have had to take this step as a last resort,” says Ajay. “Single screens are obviously very important. We have ended up getting only 600 whereas, we should have got double the amount,” says Ajay.

“In Mumbai, just the Dadar area has seven single-screen cinemas, out of which we have only one and they have six. In Hyderabad city, out of 17 single-screen (Hindi-playing) cinemas, we have just two and they have the rest.” YRF’s press statement said, “Worldwide, as well as in India, distributors often sign deals for their complete annual slate of films to simplify the process. We trust the Competition Commission will also see it as universally acceptable fair business practiceji.”

YRF claims to have booked less than 1,500 single screens out of the 10,500-plus available across India. ADF counters this by saying that most of the ‘available’ theatres are either in the Southern belt or are not functional.

The timing of the plea may have gone awry for Ajay Devgn as Yash Chopra, YRF’s founder and director of JTHJ, passed away recently, and a few industry people were trying to talk Ajay into postponing his film.

“How can I do that? I can’t release it the succeeding week as they have pre-booked for two weeks. My response is, if I push my film back by a fortnight will everyone else too? There is Aamir waiting in line (Talaash), followed by Akshay (Khiladi 786) and then Salman (Dabangg 2). Yes, with Mr. Yash Chopra passing away, the timing is sad, but my petition was filed before that. I don’t want any compensation. I’m doing this to ensure my film gets an equal and fair opportunity for business.”

NOTE: As we were going to Press, Ajay Devgn Films' plea had been rejected by the Competition Commission of India. When contacted, the official spokesperson of ADF said, “We are shocked by the rejection of our legitimate case by the CCI. We have approached the Appellate Tribunal against the order.”

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