Officials at Yash Raj Films (YRF) are in "shock" after receiving a legal notice from Ajay Devgn Ffilms (ADF), alleging malpractice in connection with the clash of the release of the former's Jab Tak Hai Jaan (JTHJ), with the latter's Son Of Sardaar (SOS) on Diwali, November 13.
As per media reports, ADF has accused YRF of manipulating exhibitors and distributors to release their film in more theatres than SOS. It has filed a complaint with the Competition Commission of India.
"The case of ADF is that a producers/distributor/exhibitor cannot be allowed to enter into a tie-in arrangement which adversely affects competition. YRF has entered into a tie-in arrangement with the exhibitors in a manner that it has made it compulsory for the exhibitors to exhibit the untitled movie of YRF on Diwali day and two weeks thereafter with all four shows," said an official statement from the lawyers of ADF.
Rafiq Gangjee, vice president, marketing and communications, YRF, says the legal notice has come as a shock for them.
Countering the allegations in a statement, Gangjee said: "For a company like ours, which has maintained the highest standards of work ethics and fair play, this has really come as a shock."
"We would like to clarify at the outset that we still haven't received any notice from the commission and will suitably represent our stance if and when called upon to do so. 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 practise," he added.
The buzz around both the movies is strong, but given the fact that JTHJ is late filmmaker Yash Chopra's last directorial before his sudden death Oct 21, and that it marks the coming together of Chopra with powerbrand Shah Rukh Khan after eight years, expectation are high from JTHJ.
"All the exhibitors, when approached by us earlier this year for booking their theatres, were happy to play out Yashji's movie considering their long standing and emotional relationship and goodwill with YRF of over 40 years. A Yash Chopra, Shah Rukh Khan movie, coming after a gap of eight long years, did not need any coercion for contractual screening," said Gangjee.
YRF claims to have booked less than 1,500 single screens out of the 10,500-plus single screens available on an all-India basis.
"If this was an issue, why wasn't it raised earlier? Why wait till now when both films are nearing release," he added, stressing that the fact that JTHJ would be a Diwali 2012 release, was announced in June 2011 itself.
"Given that most big ticket films avoid simultaneous releases, it was odd that SOS announced their release for the same day almost a year later on May 29, 2012. They were also able to lock their final distribution partner as late as October 4, 2012.
However, a statement from ADF claims that YRF is trying to hide behind its dominant position in the film market.
"It is wrongly touting this cause of action to be based upon an alleged enmity between Ajay Devgn and Shah Rukh Khan, which does not exist. The case of ADF is legally maintainable and ADF shall fight till the end on this legal issue," said the statement.