The case Ajay Devgan filed in the Competition Commission of India was dismissed on 5th November. It wasn’t even admitted because the CCI felt, there was no case against Yash Raj Films in the first place. Believe it or not but Yash Raj Films was not even asked to appear in the case.
Film Information was the first to predict that this was likely to happen. In fact, the item (in our issue dated 3rd November 2012) where we commented on Ajay Devgan’s case against Yash Raj Films, accusing it of indulging in monopolistic and restrictive trade practices, was titled ‘Is There A Case In The First Place?’
So what exactly was wrong in Ajay Devgan sending as ‘SOS message’ for his SOS (Son Of Sardaar) to the CCI?
Frankly, one fails to understand how Ajay Devgan confused a smart business move by Yash Raj Films for a restrictive trade practice. If YRF had the foresight to book the cinemas for Jab Tak Hai Jaan three months in advance, by clubbing the booking of its Ek Tha Tiger with that of JTHJ, Ajay Devgan needed to ask himself the question: why did his distributors not do what YRF did? It is not as if he or Eros International, the worldwide distributors of Ajay’s Son Of Sardaar, were not aware of the release date of JTHJ. And if that was the case, who prevented Ajay Devgan or Eros from booking the cinemas before YRF?
Actually, it is simple logic. For the sake of simplicity, let us assume, there is one cinema and producers of two films – JTHJ and SOS – trying to book it. What option does the cinema have? Obviously, to book either JTHJ or SOS. It can’t possibly say that it will screen the first half of JTHJ and the second half of SOS or vice versa. So, if the cinema chooses JTHJ over SOS, can the producer of JTHJ be accused of unfair trade practice, penalised, persecuted, dragged to court?
Ajay Devgan, everyone in the trade would agree, is known for his level-headedness and cool disposition. Many trade people have expressed the feeling, ever since the news about the CCI case broke out, that Ajay was probably ill-advised by someone, to go to the CCI. While that may be true, it is also a fact that it is not the person who instigated Devgan to drag YRF to the CCI who will bear the brunt of this defeat in the CCI. The brickbats will have to be faced by Ajay Devgan and nobody else. It’s a different thing that Ajay holds a position of prominence in the trade and will, therefore, not have people ridiculing him for his action. But with what are essentially pure trade stories like these getting prominence in national news, thanks to the all-invasive media and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, such actions have more far-reaching consequences than one can imagine in the heat of the moment which is when Devgan must’ve decided to do what he shouldn’t have.
There’s one more business aspect to this dramatic episode which has had an ending of an anti-climax although the legally aware were sure, the ending couldn’t be anything but this. And that is: the stand of the single-screen exhibitors. With the CCI case having laid bare Ajay Devgan’s insecurity as far as the number of screens for his SOS is concerned, it will give the single-screen cinemas an upper hand while negotiating the terms for screening SOS. For, by filing the CCI case, Ajay has given the exhibitors a complete view of what should’ve essentially remained in his heart – at least from the point of view of the business of SOS. But, of course, the silver lining in that the trailers of SOS are so mass-appealing that single-screen cinemas also need content like that on offer in SOS.